10 Worst Episodes of NOVA

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.

Written by Sophie and last updated on feb 10, 2023.

PS: The following content contains spoilers!

PPS: I will admit that parts of this page was written with the help of AI - it makes my work so much easier to not start from a blank page!

NOVA - S42E1

#10 - Big Bang Machine (Season 42 - Episode 1)

CERN scientists prepare to restart the Large Hadron Collider to examine the world's tiniest particles.

The episode was rated 7.17 from 23 votes.

NOVA - S41E21

#9 - Emperor’s Ghost Army (Season 41 - Episode 21)


In central China, a vast underground mausoleum conceals a life-size terracotta army of cavalry, infantry, horses, chariots, weapons, administrators, acrobats, and musicians, all built to serve China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di, in the afterlife. Lost and forgotten for over 2,200 years, this clay army, 8,000-strong, stands poised to help the First Emperor rule again beyond the grave. Now, a new archaeological campaign is probing the thousands of figures entombed in the mausoleum. With exclusive access to pioneering research, "Emperor's Ghost Army" reveals how the Emperor directed the manufacture of the tens of thousands of bronze weapons carried by the clay soldiers. NOVA tests the power of these weapons with high-action experiments and reports on revolutionary 3D computer modeling techniques that are revealing new insights into how the clay figures were made, revealing in the process the secrets of one of archaeology's greatest discoveries.

The episode was rated 7.14 from 29 votes.

NOVA - S48E1

#8 - Secrets in Our DNA (Season 48 - Episode 1)

The value of DNA testing and the risks of entrusting this private data to commercial enterprises and online databases.

The episode was rated 7.06 from 17 votes.

NOVA - S46E22

#7 - The Violence Paradox (Season 46 - Episode 22)


Violence is all over the news. But some say we’re living in the most peaceful time in history. Journey through time and the human mind to investigate whether—and how—violence has declined. And witness how people are working to stop violence today.

The episode was rated 6.96 from 26 votes.

NOVA - S47E9

#6 - Decoding COVID-19 (Season 47 - Episode 9)

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has upended life as we know it in a matter of mere months. But at the same time, an unprecedented global effort to understand and contain the virus—and find a treatment for the disease it causes—is underway. Join the doctors on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 as they strategize to stop the spread, and meet the researchers racing to develop treatments and vaccines. Along the way, discover how this devastating disease emerged, what it does to the human body, and why it exploded into a pandemic.

The episode was rated 6.95 from 20 votes.

NOVA - S47E15

#5 - Can We Cool the Planet? (Season 47 - Episode 15)


As global temperatures continue to rise, scientists are wondering if we need solutions beyond reducing emissions. Enter geoengineering. From sucking carbon straight out of the air to physically blocking out sunlight, the options may seem far-fetched. But as time runs out on conventional solutions to climate change, scientists are asking the hard questions: Can geoengineering really work? How much would it cost? And what are the risks of engineering Earth's climate?

The episode was rated 6.91 from 11 votes.

NOVA - S37E9

#4 - Mind Over Money (Season 37 - Episode 9)

Exposes the mysterious and surprising nature of the two most powerful forces on the planet: the human mind and money. Using analysis and experiment, this film explores why economists failed to predict the 2008 crash and why we so often make irrational financial decisions.

The episode was rated 6.91 from 11 votes.

NOVA - S47E13

#3 - Nature's Fear Factor (Season 47 - Episode 13)


For animals in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, the normal balance of competition and predation was upended when a war wiped out the top predators. The remaining animals didn’t simply grow in numbers—they began behaving in unusual ways, veering outside their typical territories and feeding patterns. Could it be that it’s not just predators’ kills that keep other populations in check, but also the fear they inspire? NOVA joins a team of scientists as they reintroduce wild dogs to Gorongosa to find out if restoring the park’s “landscape of fear” can restore balance to an entire ecosystem.

The episode was rated 6.79 from 14 votes.

NOVA - S39E4

#2 - Mystery of a Masterpiece (Season 39 - Episode 4)

In October 2007, a striking portrait of a young woman in Renaissance dress made world news headlines. Originally sold nine years before for around $20,000, the portrait is now thought to be an undiscovered masterwork by Leonardo da Vinci worth more than $100 million. How did cutting-edge imaging analysis help tie the portrait to Leonardo? NOVA meets a new breed of experts who are approaching "cold case" art mysteries as if they were crime scenes, determined to discover "who committed the art." And it follows art sleuths as they deploy new techniques to combat the multibillion-dollar criminal market in stolen and fraudulent art.

The episode was rated 6.58 from 12 votes.

NOVA - S35E16

#1 - The Bible's Buried Secrets (Season 35 - Episode 16)


“The Bible’s Buried Secrets,” produced by Rhode Island-based Providence Pictures for PBS's science series Nova, attempts to uncover who wrote the Hebrew Bible and whether it’s history or parable, delving into the origins of the Israelites to explore their gradual transformation into a monotheistic people. The show also poses provocative ideas – including the “revelation” that many Israelites believed that God had a wife – and disputes literal readings of the text.

The episode was rated 6.36 from 11 votes.

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