How We Got to Now
with Steven Johnson

PBS
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6 videos in this collection

Clean
Dirty water has killed more humans than all the wars of history combined, but in the last 150 years, a series of radical ideas, extraordinary innovations and unsung heroes have…
Time
The world today is obsessed by time. Johnson boards a submarine to discover what a lack of natural light means for a sailor's working day and visits Heathrow, the world's…
Glass
Johnson considers how the invention of the mirror gave rise to the Renaissance, how glass lenses allow us to reveal worlds within worlds and how, deep beneath the ocean, glass…
Light
Johnson relates the story of people who take us out of the dark and into the light. Hear about Edison's light bulb, which he didn't actually invent, and learn how…
Cold
Only in the last 200 years have humans learned how to make things cold. Johnson explains how ice entrepreneur Frederic Tudor made ice delivery the second biggest export business in…
Sound
Imagine a world without the power to capture or transmit sound. Journey with Johnson to the Arcy sur Cure caves in northern France, where he finds the first traces of…

Related videos

Clean
Part of the Series: How We Got to Now
Dirty water has killed more humans than all the wars of history combined, but in the last 150 years, a series of radical ideas, extraordinary innovations and unsung heroes have changed our world. Johnson plunges into a sewer to understand what made a maverick engineer decide to lift the city…
Cold
Part of the Series: How We Got to Now
Only in the last 200 years have humans learned how to make things cold. Johnson explains how ice entrepreneur Frederic Tudor made ice delivery the second biggest export business in the U.S. and visits the place where Clarence Birdseye, the father of the frozen food industry, experienced his eureka moment.…
Time
Part of the Series: How We Got to Now
The world today is obsessed by time. Johnson boards a submarine to discover what a lack of natural light means for a sailor's working day and visits Heathrow, the world's busiest airport, to try to get timings right at air traffic control. The story of getting a grip on time…
Sound
Part of the Series: How We Got to Now
Imagine a world without the power to capture or transmit sound. Journey with Johnson to the Arcy sur Cure caves in northern France, where he finds the first traces of the desire to record sound -- 10,000 years ago. He also learns about the difference that radio made in the…
Light
Part of the Series: How We Got to Now
Johnson relates the story of people who take us out of the dark and into the light. Hear about Edison's light bulb, which he didn't actually invent, and learn how an 18th-century ship's skipper discovered a source of illumination by putting a kid inside a whale's head. See how a…
Making Stuff Safer
Part of the Series: NOVA - Making More Stuff
The world has always been a dangerous place, so how do we increase our odds of survival? In Making Stuff Safer, David Pogue explores the cutting-edge research of scientists and engineers who want to keep us out of harm's way. Some are countering the threat of natural disasters with new…
Special Relativity
Discover the startling consequences of Einstein's principle of relativity: that the laws of physics are the same for all observers in uniform motion. One result is that the speed of light is the same for all observers, no matter what their relative motion: an idea that overturns the concept of…
Glass
Part of the Series: How We Got to Now
Johnson considers how the invention of the mirror gave rise to the Renaissance, how glass lenses allow us to reveal worlds within worlds and how, deep beneath the ocean, glass is essential to communication. He learns about the daring exploits of glassmakers who were forced to work under threat of…
Big Bang Cosmology
Episode 6 of Redefining Reality
Investigate the underlying reality that governs the universe. Is the universe eternally the same? Or is it changing and unstable? In modern times, this debate culminated in the contest between the steady state theory and the big bang model. Hear how unexpected events led to a spectacular solution.
Molecules and Solids
See how atoms join to make molecules and solids, and how this leads to the quantum effects that underlie semiconductor electronics. Also probe the behavior of matter in ultradense white dwarfs and neutron stars, and learn how a quantum-mechanical pairing of electrons at low temperatures produces superconductivity.
Space-Time and Mass-Energy
In relativity theory, contrary to popular views, reality is what's not relative: that is, what doesn't depend on one's frame of reference. See how space and time constitute one such pair, merging into a four-dimensional space-time. Mass and energy similarly join, related by Einstein's famous E = mc2.
Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution - Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition
"It doesn't take an Einstein to understand modern physics," says Professor Wolfson at the outset of these twenty-four lectures on what may be the most important subjects in the universe: relativity and quantum physics. Both have reputations for complexity. But the basic ideas behind them are, in fact, simple and…