Tonight: Nova's New Series Explores Breakthroughs in Materials Science

We just received a press kit from PBS and the producers at NOVA. They're doing a new four-part series on materials science that should interest chemical engineers and anyone looking for a new science show. What's more, it puts the glut of reality shows and Snooki in the proper perspective. (Although it's a shame they missed the opportunity to explain the mysterious origin of Snooki's Boehneresque orange tint). Obviously, the show is family friendly and produced for a lay audience, but it's always good to see and hear the scientists responsible for cutting-edge research-- some of it moving toward commercialization. And any show that helps educate the public about the role of science in their lives is important. After all, Santa isn't the contract iPad manufacturer.

The host, David Pogue, who writes a tech blog for the New York Times, has a strong enough tech background that he's not just reading cue cards. As they say in the business: he's not a meat-puppet. He gets it. He likes it. He's the avatar of the intelligent viewer, throwing himself into the role, enjoying the participatory nature of the show. And I think the producers delighted knocking him around. You will too. Here's life outside your cubicle, newsboy-- hope you have laptop insurance. Click here to read Pogue's NY Times blog. PBS has injected just enough Mythbusters and Jackass DNA to attract a wider audience but escape accusations of shameless pandering as Pogue takes viewers on a bumpy, neck-snapping, shark-infested, g-force-crushing, crash-filled, behind-the-scenes look at innovations that are ushering in a new generation of materials. The information-to-mayhem ratio is comfortably sub-pander.

On January 19, 2011 NOVA will kickoff the first hour of Making Stuff: Stronger, Smaller, Cleaner, Smarter. The four-part special marks the move of the long-running science series to a new weekly time slot on Wednesday nights at 9pm ET/PT on PBS. Watch a series promo. Making Stuff: Stronger (Premieres Wednesday January 19, 2011 at 9PM ET/PT) NOVA begins the four-hour program looking for the world's strongest stuff. Pogue travels from the deck of a U.S. naval aircraft carrier to a demolition derby to the country's top research labs to check in with the experts who are re-engineering what nature has given us to create the next generation of strong "stuff".

Making Stuff: Smaller (Premieres Wednesday January 26, 2011 at 9PM ET/PT) Pogue examines the latest in high-powered nano-circuits and micro-robots that may one day hold the key to saving lives and creating materials from the ground up, atom by atom. The nanotechnology to come could change the face of medicine, with intelligent pills that know what medicine to release into the body and treat patients from the "inside" based on changing needs; robots that repair damaged body parts; and more.

Making Stuff: Cleaner (Premieres Wednesday February 2, 2011 at 9PM ET/PT) Most modern materials are dangerous to the environment, but what about cleaning up our world? Batteries grown from viruses, tires made from orange peel oil, plastics made of sugar, and solar cells that cook up hydrogen--these are just a few glimpses of a new generation of clean materials that could power devices of the future. In Making Stuff Cleaner, David Pogue explores the rapidly developing science and business of clean energy and examines alternative ways to generate it, store it, and distribute it. He also investigates the latest developments in bio-based fuels.

Making Stuff: Smarter (Premieres Wednesday February 9, 2011 at 9PM ET/PT) An Army tanker truck that heals its own bullet wounds. An airplane wing that changes shape as it flies. Scientists are turning to nature and biology and producing innovative new developments. Studying the properties of skin has led to the development of self-healing protective foam. And Pogue literally goes swimming with sharks to understand a different kind of skin that is intriguing scientists. Scientists are modeling a material after sharkskin to develop an antibacterial film that, when sprayed in hospitals, could eliminate MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Remember, any show that helps dispel the geeky image of science is free public relations. It might interest younger viewers enough to explore the field--or at least blow something up in the backyard.

What area of materials science is exciting to you?

Graphic: Nova Logo- Nova Website screenshot Photo: David Pogue-- Nova Website screenshot


Kent, I'm sorry I missed the first show of this. I'm going to send myself a reminder e-mail to record future series (hopefully they'll repeat the first one). I love David Pogue and this whole series sounds fascinating-almost as fascinating as the oddity of Snooki.

Kent Harrington's picture

And I like that PBS is trying to find a younger audience. Excluding Sesame Street, I they probably have one of the oldest demos. They've got to engage those upstart cable channels which have spread like Kudzu onto their turf.

harrington.kent's picture

you didn't leave a link.