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A to Z: How Writing Changed the World
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Nova

A to Z: How Writing Changed The World

Just as handwritten records changed how societies work, the printing press transformed the spread of information, igniting the Industrial Revolution. How did technologies — from pen to paper to printing press — make it all possible?

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Full Episodes
Season
The sun from outer space shines down on Earth. | From "NOVA: Can We Cool the Planet?"
Episode
53:31
Nova

S47 E16: Can We Cool The Planet?

As global temperatures rise, scientists are exploring geoengineering solutions, from planting trees to sucking carbon out of the air to physically blocking out sunlight. But would it work? And what are the risks of engineering Earth's climate?
A spacecraft floating in space over an asteroid. | From "NOVA: Touching the Asteroid"
Episode
54:03
Nova

S47 E15: Touching The Asteroid

If spacecraft OSIRIS-REx can grab a piece of an asteroid and bring it back to Earth, scientists could gain great insight into our planet's origins, and even how to defend against rogue asteroids. But NASA only gets three shots at collecting a sample.
A person doing calligraphy on a piece of paper. | From "NOVA: A to Z - The First Alphabet"
Episode
54:01
Nova

S47 E13: A to Z – The First Alphabet

Writing shaped civilization itself, from the trading of goods to tales of ancient goddesses and kings. Follow the evolution of the written word, from millennia-old carvings in an Egyptian turquoise mine to our modern-day alphabets.
Closeup of slime branching out. | From "NOVA: Secret Mind of Slime"
Episode
53:17
Nova

S47 E12: Secret Mind of Slime

Scientists investigate the bizarre "intelligence" of slime molds, which appear to learn and make decisions — without a brain. These cunning, single-celled blobs can navigate mazes and create efficient networks. Can they also redefine cognition?
Microscopic image of DNA. | From "NOVA: Human Nature"
Episode
1:33:41
Nova

S47 E11: Human Nature

Our DNA can determine attributes from eye color to medical predispositions. An extraordinary technology called CRISPR allows us to edit human DNA, possibly eliminating genetic diseases or choosing our children's features. But how far should we go?
An illustration of the coronavirus. | "Nova: Decoding COVID-19"
Episode
53:38
Nova

S47 E9: Decoding COVID-19

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.
A graphic depicting wolf-like animals from Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. | From "NOVA: Nature's Fear Factor"
Episode
53:32
Nova

S47 E9: Nature's Fear Factor

When top predators disappeared from Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park, other animals fell into unusual patterns. Now scientists are reintroducing wild dogs to restore the park's "landscape of fear" and with it the natural balance of the ecosystem.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame on fire, smoke enshrouding the areas around it. | From "NOVA: Saving Notre Dame"
Episode
53:47
Nova

S47 E8: Saving Notre Dame

When the Notre Dame cathedral caught fire in April 2019, Paris came perilously close to losing over 800 years of history. As engineers rebuild, researchers use cutting-edge technology to piece together what happened and restore the cathedral.