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NOVA scienceNOW Season 4 #405 1x53

Tag along with a team of scientists at NASA who will smash two SUV-sized rockets onto the lunar surface and unleash a debris cloud to study with LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite). The data could provide the key to understanding how to build a permanent base on the moon, accelerating a new “race to the moon”.

In 2008, in a tunnel deep below the desert near Roswell, New Mexico, microbiologist Jack Griffith made a phenomenal discovery: the oldest known organic molecules on earth. A year later, Griffith will push the hunt for the earliest macromolecules ever further as he searches in 400 million year old salt deposits below Detroit City.

Take a second look at what the songs of zebra finches can tell us about the human evolution of language. It turns out the way a finch learns to sing is very similar to how babies learn to speak. The similarity between birdsong and human speech — and the evolution of human language — may all be linked to an intriguing gene called FOXP2, shared by a wide range of creatures.

A recent winner of the prestigious National Medal of Science, Thompson has been drilling ice cores at high elevations in the tropics since 1976. Why the tropics? Many fellow scientists were skeptical until Thompson showed that such cores preserve a detailed, millennia-old record of climate shifts in the most populous regions of the world.