Today’s Gadgets and Tomorrow’s Energy: John Bardeen’s Nobel Prizes

Daniel Agterberg — Through interactive demonstrations and examples, we unravel the ideas that lead to John Bardeen’s remarkable discoveries for which he won two Nobel Prizes: the transistor and the explanation of superconductivity. The first created the modern day electronics of your cell phone, computer and more; the second is poised to change the energy industry.

Glowing Eyes and Personal Halos: Seeing the Light

Robert Greenler — The “red-eye effect,” halos from antiquity to modern times, the courting ritual of the woodcock, aerial views of Stonehenge — “a whole bunch of things, many of which can be explained by a similar effect” — work together in this inventive and informative video to present a way of seeing more thoroughly.

Space, Time, Einstein, and Spacetime

Beginning with the flat earth of Ancient Egypt, where tax collectors developed the principles of geometry, John L. Friedman moves through the centuries to show us how science has effected our understanding of concepts such as up or down, of two events happening in the same place at the same time, of space as being flat, and also our sense of what is in the past and what is in the future. Suitable for use at both the high-school and college levels, “Space, Time, Einstein, and Spacetime” provides a fascinating twist on how science has changed how we understand the physical universe.

Up Close and Personal: A View Through the World’s Best Microscopes

Through the looking glass and on into inner space, this video is an adventure in wonderland for all who follow physicist Jun Nogami into the world of microscopes past, present, and future. The journey begins with the familiar magnifying glass, travels back to mid-1600 and the single-lens microscope, the first means of observing bacteria. The program then proceeds step-by-step to the edge of tomorrow, to the Quantum Corral, and the quest to fabricate and control on an atomic level.

Beetles, Bubbles, and Butterflies: The Origins of Iridescence

Robert Greenler — Change the angle and a drab butterfly displays a wash of brilliant blue; the vibrant green of a beetle turns a rich blue; and the intense red of the ruby-throated humming disappears. Almost like magic, in this video as in the world at large, “nature’s jewels” shimmer about us in feathers, in butterfly wings, in spider webs, and in shells whose colors record a like history of the animal who built them.

Medical Imaging: Getting Under Your Skin

Sound, motion, and a bit of fury pulse through this dynamic investigation into several imaging techniques used to examine the human body. Physicist Paul Lyman immediately captures the attention of his audience with his entrance, bumping down the long flight of lecture-room stairs to the front of the room on his bicycle. He hops off, removes his helmet and plunges into the world of X rays, computer tomography (CT scan), nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound.

Early Optics and the Painters’ Art

Science and art, fascination and controversy, all meet in this exploration by physicist Robert Greenler of optical devices and techniques possibly used in the painting of many of the masterpieces of Western Art. Did artists, beginning in the early 1400s, use lenses and mirrors in the creation of their pictures, as painter David Hockney and Charles Falco assert? Also intrigued by this question, Professor Greenler brings his expertise in optics to an examination of the optical tools available over time to the artist.

The Pointillist Painter, the Sunday Comics, and Color TV: Color Mixing in Art and Technology

The science of color — some of its rules, its mysteries and surprises, its collusion with the human eye — comes under scrutiny in “The Pointillist Painter, the Sunday Comics, and Color TV: Color Mixing in Art Technology.” In this wide-ranging and engaging program physicist Robert Greenler looks at “a dozen ways of mixing color,” using both the basics we learn in kindergarten for the mixing of pigments and those which govern the mixing of light.

NASA Shuttle Launch: Dark-Moon-Ray Mystery

Sky effects and the solution of a mystery intertwine in this fascinating look at a photograph of the successful launch of space shuttle Atlantis on February 7, 2001. “What’s going on here?” the Boston Globe science writer asked physicist Robert Greenler soon after the picture appeared. His search for that answer forms the basis of this informative program.

Rainbows, Visible and Invisible

The excitement of discovery, whether of something already known and experienced many times or of finding something for the first time ever in all of history, run throughout “Rainbows, Visible and Invisible.” Physicist Robert Greenler works with both pure science and pure wonder to capture the fascination of the rainbow.

Why Does a Spinning Top Stop?

“I suspect a top is one of those things that wants to be invented,” Physicist Robert Greenler suggests as he spins fruits and vegetables — nuts, a strawberry with a twig stuck through it, a lemon, an apple on a stick, a coconut, an acorn squash, a pumpkin — in this engaging program. It is both an explanation of Newtonian laws of motion and a celebration of human curiosity and resourcefulness.

The Clarinet, The Washtub, The Musical Nails: How Musical Instruments Work

This is no ordinary music lesson. The familiar out of the unfamiliar… “weird and wonderful things”… a magician pulling sounds out of the air.. .a heightened sense of physical principles and possibilities — all of these, and more are at play in “The Clarinet, The Washtub, And The Musical Nails: How Musical Instruments Work.” Physicist Robert Greenler uses an eclectic set of materials and an abundance of spontaneous humor to explore the basic elements in the creation of music.

No Exit! Black Holes, Neutron Stars, and Gravitational Collapse

The sun, moon, and stars are brought to earth in vivid action in this look at the physics of our universe. Professor John Friedman, a world-recognized expert in relativistic astrophysics and quantum gravity, takes the highly complex — the speed of light; the role of electrons, protons, and neutrons in the life cycle of a star; and the workings if a black hole — and makes it both accessible and interesting.

Urban Air: What’s in There?

The “mystery” of urban air is stripped away in this lively video. With clarity and delight, chemistry professor Thomas Holme looks at each of the components of air — nitrogen, oxygen, water, argon, and “other” — and demonstrates how, and under what conditions, they combine with volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) to form pollution.

Life’s Matrix: A Biology of Water Chemistry

From the nucleus of an atom to the sub-surface of Mars, this engrossing video takes a journey into water, a commonplace substance, but also “extremely profound,” says chemistry professor Michael Reddy. He starts this journey with “foreign language” lessons in the vocabulary of chemistry. Initially he works with the basic components of an atom, the proceeds to the structure of hydrogen, of oxygen, and of their combined state as a water molecule.

Ancient Arrowheads, Roman Baseball Cards, and Optical Fibers: The Many Uses of Glass

“Don’t try this at home,” warns Robert Ponton as he chews up his drinking glasss to emphasize his point that glass is completely recyclable. He then goes on to share the secret of “glass” used in the movies (sugar and Karo syrup) as well as to survey the history of real glass, from the ancient use of obsidian for tools and weapons up to the fiber optics that “make our computers talk to each other.”

The Prevailing Westerlies, The Horse Latitudes, and Doldrums: Global Air Circulation

The understanding of complex things… from simple to basic ideas is the goal Professor Greenler sets forth at the onset of this “glimpse into a process of science.” The stated subject is big-scale air circulation patterns around the earth, the hows and whys of the bands of alternating winds circling the globe, as well as a sense of their geographical and human impact, from the location of rainforests and deserts to Columbus’ discovery of the New World. But the main focus is on four ideas concerning the effects of temperature and of the earth’s rotation on air masses, and then on how these principles combine to yield further understanding.

The Mirage, The Discovery of Greenland, and The Green Flash

Fun-house mirrors (ice) castles in the air, the Biblical parting of the Red Sea, a desert Oasis and a Jules Verne novel all work together to explore the mystery of mirages, and quite likely send viewers in search of one. In “The Mirage, the Discovery of Greenland, and the Green Flash,” physicist Robert Greenler uses a lively and entertaining mixture of diagrams, pictures, and demonstrations to explain the how and why of a natural phenomenon that has intrigued and influenced humans throughout time.

Sunlight and Ice Crystals in the Skies of Antarctica

What does the well-dressed scientist wear in Antarctica? (Many layers.) How does that researcher live in an environment where ice and air are the only naturally occurring building materials? (With much logistical support.) Why conduct research at the end of the world? (Best sky effects in the world, and a fascinating place.) In answering these and many more questions, physicist Robert Greenler draws on two research seasons in Antarctica, in 1977 and, 21 years later, in 1997-98.

Red Sunsets, Black Clouds and The Blue Moon: Light Scattering in the Atmosphere

Robert Greenler — Light waves and particles in the atmosphere produce blue skies, red sunsets, white and black clouds, and the rare blue moon. An understanding of the physical origins of such processes, claims physicist Robert Greenler, enhances a person’s sense of awe and appreciation, giving fresh eyes with which to see and enjoy the familiar. With this goal in mind, he combines a delightful mix — of poetry, lasers, diagrams, photographs, shades of white/ gray, and ingenious but simple demonstrations — to explain and show how light waves are scattered in the atmosphere.