‘The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements’ is an exciting series about one of the great adventures in the history of science: the long and continuing quest to understand what the world is made of. Three episodes tell the story of seven of history’s most important scientists as they seek to identify, understand and organize the basic building blocks of matter. These episodes show us not only what these scientific explorers discovered but also how, using actors to reveal the creative process through the scientists’ own words and conveying their landmark discoveries through re-enactments shot with working replicas of their original lab equipment. Knitting these strands together is host Michael Emerson, a two-time Emmy Award-winning actor. Meet Joseph Priestley and Antoine Lavoisier, whose discovery of oxygen led to the modern science of chemistry, and Humphry Davy, who made electricity a powerful new tool in the search for elements.
Conditions are currently warming up in the Pacific, and the NOAA Climate Prediction Center expects a greater than 90 percent chance that El Niño will continue through the winter and most likely into the spring. This image shows the July 13-19, 2015 sea surface temperature departure from the 1981-2010 average. Image by NOAA
This week’s news roundup takes us to San Francisco, where Ira is joined by KQED science and environment reporter Lauren Sommer. As California’s historic drought continues, many Californians have pinned their hopes on a larger-than-usual El Niño to dump much-needed water on the West. But as Sommer explains, there’s a new climate player in town that could muck up that plan: the Blob–scientists’ name for a mass of warm water in the North Pacific—which could divert those long-sought winter storms around the thirsty state.
Orange-and-black wings fill the sky as NOVA charts one of nature’s most remarkable phenomena: the epic migration of monarch butterflies across North America. To capture a butterfly’s point of view, NOVA’s filmmakers used a helicopter, ultralight, and hot-air balloon for aerial views along the transcontinental route. This wondrous annual migration, which scientists are just beginning to fathom, is an endangered phenomenon that could dwindle to insignificance if the giant firs that the butterflies cling to during the winter disappear. Learn more & get involved:
Learn how to create “waystations” for monarch butterflies, read about the life cycle of the monarch, and more at this website from the University of Kansas. Journey North: Monarch Butterfly Migration
Join others and help track the monarch population as the butterflies migrate across North America each year.
(Contaminated wastewater is seen at the entrance to the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colo., in this picture released by the Environmental Protection Agency. The photo was taken Wednesday; the plume of contaminated water has continued to work its way downstream. Reuters /Landov)
In an event that has led to health warnings and turned a river orange, the Environmental Protection Agency says one of its safety teams accidentally released contaminated water from a mine into the Animas River in southwest Colorado. The spill, which sent heavy metals, arsenic and other contaminants into a waterway that flows into the San Juan National Forest, occurred Wednesday. The EPA initially said 1 million gallons of wastewater had been released, but that figure has risen sharply. From member station KUNC, Stephanie Paige Ogburn reports for our Newscast unit:
“The EPA now estimates 3 million gallons of wastewater spilled from the mine into the Animas River.
Science Friday: If you’re lucky enough to live where fireflies flash at night, then you have surely seen their magical illuminations on warm summer evenings. But did you know that by observing fireflies while they are flashing, you can learn to communicate with them? If you haven’t already, watch the Science Friday Video “In a Flash: Firefly Communication” for a little background on how fireflies use light to communicate:
By watching and comparing fireflies all across the country, scientists have been able to map out the unique flash patterns of male and female fireflies of different species. Dr. John E. Lloyd, an entomologist at the University of Florida, featured in the video above, was one of the first to do this extensively for North American species of firefly in the genus Photinus. Check out these family friendly activities from Science Friday.
Tonight on Life on the Reef, human and animal residents of the reef prepare as a category 5 cyclone brings destruction to the North Queensland coast. But as cyclone season finally gives way to calm seas, the reef begins to recover and thrive. From the mangroves to the coral cays, reef fish populations flourish, and mysterious dwarf minke whales arrive to enjoy the warm tropical waters. Tune into WSKG TV on August 5th at 8 pm for the third episode of Life on the Reef. About the Program
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure and one of the richest and most complex natural ecosystems on Earth.
Tonight on NOVA, take a look into the Nuclear Meltdown Disaster that has forever changed Japan. Four years ago, a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered a disastrous meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. But at the same time, just seven miles away, the heroic efforts of plant operators under the leadership of Naohiro Masuda saved a second plant, Fukushima Daini. Now Masuda faces the daunting challenge of cleaning up Daiichi, where a witches’ brew of radioactive groundwater leaks into the Pacific every day and three melted cores remain steaming hot and lethally unapproachable. With unprecedented access, NOVA reveals the little-known story of how Masuda and his team averted disaster at Daini and how workers are struggling to clean up the mess at Daiichi.
Tonight on Life on the Reef, tourists flock to the reef to enjoy the perfect weather, and the humpback whales are here to give birth. Fire destroys a luxury yacht, and a critical rescue is launched. On the most protected island in Australia, 20,000 green sea turtles return to the biggest reptilian breeding colony on Earth. Tune in Wednesday July 22 at 8pm on WSKG for the first episode of Life on the Reef.
About the Program
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure and one of the richest and most complex natural ecosystems on Earth. To some, this place is full of mystery and hardship, an alien world full of bizarre, beautiful and deadly creatures.
After nine years and 3 billion miles, PBS NOVA will finally get a close look at Pluto, but only if the New Horizons spacecraft can survive the final, treacherous leg of its journey through a dangerous field of debris. If it does, New Horizons is poised to make dramatic new discoveries, not just about Pluto, but about the vast realm of icy bodies lurking beyond Neptune, relics of the earliest days of the solar systems formation. Back on Earth, the planetary scientists who have spent decades working on this mission anxiously await a signal from their spacecraft. If all goes well, well see Plutos mysterious surface in unprecedented detail and learn new secrets about other alien worlds at the far limits of our solar system. Tune into the latest posts from NASA’s New Horizons control room.