Michel Thomas – The Language Master

Michel Thomas spends 5 days with students who have previously failed to learn languages and, in the words of their teacher, they learn as much from Michel in those 5 days as they would normally learn in 5 years.

All without homework, writing or revision

Down To The Earth’s Core

Get up close and personal with Earth in a way you probably have never imagined. Down to the Earth’s Core takes viewers from the sidewalk to the centre of the planet in one epic unbroken shot. Using spectacular computer generated imagery; the camera smashes through almost 9 000 kilometres of solid rock to explore the hidden world beneath our feet. Experience an earthquake inside the San Andreas Fault, blast out of a volcano, encounter bizarre cave-dwelling creatures and enter caves full of giant crystals – all inside planet Earth. As the camera lowers into Earth’s bosom, the planet’s extraordinary story, is laid bare layer by layer, showing how prehistoric forests became modern-day fuel, witnessing the dinosaur’s cataclysmic death, and watching as stalactites form and gold grows before our eyes. Deeper, beyond the reach of any mine, any drill, we find wonders beyond imagination: towering molten metal tornadoes, forests of solid iron crystals, until we reach the strangest, least understood place on the planet – the core. To infinity and beyond, this is Earth like never before.

Absolute Zero

Air-conditioning, refrigeration, and superconductivity are just some of the ways technology has put cold to use. But what is cold, how do you achieve it, and how cold can it get? NOVA explores these and other facets of the frigid in two one-hour programs.

The two-part special follows the quest for cold from the unlikely father of air-conditioning, the court magician of King James I of England in the 17th century, to today’s scientists pioneering superfast computing in the quantum chill near absolute zero—the ultimate extreme of cold at minus 273.15 C (minus 460 F). (See A Sense of Scale to put this temperature in perspective.)

Along the way, viewers learn about the invention of thermometers, the origin of the ice business in 19th-century New England, Clarence Birdseye’s fishing trip that led to the invention of frozen food, and a couple of cold-inspired scientific races towards absolute zero that ended in Nobel Prizes.

NOVA brings the history of this frosty subject to life with historical recreations of great moments in low-temperature research and interviews with noted historians and scientists, including Simon Schaffer of the University of Cambridge, and Nobel laureates Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Wolfgang Ketterle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The program is based on the definitive book on cold: Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold by Tom Shachtman. (See an excerpt.)

Part One, “The Conquest of Cold,” opens in the 1600s when the nature of cold and even heat were a complete mystery. Are they different phenomena or aspects of some unified feature of nature? Are they added to a substance or qualities of the substance itself? The experiments that settled these questions helped stoke the Industrial Revolution, which exploited such fundamental insights as that heat always flows from hot to cold. (Learn about the mysterious opposite to absolute zero.)

The key moments in cold in this episode include: Cornelius Drebbel’s spooky trick of turning summer into winter for the English king, achieved in much the way that homemade ice cream is produced; Antoine Lavoisier’s battle with Count Benjamin Rumford over the caloric theory of heat, an intellectual contest set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, in which Lavoisier unfortunately lost his head; and Michael Faraday’s explosive experiments to liquefy gases, which established the principles that make refrigerators possible. (For more, see Milestones in Cold Research and Anatomy of a Refrigerator.)

Part Two, “The Race For Absolute Zero,” picks up the story in the late 19th century, when researchers plunged cold science to new lows as they succeeded in reaching the forbidding realm at which oxygen and then nitrogen liquefy. (See if you can liquefy oxygen yourself.) The master of this technology was Scottish chemist James Dewar, who pursued the holy grail of the field—liquefying hydrogen at minus 253 C, just 20 degrees above absolute zero. When he succeeded, he faced the unexpected and even more daunting challenge of liquefying the newly discovered gas helium at a mere 5 degrees above absolute zero. However, he had a talented competitor—Dutch physicist Heike Onnes—and the ensuing race to the bottom of the temperature scale was as zealous as the contemporaneous race to the Earth’s poles.

The end of the 20th century produced another low-temperature contest. No one had ever seen an exotic form of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate, which only forms at temperatures vanishingly close to absolute zero. But new techniques developed in the 1990s by Daniel Kleppner at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology set the stage for a race to create this truly bizarre substance—and with it win the latest heat in the quest for cold.

A Class Divided

The day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, a teacher in a small town in Iowa tried a daring classroom experiment. She decided to treat children with blue eyes as superior to children with brown eyes. FRONTLINE explores what those children learned about discrimination and how it still affects them today.

The Elegant Universe

One of the most ambitious and exciting theories ever proposed—one that may be the long-sought “theory of everything,” which eluded even Einstein—gets a masterful, lavishly computer-animated explanation from bestselling author-physicist Brian Greene, when NOVA presents the nuts, bolts, and sometimes outright nuttiness of string theory.

Also known as superstring theory, the startling idea proposes that the fundamental ingredients of nature are inconceivably tiny strings of energy, whose different modes of vibration underlie everything that happens in the universe. The theory successfully unites the laws of the large—general relativity—and the laws of the small—quantum mechanics—breaking a conceptual logjam that has frustrated the world’s smartest scientists for nearly a century.

Creation of the Universe

Trip through the creation of the Universe from the Bog Bang to the frontiers of science. Musical score from Brian Eno. Includes visits with great thinkers.

Saturn: Lord of the Rings

The science documentary series tells the story of the Cassini-Huygens space probe – its engineering, its perilous journey and the wonders it revealed about Saturn and its moons.

Origins

Has the universe always existed? How did it become a place that could harbor life? What was the birth of our planet like? Are we alone, or are there alien worlds waiting to be discovered? NOVA presents some startling new answers in “Origins,” a groundbreaking four-part NOVA miniseries hosted by dynamic astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson leads viewers on a cosmic journey to the beginning of time and into the distant reaches of the universe, searching for life’s first stirrings and its traces on other worlds.

Miracle in Orbit

When and how did space and time begin? The birth of the Universe is one of the biggest mysteries in astronomy. It has perplexed the best scientific minds for centuries. Decades before space travel was possible, astronomers dreamed of putting a telescope into orbit to try and answer these fundamental questions. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when space flight had become a reality, that NASA resolved to build just such a space telescope. They named it Hubble.

This was one of the most ambitious missions ever conceived. The technical challenges were enormous and it took 12 years to design and build. Travelling at seventeen thousand miles an hour, the Hubble Telescope would take pictures of the furthest reaches of space, transmitting them 400 miles back to Earth.

In April 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched. But just weeks later, disaster struck – the $2 billion telescope had a fatal flaw in its main mirror. This was not just a disaster for NASA; it was a national scandal. Hubble had to be saved; scientists and engineers began to search desperately for a solution to the problem.

Repair work on the Hubble TelescopePlans for an adventurous repair mission began to take shape but it was two years before work could be carried out. It took astronauts five gruelling space-walks to carefully replace the instruments and patch up the telescope. But nobody knew if Hubble would be able to deliver on any of its original promises.

Hubble in spaceFinally, the miracle happened. An unexpected avalanche of data from Hubble confirmed that the telescope was fixed. At last it began to solve the most fundamental puzzles of the Universe.

Eagle Nebula Hubble has given us breathtaking images of the birth of stars; it has found black holes swallowing matter at the centre of galaxies; and last year the Hubble Telescope resolved the most fundamental question in astronomy – the age of the Universe. At last, half a century of scientific endeavour was rewarded.

Horizon marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope by tracing the extraordinary tale of triumph, disaster and eventual success of this unique window into the Universe.

Journeys in Time and Space

Kathy Sykes meets the designer of the world’s largest telescopes. Chris Riley visits New York to see a two-mile long machine that re-creates the Big Bang. Plus a look at asteroids, the earliest relics of our Solar System. They could easily obliterate all life on our planet, but what can we, here on Earth, do about it? Also, we meet the first British astronomer in over two hundred years to find a new planet.