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Cosmos becomes a "moveable feast" for NOVA viewers as universe opens up on TV

Dave Masko's picture

Nova has sparked interest in outer space - as if it were a "moveable feast" - since first airing in 1974; while tonight, Nova dishes up two classic episodes about the fabric of the Cosmos and our elegant universe.

When describing both the fabric of the Cosmos, and this elegant universe we live in, Nova’s TV experts sound more like the writer Ernest Hemingway who called Paris “a moveable feast,” while the outgoing director for the “Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence” (SETI) Dr. Jill Tarter calls our search for life outside Earth this same moveable feast for astronomers and others who look to the heavens for answers. For instance, Doctor Tarter told PBS’ sister radio program NPR July 23 that early on in her career in Paris, she stayed “awake for three days to prove a signal was coming from a distant airport and not what she and colleagues were studying;" while also finding how alien life exists in the Cosmos. Flash forward to tonight’s double-feature offering on the PBS television program “Nova,” and be amazed when viewing the classic episode “The Fabric of the Cosmos,” airing at 9 p.m. ET, and then “The Elegant Universe: Welcome to the 11th Dimension” airing at 10 p.m. ET.

At the same time, Doctor Tarter told NPR about man’s never ending quest for knowledge about outer space. "We are made out of stardust. The iron in the hemoglobin molecules in the blood in your right hand came from a star that blew up 8 billion years ago. The iron in your left hand came from another star. We are the laws of chemistry and physics as they have played out here on Earth and we are now learning that planets are as common as stars. Most stars, as it turns out now, will have planets."

Nova’s TV shows are a “moveable feast,” say fans

Through its zest and daring to offer entertaining and informative TV programs since 1974 on PBS, the “Nova” series has even dared to feature Doctor Tarter and others who’ve told the American public that “Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence” does exist in our Cosmos; while Nova television episodes also explores “innovations and discoveries from the world of science and technology; while highlighting the human side of science,” states the show’s mission statement.

At the same time, fans of “Nova” at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, told Huliq during a July 24 interview that both books and DVD episodes of both the series “The Fabric of the Cosmos,” and “The Elegant Universe” – that are both airing tonight on PBS – are “dog-eared and used often by students to better understand our universe.”

In turn, one University of Oregon graduate student named George told Huliq how “Nova transcend our limits about the universe by putting new ideas in our heads and making us feel capable of achieving great things in science. Story after story on Nova, we tap into this scientific intensity. It gives us heroes – such as Dr. Jill Tarter – and renews our hope and courage to continue exploring Space.”

"Now, what other TV shows does so much for scientific ideas," says George, while taking a quick breath of utter astonishment about "how much we now know about the universe that was not known just five, 10 years ago."

Nova explores our “roots” in outer space

Nova continues to “amaze,” says fans such as Dr. Jill Tarter whose spent the past 35 years searching for extraterrestrial life in the universe. Doctor Tarter, who received her Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley, has been a regular contributor for “Nova” TV programs over the years. In addition to serving as director for the Center for SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), Doctor Tarter has personally explored this “11th Dimension” that’s featured in Nova’s “The Elegant Universe: Welcome to the 11th Dimension” featured July 25 on PBS.

For instance, as a graduate student, Doctor Tarter worked on the famed UFO hunting radio-search project “SERENDIP,” and then created the corresponding “backronym: Search for Extraterrestrial Radio Emissions from Nearby Developed Intelligent Populations.”

Also, in tonights first Nova TV offering at 9 p.m. ET, titled “The Fabric of the Cosmos,” Doctor Tarter’s work as the project scientist for NASA’s “High Resolution Microwave Survey” (HRMS); while also serving as NASA’s director of “Project Phoenix” that linked Cosmos exploration with the SETI Institute.

In turn, this July 25 airing of “The Fabric of the Cosmos” Nova episode is described on the show’s website as “a wild ride into the realm of quantum physics, which governs the universe on the tiniest of scales;” while tonight’s double-feature of Nova also features episode three of “The Elegant Universe: Welcome to the 11th Dimension” that’s marked as “versions of string theory unite into ‘M-Theory,’ a development requiring 11 dimensions.”

What Nova experts say is out in outer space

While one theory featured in tonight’s double-feature episodes of Nova is “why parallel universes may exist,” the more recent July 23 NPR interview - with the outgoing director for the “Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence” (SETI) Dr. Jill Tarter – offers Nova fans a different perspective on what they will view during the airing of these classic episodes about the fabric of the Cosmos, and why our universe is so complex and somewhat difficult to understand.

For instance, Doctor Tarter told NPR July 23 how her SETI colleagues look “for signals that are broadband - flashes of light - that last for a billionth of a second or less. And we're constantly thinking about what's the next new technology that we might innovate which in turn could be a better way of looking for extraterrestrial technologies. We do reserve the right to get smarter and we certainly don't think we know all there is to know."

In turn, Doctor Tarter told a story about “a signal coming in from the sidelobes of the telescope. And this was a spacecraft that was orbiting the sun, and so was the planet Earth."

Mankind’s connection to the Cosmos

One great quote from Doctor Tarter – that’s been featured in recent Nova TV episodes about the Cosmos states: “We are the laws of chemistry and physics as they have played out here on Earth and we are now learning that planets are as common as stars. Most stars, as it turns out now, will have planets.”

Also, as explained during tonight’s two classic episodes of Nova, mankind will soon find that proof that will not be viewed as hoax or pie in the sky that life – other than mankind on Earth – exists in the universe.

For instance, Doctor Tarter explained: "If we detect a signal, even if there's no information — even if it's just a cosmic dial tone - we learn that it's possible for us to have a future - a long future. And that's because we couldn't possibly be successful with SETI unless technologies, on average, survive for a long time so that they can be lined up not just in three-dimensional space — close enough for us to find them — but in the fourth dimension, in time — so that they're transmitting as we're emerging."

Also, Doctor Tarter (who is the real-life inspiration for Jodie Foster’s character in the film “Contact’) explained “an error in the movie Contact that she said was based on her life. "It's just before the first kiss, so Jodie Foster is out on the balcony behind the control room and they're looking at the stars and the beautiful telescope and she's doing, 'Oh, look at all of those stars. If only one in a million of those stars had planets, and only one in a million of those planets had life, and if only one in a million of those life forms were transmitting, there would be millions of signals for us to detect.' The math is all wrong. It's really annoying. There are 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. And even if she was looking up and seeing them all, which she wasn't, she's multiplying 1011 * 10-18 and coming up with 106. That's wrong by 13 orders of magnitude. And the really sad story is that Carl Sagan died while this movie was being edited. And there was a memorial service for Carl in the spring. And [someone] wanted to show the assembled scientists and engineers a clip from the film. ... So [the kiss clip] is the clip that's shown, and you hear this gasp at the end from all the scientists and engineers who can obviously do the math and know it's wrong."

Nova’s TV episodes: the best science on the tube

For tonight’s Nova episode, “The Fabric of the Cosmos: Quantum Leap,” host Brian Greene takes viewers on what Nova calls “a wild ride into the weird realm of quantum physics, which governs the universe on the tiniest of scales.”

In turn, Greene brings “quantum mechanics to life in a nightclub like no other, where objects pop in and out of existence and things over here can affect others over there, instantaneously and without anything crossing the space between them. A century ago, during the initial shots in the quantum revolution, the best minds of a generation - including Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr - squared off in a battle for the soul of physics. How could the rules of the quantum world, which work so well to describe the behavior of individual atoms and their components, conflict so dramatically with the everyday rules that govern people, planets, and galaxies?”

Also, Nova states how “quantum mechanics may be counterintuitive, but it's one of the most successful theories in the history of science, making predictions that have been confirmed to better than one part in a billion, while also launching the technological advances at the heart of modern life, like computers and cell phones. But even today, even with such profound successes, the debate still rages over what quantum mechanics implies for the true nature of reality.”

Part 3 of "The Elegant Universe" tonight

At the same time, tonight’s part 3 of “The Elegant Universe” finds host Brian Greene explaining how Edward Witten of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, aided by others, “revolutionized string theory by successfully uniting the five different versions into a single theory that is cryptically named ‘M-theory,’ a development that requires a total of eleven dimensions. Ten...eleven...who's counting? But the new 11th dimension implies that strings can come in shapes called membranes, or ‘branes’ for short. These have truly science fiction-like qualities, since in principle they can be as large as the universe. A brane can even be a universe—a parallel universe—and we may be living on one right now,” adds the Nova overview of this episode set for airing July 25 on PBS.

You won’t find videos about sex, drugs or what mob or Hollywood wife is sleeping with - from today's popular reality TV - on University of Oregon library shelves. Instead, you will find many of Nova’s classic episodes such as the 2003 production of “The Elegant Universe” that’s featured July 25 on PBS.

In fact, “The Elegant Universe” was cited – for both its Emmy and Peabody awards – for exploring “science’s most elaborate and ambitious theory, the string theory, while making the abstract concrete, the complicated clear, and the improbable understandable by blending factual story telling with animation, special effects and trick photography. Thus, it’s no secret that Nova revolves around the simple premise: the world of science is exciting; and for Nova viewers, science means adventure and exploration – because from ants to aliens – Nova states that “people want to know more about their universe.”

Image source of popular Nova science expert Dr. Jill Tarter – who is the outgoing director for the “Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence” (SETI) – pointing up to the stars where she says alien life on other planets in our Cosmos exists. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

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