Funds from this grant support the production of a two-hour NOVA special, Beyond the Elements, that will explore the millions of substances that make up everything in our world or that we create from about 100 naturally occurring elements in the periodic table. Conceived as a follow-up to NOVA’s popular (and also Sloan-supported) Hunting the Elements, the special will be divided into thematic segments. One will focus on the chemistry of substances that drove trade during humanity’s age of exploration, such as salt, pepper, caffeine, nicotine, morphine, silk, and porcelain. Another will focus on molecules related to life itself, such as amino acids, DNA, nitrogen, and the molecular changes caused when we cook food. A third segment will focus on synthetic molecules, such as neoprene, nylon, and Kevlar, that are produced through modern industrial processes.
This special will be hosted by popular technology writer David Pogue, and will be accompanied by significant online and on-air outreach efforts by NOVA, including a 3- to 5-minute immersive video piece about a molecule that changed the course of history, a suite of online articles on NOVA Next, a collection of PBS Learning Media resources, virtual field trips for science classrooms, and screening events at museums and science centers.