PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
Secrets of the Shining Knight
A knight in shining armor may sound like a character out of a storybook, but once upon a time, knighthood was serious business, and for countless medieval fighters, their armor was what stood between life and death. But what was it really like to live beneath the metal? How was that shining armor crafted and how strong was it? Could it withstand impacts from the most lethal weapons of the day, including crossbows, muskets, and primitive hand guns? NOVA challenged blacksmith Ric Furrer and master armorer Jeff Wasson to recreate parts of an elite suit of armor originally manufactured in King Henry VIIIs royal arsenal. We trace their successes and setbacks from start to finish as they rediscover centuries-old metalworking secrets, then put their new armor to the ultimate test against a period musket!
PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
Ghosts of Stonehenge
Stonehenge is the grandest and most enigmatic of Europes prehistoric monuments, and has inspired countless theories to explain who built it and why. Was it an ancient cathedral or burial place, or even a Stone Age observatory or computer? Over the last decade, fresh answers have come from an ambitious program of research, including the first scientific study of human remainsthousands of fragments of cremated men, women, and childrenburied at the site 5,000 years ago. In this Stone Age detective story, archaeologists analyze the bones and piece together tantalizing details of the elite families who presided over Stonehenge. Remnants of huge feasts that fed the laborers at the site have come to light, including evidence that they traveled from far corners of the British Isles to raise the stones and celebrate the winter solstice. Yet Stonehenges place as a centerpiece of ancient culture was not to last. Join NOVA as we reveal intimate details of the Stonehenge people and why their power began to fade soon after they raised the mighty stones.
PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
The Forbidden City’s Seismic Secrets
The Forbidden City is the worlds biggest and most extravagant palace complex ever built. For five centuries, it was the power center of imperial China and survived wars, revolution, fires, and earthquakes. How did the Ming Emperors workforce construct its sprawling array of nearly 1,000 buildings and dozens of temples in a little over a decade? How were stupendous 250-ton marble blocks moved across many miles to reach the site? And how did fantastically intricate woodwork, all fastened without nails or glue, enable the palaces to survive hundreds of earthquakes, including recent ones that obliterated nearby modern structures? To find answers, NOVA joins a team of master craftsmen who build a scale model of a typical palace in a seismic lab, then subject it to simulated earthquakes to shake out the secrets of how the Forbidden City has withstood centuries of violent tremors.
PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
NOVA follows a team of volcano sleuths as they embark on a worldwide hunt for an elusive volcanic mega-eruption that plunged the medieval earth into a deep freeze. The mystery begins when archaeologists find a hastily dug mass grave of 4,000 men, women, and children in London. At first they assume its a plague pit from the Black Death, but when they date the bones, theyre a century too early. So what killed off these families? The chronicles of that time describe a run of wild weather that devastated crops and spread famine across Europe. NOVAs expert team looks for the signature of a volcanic eruption big enough to have blasted a huge cloud of ash and sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, which chilled the entire planet. From Greenland to Antarctica, the team finds telltale fingerprints in ice and soil layers until, finally, they narrow down the culprit to a smoldering crater on a remote Indonesian island. Nearly 750 years ago, this volcanos colossal explosion shot a million tons of rock and ash every second into the atmosphere. Across the globe, it turned summer into winter. What would happen if another such cataclysm struck again today?
PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
The Great Hurricane of 1780 took nine days to blast its way across the Caribbean, killing at least 20,000the highest known death toll of any single weather event in history. What made this superstorm so deadly? To reconstruct its epic scale and investigate what made it so devastating, NOVA joins historians and storm sleuths as they track down clues in eyewitness chronicles, old ruins, and computer simulations. Their evidence points to a truly terrifying, 300-mile-wide stormwith wind speeds probably exceeding 230 miles an hour and 25-feet storm surges that demolished everything in their path. But just how unusual was the Great Hurricane? Diving into sinkholes off Barbados and squirming into caves in the Yucatan, NOVAs experts recover traces of tempests stretching back over more than 1,000 years. The picture they paint is disturbing: mega-hurricanes were not only more frequent in the past but are likely to strike again in our near future, as climate change warms the oceans and fuels more intense hurricanes. Were the deaths and damage inflicted by storms like Hurricane Sandy a prelude to far more devastating disasters?
PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
All over the world, scientists are discovering traces of ancient floods on a scale that dwarfs even the most severe flood disasters of recent times. What triggered these cataclysmic floods, and could they strike again? Over a vast expanse of Washington State called the Channeled Scablands, the level prairie gives way to bizarre, gargantuan rock formations: house-sized boulders seemingly dropped from the sky; a cliff carved by a waterfall twice the height of Niagara; and potholes resembling ones scoured out by rivers today, but ten times bigger. Like forensic detectives at a crime scene, geologists study these strange features and reconstruct catastrophic Ice Age floods more powerful than all the worlds top ten rivers combined. NOVA follows their efforts to uncover the geologic fingerprints of other colossal megafloods in Iceland andimprobablyon the seabed of the English Channel, where hundreds of thousands of years ago, another deluge smashed through a land bridge connecting Britain and France and turned Britain into an island for the first time. These great disasters ripped through terrain and transformed continents in a matter of hoursand similar forces reawakened by climate change are posing an active threat to mountain communities throughout the world today.
PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 22 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
Extreme Animal Weapons
Whether its claws or horns, fangs or stings, every animal has some kind of weapon. But why are some armaments huge and extreme, far beyond any practical need? Explore the secrets that underlie natures battleground and provoke an animal arms race.
PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
Long mocked as empty-headed, birds hide surprisingly acute intelligence. But just how smart are they? As scientists test avian aptitude with brainteasers, discover how the genius of birds is leading us to rethink our basic notions of intelligence.
PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2018 at 9PM ET /8C on PBS
Black Hole Apocalypse TWO-HOUR SPECIAL
They are the most enigmatic, mysterious, and exotic objects in the universe: black holes. Theyre also the most powerful; their gravity is so strong it can actually capture light. And theyre the most destructive, swallowing particles, dust, gas, planets, even giant stars. Anything that falls into them vanishes… gone forever. But now, astrophysicists are coming to realize that black holes just might be integral to the structure of the universe and our very existence. In this 2-hour special, astrophysicist and novelist Janna Levin will take viewers on a journey to the frontiers of black hole science. We will meet with the leading astronomers and physicists to discover the most cutting edge research that is helping to shed light on these shadowy monsters, and we will explore the pr