[24 June 2008]
NOVA ScienceNOW 9 p.m. EDT Wednesday PBS
Reason to watch: Neil deGrasse Tyson, who’s both brilliant and a wonderful guide. Plus, this may be TV’s most accessible science show.
What it’s about: As fans well know, “NOVA ScienceNOW” doesn’t believe in lingering. Four (or three) subjects are tackled, and while subjects of deep complexity and vital real-world consequence, “NSN” presumes that most of us would just prefer to see the tip of the iceberg, and leave the rest well below the waterline.
Wednesday night’s first big subject? Dark matter. Yes, dark matter - that churlish, frightening, complex stuff that makes up most of the universe, which no one can see or describe. Tyson - Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium and Columbia University astrophysicist for his day jobs - goes deep into a mine in Minnesota where physicists await proof of this vital and all-encompassing matter, which (as one expert tells us) “forms the scaffolding that regular matter” is built on.
Next, “NSN” looks at cutting-edge experiences (with mice) that determine that lost memories can be recovered; visits a “digital forensics” specialist who has created software to determine when photos have been digitally manipulated; and finally, a whimsical end-piece on the wisdom of the crowd.
Bottom line: The night ends with dispensed wisdom from Tyson, who observes, “What we know of the universe we know well. Yet a larger cosmic truth lies undiscovered before us.” Those words animate this entire series, which is infused with the joy of discovery from start to finish. Terrific, as always.