8.6
389 votes
NOVA

NOVA

PBS 1974

PBS' premier science series helps viewers of all ages explore the science behind the headlines. Along the way, NOVA demystifies science and technology, and highlights the people involved in scientific pursuits.

Warning: the following content contains spoilers!

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The 10 Best Episodes of NOVA

NOVA - S38E12

#1 - Surviving the Tsunami (Season 38 - Episode 12)

The earthquake that hit the northern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, was recorded at magnitude 9.0 the worst ever recorded in Japan. It generated an unprecedented tsunami, obliterating coastal villages and towns in a matter of minutes. In some areas, the tsunami climbed above 100 feet in height and traveled miles inland. Amazingly, amateur and professional photographers captured it all on video, including remarkable tales of human survival, as ordinary citizens became heroes in a drama they never could have imagined. As the waves rush in, a daughter struggles to help her elderly mother ascend their rooftop to safety; a man climbs onto an overpass just as the wave overtakes his car. These never-before-seen stories are captured in video and retold after the fact by the survivors who reveal what they were thinking as they made their life-saving decisions. Their stories provide lessons for how we should all act in the face of life-threatening disasters.

The episode was rated 8.90 from 10 votes.

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NOVA - S38E11

#2 - Engineering Ground Zero (Season 38 - Episode 11)

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, NOVA presents an epic story of engineering, innovation, and the perseverance of the human spirit. With extraordinary access granted by The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, “Engineering Ground Zero” follows the five-year construction of One World Trade Center (1 WTC) and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

The episode was rated 8.83 from 12 votes.

NOVA - S39E8

#3 - Hunting the Elements (Season 39 - Episode 8)

Where do nature’s building blocks, called the elements, come from? They’re the hidden ingredients of everything in our world, from the carbon in our bodies to the metals in our smartphones. To unlock their secrets, David Pogue, the lively host of NOVA’s popular "Making Stuff" series and technology correspondent of The New York Times, spins viewers through the world of weird, extreme chemistry: the strongest acids, the deadliest poisons, the universe’s most abundant elements, and the rarest of the rare—substances cooked up in atom smashers that flicker into existence for only fractions of a second.

The episode was rated 8.77 from 22 votes.

NOVA - S39E11

#4 - Secrets of the Sun (Season 39 - Episode 11)

It contains 99.9 percent of all the matter in our solar system and sheds hot plasma at nearly a million miles an hour. The temperature at its core is a staggering 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. It convulses, it blazes, it sings. You know it as the sun. Scientists know it as one of the most amazing physics laboratories in the universe. Now, with the help of new spacecraft and Earth-based telescopes, scientists are seeing the sun as they never have before and even recreating what happens at its very center in labs here on Earth. Their work will help us understand aspects of the sun that have puzzled scientists for decades. But more critically, it may help us predict and track solar storms that have the power to zap our power grid, shut down telecommunications, and ground global air travel for days, weeks, or even longer. Such storms have happened before—but never in the modern era of satellite communication. "Secrets of the Sun" reveals a bright new dawn in our understanding of our nearest star—one that might help keep our planet from going dark.

The episode was rated 8.75 from 16 votes.

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NOVA - S45E17

#5 - Apollo’s Daring Mission (Season 45 - Episode 17)

Apollo astronauts and engineers tell the inside story of Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon. The U.S. space program suffered a bitter setback when Apollo 1 ended in a deadly fire during a pre-launch run-through. In disarray, and threatened by the prospect of a Soviet Union victory in the space race, NASA decided upon a radical and risky change of plan: turn Apollo 8 from an earth-orbit mission into a daring sprint to the moon while relying on untried new technologies. Fifty years after the historic mission, the Apollo 8 astronauts and engineers recount the feats of engineering that paved the way to the moon.

The episode was rated 8.73 from 40 votes.

NOVA - S38E17

#6 - The Fabric of the Cosmos: Quantum Leap (3) (Season 38 - Episode 17)

Brian Greene explores the weirdness of quantum physics, which governs the universe on the tiniest of scales. While counterintuitive, it's one of the most successful theories in the history of science.

The episode was rated 8.69 from 13 votes.

NOVA - S39E6

#7 - Separating Twins (Season 39 - Episode 6)

Witness the extraordinary surgery that will allow twin girls, born joined at the head, to live separate lives.

The episode was rated 8.67 from 33 votes.

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NOVA - S38E13

#8 - Finding Life Beyond Earth (Season 38 - Episode 13)

Take a spectacular trip to distant realms of our solar system to discover where secret forms of life may lie hidden. Combining the latest telescope images with dazzling animation, this program immerses audiences in the sights and sounds of alien worlds, while top astrobiologists explain how these places are changing how we think about the potential for life in our solar system. We used to think our neighboring planets and moons were fairly boring—mostly cold, dead rocks where life could never take hold. Today, however, the solar system looks wilder than we ever imagined.

The episode was rated 8.62 from 13 votes.

NOVA - S35E12

#9 - Space Shuttle Disaster (Season 35 - Episode 12)

An investigation uncovers the human failures and design flaws behind the 2003 Columbia tragedy.

The episode was rated 8.60 from 10 votes.

NOVA - S39E3

#10 - 3D Spies of WWII (Season 39 - Episode 3)

During World War II, Hitler’s scientists developed terrifying new weapons of mass destruction. Alarmed by rumors of advanced rockets and missiles, Allied intelligence recruited a team of brilliant minds from British universities and Hollywood studios to a country house near London. Here, they secretly pored over millions of air photos shot at great risk over German territory by specially converted, high-flying Spitfires. Peering at the photos through 3D stereoscopes, the team spotted telltale clues that revealed hidden Nazi rocket bases. The photos led to devastating Allied bombing raids that dealt crucial setbacks to the German rocket program and helped ensure the success of the D-Day landings. With 3D graphics that recreate exactly what the photo spies saw, NOVA tells the suspenseful, previously untold story of air photo intelligence that played a vital role in defeating the Nazis.

The episode was rated 8.60 from 15 votes.

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NOVA - S38E4
#11 - Making Stuff Cleaner (3)
8.58
Season 38 - Episode 4

Can innovations in materials science help clean up our world? In "Making Stuff: Cleaner," David Pogue explores the rapidly developing science and business of clean energy and examines alternative ways to generate it, store it, and distribute it. Is hydrogen the way to go? What about lithium batteries? Does this solve an energy problem or create a new dependency? Pogue investigates the latest developments in bio-based fuels and in harnessing solar energy for our cars, homes, and industry in a program full of the stuff of a sustainable future.

The episode was rated from 12 votes.
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NOVA - S39E15
#12 - Ultimate Mars Challenge
8.52
Season 39 - Episode 15

Why go back to Mars? Far from dead, Mars holds untold potential. Nearly half a century of Mars exploration has yielded tantalizing clues that Mars may once have harbored life—and may harbor it still. The extraordinary landing of a revolutionary rover named Curiosity—which successfully touched down inside the Gale Crater—means we have wheels down on the planet once again, in the form of the most sophisticated robot ever to rove the Mars surface. Will NASA's bold mission and this marvel of technology answer some of our biggest questions and usher in a new golden age of exploration? NOVA goes behind the scenes on NASA’s quest to solve the riddles of the red planet.

The episode was rated from 23 votes.
NOVA - S39E5
#13 - Ice Age Death Trap
8.52
Season 39 - Episode 5

In a race against developers in the Rocky Mountains, archaeologists uncover a unique fossil site packed with astonishingly well-preserved bones of mammoths, mastodons, and other giant extinct beasts. The discovery opens a highly focused window on the vanished world of the Ice Age in North America.

The episode was rated from 27 votes.
NOVA - S41E19
#14 - First Air War
8.43
Season 41 - Episode 19

When World War I began in 1914, the air forces of the opposing nations consisted of handfuls of rickety biplanes from which pilots occasionally took pot shots at one another with rifles. By the war’s end, the essential blueprint of the modern fighter had emerged: it was now an efficient killing machine that limited the average life expectancy of a front line pilot to just a few weeks. To trace the story of this astonishingly rapid technological revolution, NOVA takes viewers inside The Vintage Aviator, a New Zealand-based outfit of aviation buffs dedicated to bringing back classic World War I fighters such as the SE5A and Albatros DV. NOVA joins the team as they discover the secrets of some of aviation’s most colorful and deadly early flying machines and explores how their impact played a key role in the nightmare slaughter on the Western Front.

The episode was rated from 28 votes.
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NOVA - S41E17
#15 - Surviving Ebola
8.38
Season 41 - Episode 17

In December, 2013, in a small village in West Africa, a young boy died from the dreaded disease, Ebola. Over the next nine months the virulent killer would claim more victims than all previous Ebola epidemics put together. And for the first time, the disease escaped the isolated, rural villages where it had first appeared and traveled in infected patients by air to densely populated cities in several African countries. As the epidemic threatens to spiral out of control, NOVA reports from the hot zone, where courageous medical teams struggle to cope with a flood of victims, and in labs where scientists are racing to test vaccines and find a cure. "Surviving Ebola" includes chilling first-hand interviews of what it’s like to catch—and—survive this terrible affliction.

The episode was rated from 29 votes.
NOVA - S45E8
#16 - Transplanting Hope
8.36
Season 45 - Episode 8

The experience of organ donation, including patients who need transplants and families who make the choice to donate organs of deceased family members; the critical shortage of organs; research into "organs by design."

The episode was rated from 22 votes.
NOVA - S38E15
#17 - The Fabric of the Cosmos: What is Space? (1)
8.36
Season 38 - Episode 15

Brian Greene reveals space as a dynamic fabric that can stretch, twist, warp, and ripple under the influence of gravity. Stranger still is the newly discovered dark energy, an ingredient of space that makes up 70 percent of the universe.but scientists have no idea what it is.

The episode was rated from 14 votes.
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NOVA - S47E8
#18 - Eagle Power
8.35
Season 47 - Episode 8

Eagles dominate the skies. But what makes these predators so special? Researchers study one special bird—and stunning up-close footage reveals her exceptional strength, eyesight, and flying skills. With intimate access to a new bald eagle family, NOVA takes you into the nest to witness the drama of chicks struggling to survive.

The episode was rated from 26 votes.
NOVA - S41E5
#19 - Great Cathedral Mystery
8.33
Season 41 - Episode 5

The dome that crowns Florence’s great cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore—the Duomo—is a towering masterpiece of Renaissance ingenuity and an enduring source of mystery. Still the largest masonry dome on earth after more than six centuries, it is taller than the Statue of Liberty and weighs as much as an average cruise ship. Historians and engineers have long debated how its secretive architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, managed to keep the dome perfectly aligned and symmetrical as the sides rose and converged toward the center, 40 stories above the cathedral floor. His laborers toiled without scaffolding or safety net, applying novel, untried methods. Over 4 million bricks might collapse at any moment—and we still don’t understand how Brunelleschi prevented it. To test the latest theories, a team of U.S. master bricklayers will help build a unique experimental model Duomo using period tools and techniques. Will it stay intact during the final precarious stages of closing over the top of the dome?

The episode was rated from 51 votes.
NOVA - S40E14
#20 - Manhunt - Boston Bombers
8.33
Season 40 - Episode 14

NOVA follows the manhunt for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers examining the role modern technology played in the case.

The episode was rated from 52 votes.
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Last updated: dec 02, 2022

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