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Star of Bethlehem

   2013    Science
A strange light in the heavens. The star that signals the birth of Jesus. Is it faith, fable, or fact? The star of Bethlehem is hard to identify thousands of years later. Can we decode the secret of the star with the science of the universe? What was it? Where did it come from? And will it return?
Discover an explanation by various astronomers and religion historians of what the star of Bethlehem really was based on available evidence.
Series: The Universe Season 7

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

   2020    Nature
When Homo sapiens, which means 'wise ones,' discovered and controlled fire hundreds of thousands of years ago, everything changed. Fire allowed us to cook food and heat dwellings, and it served as a focal point for storytelling and sharing cultural identity among community members. We don't yet have established parameters for what it means to be 'distinctly human,' It would seem the only thing that separates us from other animals, Neil deGrasse Tyson ponders, is our neurotic need to feel 'special'. Against the backdrop of the Halls of Extinction, Tyson insists that there must be a clear distinction between ourselves and animals that justifies our eating them, wearing them and even bringing an end to their species.
From the birth of the devil in ancient Persia to a searing story of saintliness among macaque monkeys, this episode is an exploration of human potential for change. It concludes with the story of how one of history's greatest monsters was transformed into one of its shining lights.
Series: Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Putin Forever

   2020    History
Putin returns to power under a storm after a four-year absence, but his attempts to improve his popularity are hobbled by accusations of corruption. The final part of this sinister history doesn’t quite come up to date with Vladimir Putin’s recent moves to 'reset' the Russian constitution so he can rule, theoretically, until at least 2036 – longer than Stalin. But it does walk us through some of his other moves to entrench power, including vote-rigging in parliamentary elections that was so brazen, his approval ratings fell amid mass street protests. Leading the protests was opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was then simply gunned down on a street near the Kremlin.
These days, we are told, the world stage interests Putin more than the Russian one, and with various 'mini-Putins' installed around the world, his legacy looks safe.
Series: Putin: A Russian Spy Story

Words on a Page

   2020    History
Writing itself is 5,000 years old, and for most of that time words were written by hand using a variety of tools. The Romans were able to run an empire thanks to documents written on papyrus. Scroll books could be made quite cheaply and, as a result, ancient Rome had a thriving written culture. With the fall of the Roman Empire, papyrus became more difficult to obtain. Europeans were forced to turn to a much more expensive surface on which to write: Parchment. Medieval handwritten books could cost as much as a house, they also represent a limitation on literacy and scholarship.
No such limitations were felt in China, where paper had been invented in the second century. Paper was the foundation of Chinese culture and power, and for centuries how to make it was kept secret. When the secret was out, paper mills soon sprang up across central Asia. The result was an intellectual flourishing known as the Islamic Golden Age. Muslim scholars made discoveries in biology, geology, astronomy and mathematics. By contrast, Europe was an intellectual backwater.
That changed with Gutenberg’s development of movable type printing. The letters of the Latin alphabet have very simple block-like shapes, which made it relatively simple to turn them into type pieces. When printers tried to use movable type to print Arabic texts, they found themselves hampered by the cursive nature of Arabic writing. The success of movable type printing in Europe led to a thousand-fold increase in the availability of information, which produced an explosion of ideas that led directly to the European Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution that followed.
Series: The Secret History of Writing

Boys State

   2020    Culture
The film follows a thousand teenage boys attending Boys State in Austin, Texas, coming together to build a representative government from the ground up, from all different political backgrounds, navigating challenges of organizing political parties, consensus, and campaigning for the highest office at Boys State, Governor of Texas.
'Boys State' is a wildly entertaining and continually revealing immersion into a week-long annual program in which a thousand Texas high school seniors gather for an elaborate mock exercise: building their own state government.
The Truth About
The Truth About

   2018    Medicine
Hiroshima
Hiroshima

   2005    History
Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle
Jonestown: Terror in the Jungle

   2018    History
Dinosaur Planet
Dinosaur Planet

   2003    Science
Welcome to Earth
Welcome to Earth

   2021    Nature
Leaving Neverland
Leaving Neverland

   2019    Culture
The Last Dance
The Last Dance

   2020    Culture
Invisible Worlds
Invisible Worlds

   2010    Science