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NOVA - Human Nature

Human Nature

Wednesday, September 9 | 7 pm

With an extraordinary new technology called CRISPR, we can now edit DNA—including human DNA. But how far should we go? Gene-editing promises to eliminate certain genetic disorders like sickle cell disease. But the applications quickly raise ethical questions. Is it wrong to engineer soldiers to feel no pain, or to resurrect an extinct species? And is there harm in allowing parents to choose their child’s features, like eye color or height? The scientists who pioneered human genome studies and CRISPR grapple with these questions.

Secrets of Slime

Wednesday, September 16 | 8 pm

Who says you need brains to be smart? Extremely primitive life-forms called slime molds can navigate mazes, choose between foods, and create efficient networks—no brain required. New research on these organisms, which are neither plant nor animal, could help reveal the fundamental rules underlying all decision making.

A to Z: The First Alphabet

Wednesdays, September 23 & 30 | 8 pm

Where would we be without the world’s alphabets? Writing has played a vital role in the expansion and domination of cultures throughout history. But researchers are only now uncovering the origin story to our own alphabet, which may have gotten its beginnings in a turquoise mine 4,000 years ago. From the shape of the letter A to the role of writing in trade and storytelling, discover how the written word shaped civilization itself.