Segments in this Video

Endurance Muscle (03:33)


Ron Evans developed a drug that may provide the benefits of exercise. Humans are the only primates that have endurance; Glen Mays is a marathon runner. Learn the differences between fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles. (Credits)

Fat-Burning Gene (02:48)

Evans and his team searched for a way to trigger fat burning without exercise; he genetically modified a mouse embryo. Triggering the genetic switch also increased the mouse's endurance.

Molecular Fuel Gauge (03:22)

Evans tried to find a drug to trigger the fat-burning gene in an adult mouse and learned what happens inside muscle cells during exercise. He tested AICAR on mice and found their endurance increased.

Exercise in a Pill (02:41)

Doctors are hopeful AICAR can become a valuable therapy for people. Experts worry about how the drug may be abused. Evan developed a way to test AICAR in the bloodstream. Learn the origin of the word muscle.

Paleontology (02:51)

Some experts believe an asteroid was not the sole cause of dinosaur extinction. George and Roberta Poinar discovered insects, flowers, and tiny animals inside pieces of amber; their work inspired "Jurassic Park." (Credits)

Deadly Parasites (04:10)

In 2001, George received a piece of amber containing a sandfly; he believes disease carrying insects are responsible for the dinosaurs' demise. George examined several fossils and found a Leishmania inside sandflies, a midge with malaria, and a midge with sleeping sickness.

Fossilized Dinosaur Feces (03:10)

Karen Chin examines coprolites and found tiny burrows likely made by worms. Nathan Wolfe reflects on the possibility of microorganisms causing dinosaur extinction.

Amphibian Populations in Troubles (04:51)

Zoologist Andrew Blaustein discovered microorganisms carried by non-native species killing amphibians; bullfrogs carry chytrid fungus. He believes global changes could have triggered disease events, wiping out the dinosaurs; George Poinar concurs. See a timeline of life on Earth.

Rocket Scientist (03:02)

Franklin Chang-Diaz, NASA's first Latin American astronaut in space, enjoys watching Star Trek. He has spent decades building a futuristic rocket engine. (Credits)

Steps toward Space Travel (03:59)

Chang-Diaz built a rocket for his high school science fair before coming to America. He earned a college scholarship, started a family, attended MIT, and became an astronaut. Chang-Diaz recalls going into space.

Plasma Rocket Engine (03:49)

Chang-Diaz shares the record of most space missions. He works in the lab, developing the futuristic rocket engine he conceived of at MIT. His rocket will be fired on the International Space Station in 2012; a plasma rocket will significantly reduce travel time. Learn what plasma is.

Space Physics (02:38)

See images of the Aurora Borealis. Scientist attempt to understand what makes the lights dance. The Northern Lights occur 60 miles off the surface of the Earth. (Credits)

Space Weather (03:40)

The sun spews approximately 1 million tons of electrically charged particles into space every day; some break through the Earth's magnetic shield, causing the Northern Lights. Substorms make the lights dance. The THEMIS mission seeks to discover the origin of the storms.

Magnetic Disturbances (03:00)

The sun functions on an 11 year cycle; a new cycle will peak between 2011 and 2012. THEMIS captured information during a substorm that revealed the origin of violent energy releases. Hear the sounds of the Northern Lights.

Final Thoughts (01:48)

Neil deGrasse Tyson reflects on the origin and behavior of the Northern Lights and its impact on humanity.

Credits: Rocket Scientist Franklin Chang-Diaz (00:45)

Credits: Rocket Scientist Franklin Chang-Diaz

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This episode of NOVA scienceNOW introduces renowned paleontologist George Poinar, whose study of extinct creatures preserved in amber partly inspired Jurassic Park; examines the northern lights and “space weather;” studies mice that Ron Evans and his team genetically altered for heightened endurance; and profiles Franklin Chang-Diaz, designer of a revolutionary new rocket that could power a new generation of space explorers.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL129830

Copyright date: ©2009

Closed Captioned

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Rocket Scientist Franklin Chang-Diaz

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