Tag Archives: NOVA

Remembering Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking smilesStephen Hawking, who passed away last night at the age of 76, had a long connection with public television – as you might expect for someone who promoted curiosity and big questions about the universe.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted in tribute,  “His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake. But it’s not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure.”

The PBS documentary Hawking, released in 2014, is only one of the many videos available online. Watch the trailer.

Read on for more about Hawking’s life and work.

Continue reading Remembering Stephen Hawking

The One Place That Can Take You Anyplace – Including the Top of the Great Pyramid

Wisconsin Public Television is the one place that can take you anyplace – like this brilliant 360-degree immersive view from the top of Khufu’s Pyramid, or the Great Pyramid of Giza from our friends at NOVA. Spend some time exploring one of the world’s rarest vistas.  (Click through on the image if it isn’t interactive in this window.)

And don’t miss NOVA Wednesday nights at 8 on WPT. Or watch full programs online anytime.

So Much More Than “The Girl From The Wonder Years”

“I discovered that I could be smart and capable and valuable for something that had nothing to do with Hollywood. This is me. And it felt great.”

In this powerful and inspirational video, Wonder Years actress Danica McKellar shares how her discovery of mathematics  in college helped her discover she is so much more than a former child star. Knowledge truly is power!

Watch more of Nova’s Secret Life of Scientists series online here.

Giving Curiosity a Kick-Start

Image of Josh standing outside the White House
Wisconsin’s National Geographic Bee representative Josh Frank outside the White House

Meet Joshua Frank from Fall River.

I asked Josh if he could sum up why Wisconsin Public Television is important. He said: “Public television has been one of the main kick-starters of my whole curiosity.”

Josh and his mom Heather called me recently to chat about a trip they took to Washington D.C. a few weeks ago. Josh, who just finished seventh grade, won the 2015 Wisconsin National Geographic State Bee and became the Wisconsin representative at the National Geographic Bee in Washington. He was one of 54 competitors, and it was his first trip on an airplane. Both he and his mom said it was a great experience — except for the fact that they didn’t get enough time to see all of the Smithsonian.

Heather had told me in an earlier conversation that they didn’t have cable, and that PBS Kids was the only TV she allowed Josh and his brother to watch when they were growing up. Josh confirmed that today. He told me that, when he was younger, “I wanted to be a contestant on Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman so bad!”

Josh said: “At the GeoBee I met kids that are actually like me.  Being from a small town – I feel… a bit unique.” His mom shared that in meeting the other kids and their families, they realized that most of these kids, like Josh, don’t cram or study specifically for this competition — they are just interested in learning, and in the world, and tend to pick up these facts. Josh spends loads of time on Wikipedia, watches Nature and NOVA and is also into weather, geology and physics.

We are looking forward to watching where Josh’s curiosity leads him next! What has WPT inspired you to learn more about?

Find Subatomic Particles in Your Home

If you’re feeling a tad ambitious and want to explore some quantum physics, here’s a nifty little project for you. According to PBS NOVA, “Right now, the smallest particles in the universe are shooting, not only in front of you, but also through you.” And, believe it or not, you can get a glimpse of these sub atomic particles in your own home. No fancy lab equipment required.

Here’s what you need:
– a jar
– rubbing alcohol
– a sponge
– a flashlight
– dry ice (just do a Google search)

And finally, you need some curious participants. Kids would love this little experiment, but they’re totally optional in my opinion. Explorers of any age will find the fun in this DIY subatomic particle detector. Check out the video from NOVA.

The Many Faces of D-Day

Day of Days
Day of Days: June 6, 1944 airs on June 4.

My grandfather was drafted to serve in World War II soon after his 18th birthday. After leaving his Michigan home to undergo training, he boarded a ship and spent the entirety of his deployment on the water, sending and receiving Morse code messages and relaying the most urgent memos to the ship’s captain. His stories are vibrant, to say the least.

Every veteran has a unique story to tell, and each of their stories can come alive when they’re given the chance to tell them. While it’s true that historians have a plethora of knowledge, nothing can compare to hearing history narrated by those who lived it.

If you share my appreciation of first-hand stories, tune into WPT 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 4 for Day of Days: June 6, 1944 to witness four D-Day veterans share their accounts of the Normandy landing. Watch the foursome converse at the Museum of World War II in Natick, Massachusetts, sharing stories from the initial amphibious invasion to the battle’s aftermath.

Expect to be both enlightened and inspired by this compendium of poignant interviews that commemorates the 70th anniversary of the biggest armada in history.

Then, immediately following at 8 p.m., dive a little deeper into D-Day with NOVA: D-Day’s Sunken SecretsHundreds of ships sank during the efforts to liberate Europe from the Nazis, creating an expansive underwater archeological site. With exclusive access to war historians, archeologists and specialist divers, NOVA immerses viewers in a first-of-its-kind look at the remains of D-Day.

Take a journey back to that momentous Day of Days by tuning in on June 4!

UW and Your Inner Fish

The new three-part series Your Inner Fish premieres tonight following all-new episodes of Nature and NOVA, and the series has strong connections to the University of Wisconsin. The executive in charge of the project is Sean B. Carroll, Allan Wilson Professor of molecular biology, genetics and molecular genetics at UW-Madison.

Additionally, John Hawks, associate professor of anthropology at UW-Madison, was an advisor to the series and UW-Madison graduate, Laura Helft, is a senior researcher at Tangled Bank Studios, the production company behind the series.

In a UW-Madison article, which details Carroll’s involvement in the series, Carroll discusses the series saying, “There is a lot of discovery there, in the context of essentially how our bodies have modified over the years from our fishy ancestors.” Tonight’s episode, for example, traces the ancestry of our own hands and arms back to the fins of Tiktaalik, a primeval fish that crawled onto land.

University Place, Wisconsin Public Television’s lecture series, has recorded episodes with the other scientists involved with Your Inner Fish. In 2010, John Hawks talked on the existence of the Neanderthal during the course of human evolution. And in a 2011 lecture, then Ph.D. candidate Laura Helft gave a whirlwind tour of plant pathology called “When Microbes Attack, Plants Fight Back.”

The thought-provoking night of TV begins at 7 with all-new episodes of Nature and NOVA followed by the premiere of Your Inner Fish. If you need more reason to tune in tonight, I give you Chris P. Bacon, part of Nature “My Bionic Pet.”

Explore More From WPT at Wisconsin Science Festival


Watch all of the Wisconsin Science Festival live streams in this video window starting Thursday evening. Find full details and schedule below!

This weekend, the Wisconsin Science Festival will fill venues across Wisconsin with fun-filled learning events for everyone to enjoy. Join Wisconsin Public Television – one of the event’s partners – to engage your mind and explore new ideas in the fields of science, engineering and technology.

The event, which runs from this Thursday-Sunday, has dozens of events around the state, with many located at UW-Madison. Be part of WPT’s panel of innovators in education at noon Saturday in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. Join experts from Sesame Workshop, NOVA, the UW-Madison School of Education and The Waisman Center to learn how young minds can learn science in new ways.

Our colleagues at WPR will be on hand throughout the week, too, with a special presentation by Science Friday host Ira Flatow at 7 p.m. Thursday night and a live on-location broadcast of the radio program Friday afternoon at 1. And, WPR’s 9XM Players present a live radio drama, “Forbidden Planet Decoded,” Saturday night at 8.

Those are just a few of the great presentations across Madison and around the state. Explore the full lineup at wisconsinsciencefest.org.

If you can’t make it to the event in person, WPT’s University Place will be live streaming the following presentations so that people across Wisconsin and around the world can take part in the learning fun. Check back here starting Thursday to watch the following lineup of presentations live on the Web.

University Place Wisconsin Science Festival Live Streaming schedule

Thursday, Sept. 26
7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Science is Sexy (lecture)
Ira Flatow, Host of Science Friday, National Public Radio

Friday, Sept. 27
7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Chemistry Imagined: Connecting Art and Science (lecture)
Roald Hoffman, Author, Nobel Prize Winner and Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Chemistry, Cornell University
Vivian Torrence, Visual Artist

Saturday, Sept. 28
12:00 – 1:30 p.m. The Preschool Genius: Teaching Math & Science to Early Learners (panel)
Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of education and research at Sesame Workshop
Rachel Connolly, education director at NOVA
Anita Wager, assistant professor at the UW–Madison School of Education
Ed Hubbard, assistant professor at the UW–Madison School of Education and the Waisman Center
Michael Harryman, WPT (moderator)

2:30 – 4:00 p.m. The Poisoner’s Guide to Life (lecture)
Deborah Blum, Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, UW-Madison

8:00 – 9:00 p.m. Old Time Radio Drama: Forbidden Planet Decoded (live performance)
Norman Gilliland, WPR
9XM Players

David Pogue is Making More Stuff

David-Pogue-NOVA-Making-Stuff
David Pogue on a levitating surfboard on NOVA.

I have fantastic news for NOVA viewers — David Pogue returns this October for more “Making Stuff.”

You might remember Pogue from 2011’s “Making Stuff” in which he explored the wave of innovation that was making things Stronger, Smaller, Cleaner, and Smarter. The October 2013 reboot jumps back on the wave of innovation, this time exploring how to make things Faster, Colder, Safer and Wilder.

Watch the “Making Stuff” encore 8 p.m. Wednesday Aug. 21 and 28 and online.

Or, you might have no idea about this “Making Stuff” series but are still reading simply because you’re a David Pogue fan. You might know him as an author in the “for Dummies” series of how-to books. I was first captivated by Pogue’s New York Times column years ago. But nowadays, the man seems to be everywhere. You can see him on CBS Sunday Morning, as host of NOVA scienceNow, in the pages of Scientific American, or on Twitter where he shares pictures from his NOVA shoots with his nearly 1.5 million followers.

Pogue is also a TED Talks alum. His 10 Top Time-Saving Tech Tips is brief and entertaining, and, for me, incredibly valuable. Did you know you can simply hit the space bar to scroll to the bottom of a web page rather than laboriously scrolling with your mouse or trackpad?

Give it a shot…tap your space bar now.

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Pretty simple right? Keep tapping.

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Now, check out this preview for “Making [more] Stuff” coming to WPT October 16.

3D Spies

Watch NOVA “3D Spies of WWII” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 24 on Wisconsin Public Television.

3D SpiesIt’s almost funny how unmanned drones are just now making it into mainstream media. The concept of a scouting plane has been around since day one and the technology on the manned versions advanced in leaps and bounds each decade. Going from mere aerial views to photographs to 3D photographs and eventually to actual satellite mapping of environments. It was really only a matter of time until we started seeing these advanced spying marvels out flying around without a pilot.

They almost started out as toys if you think about it. Crews would rig up a camera to small plane or helicopter and fly it over a region and collect the images when it returned. The key differences now are they’re more like mini jets, they’re heavily armed, the cameras are much more advanced and the pilot may be on the other side of the planet. These new drones have been flying high for years, but are just starting to catch everyone’s attention. Why? Most likely because the FAA regulations will be changing in 2015 and we may start seeing the use of drones more and more on (or over) U.S. soil.

Hundreds of larger police stations have already begun planning to use drones once they become available to help locate, track and combat crime. There are even a few Universities out there offering Bachelor’s programs for drone pilots as the demand begins to spike. Theorists have even started to boast that by 2025, there’s a good chance people in larger cities may be getting pulled over by unmanned drones rather than police cars… let’s just say the future is sure to be interesting.