NOVA Next Collection

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NOVA Next is NOVA’s award-winning digital publication that provides answers from the cutting edge of science and technology. Launched in 2012, we feature in-depth articles and commentaries from some of the most respected journalists, scientists, and engineers. NOVA Next explores the ideas that are changing the future, from the frontiers of synthetic biology to the politics of personalized medicine.

  • NOVA Next | What Does Beauty Have to Do with Physics?

    Learn how the search for elegant and simple theories may be leading physics astray, in this NOVA Next article. Many physicists believe that explanations of nature, such as “the theory of everything,” should be simple and beautiful. However, the pursuit of simplicity and beauty can be counterproductive to the discovery of truth. Due to these conventions, some physicists may be reluctant to give up their beautiful theories even if the data dictates that they should. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 10-12
  • NOVA Next | X-Ray Vision Archaeology Reveals Holocaust Escape Tunnel

    Learn how scientists discovered a Holocaust escape tunnel at the Lithuanian site, Ponar using noninvasive techniques, in this NOVA Next article. Vilnius, Lithuania, was once home to over 100,000 Jews. However, during the Holocaust, 95 percent of Lithuanian Jews were killed. In 1944, 80 prisoners attempted to escape a mass burial pit through a hand-dug tunnel. Only 11 people survived; however, the story of their escape has been passed down through oral histories. The exact location of the tunnel remained a mystery until 2016. Advances in archaeological technology allowed researchers to search the area without disturbing the burial sites. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 10-12
  • NOVA Next | Augmenting Social Cues for the Disabled

    Learn about assistive technologies designed to improve the social interactions of people with disabilities, in this NOVA Next article. While many assistive technologies focus on aiding people with physical tasks, there has not been much focus on social interactions. However, some technologies are being developed to assist with people’s emotional and social needs. New devices like the Haptic Chair can help the visually impaired sense nonverbal cues by translating facial expressions into recognizable vibration patterns. Another product in development uses Google Glass to help people with autism recognize social cues and reinforce positive social behaviors. These new assistive technologies will help to reduce social isolation and improve both social and physical health. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 12-13+
  • NOVA Next | Boosting Science with Diversity

    Learn how diversity in STEM fields can be encouraged, boosting scientific productivity, in this NOVA Next article. From a young age, many students of color face significant achievement gaps in science because of a lack of access to resources at schools, social pressures, and financial struggles. In higher education, there are long graduation times and low retention in STEM for all students; however, attrition rates are higher for students of color. STEM diversity training programs help students overcome barriers in STEM by providing financial aid, study groups, research opportunities, and dedicated mentors. Research shows that training more diverse scientists will bring new ideas and approaches to STEM fields and improve scientific productivity, discovery, and fairness of results, which ultimately benefit everyone. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 12-13+
  • NOVA Next | How LIGO Detected Gravitational Waves

    Learn about the discovery of gravitational waves in this NOVA Next article. On February 11, 2016, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) team announced that it had detected gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes. This discovery confirmed Einstein’s idea that gravity travels across space-time in the form of gravitational waves. In the past, the universe had only been explored using electromagnetic waves, like visible light, infrared, ultraviolet, radio, X-rays, and gamma rays. The LIGO detection marks the beginning of a new way to look at the universe. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 10-12
  • NOVA Next | How Water Is Reshaping the West

    Learn about changes in water use and supply in the western United States in this NOVA Next article. During the Reclamation era—the 1930s to the 1970s—massive dams were built to provide water to the increasing population in the West. These projects transformed the western landscape, reshaping watersheds, rivers, and ecology. Today, developers need to plan for secure water access while addressing urban growth and climate change. Some critics argue that some new water projects are based on a misconception that you need more water to serve more people. Considering the limited water supply, water conservation may be the key to urban growth. Planning for the future of western water supplies involves the consideration of complex environmental and societal impacts and tradeoffs. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 10-12
  • NOVA Next | Cloaking Buildings from Earthquakes & Tsunamis

    Learn about the development of technologies designed to protect buildings from earthquakes and tsunamis, in this NOVA Next article. For more than 2,000 years, people have been trying to protect man-made structures from natural disasters. One new idea, a “seismic cloak,” would “hide” buildings from earthquakes. Rows of deep, narrow holes drilled around the buildings’ base could deflect seismic waves. Other ideas include forests of aluminum rods to absorb a wave’s energy during an earthquake and carpets of rods jutting out of the water to redirect liquid waves during a tsunami. Though these experimental ideas are still in development, they could protect highly vulnerable facilities like nuclear power plants. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 10-12
  • NOVA Next | The Uncertain Future of Self-Driving Cars

    Learn how autonomous vehicles may impact society in this NOVA Next article. Although self-driving cars may sound like something from the future, technology and car companies have already logged millions of miles on working prototypes. With the rise of autonomous vehicles, researchers have predicted both utopian and dystopian scenarios for their impact on energy consumption and traffic congestion. However, the autonomous car industry still faces major challenges and self-driving cars won’t be taking over the roads any time soon. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 12-13+
  • NOVA Next | The Codes of Modern Life

    Learn how scientists are using Reed-Solomon codes in the development of DNA data storage, in this NOVA Next article. In 1960, Irving Reed and Gustave Solomon introduced a group of error-correction codes now known as Reed-Solomon codes. The family of algorithms adds just the right amount of redundancy to data files to correct for errors. Today, the codes can be found reducing errors in phone calls, hard drives, and even in data sent from the New Horizons spacecraft. Reed-Solomon codes can be used in a promising storage medium – DNA– which could store digital data for millennia without degradation. However, some major hurdles, such as cost, still need to be surmounted before DNA can become a viable digital data storage option. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • NOVA Next | Why It Takes Decades to Produce a New Solar Material

    Learn about the challenges of producing photovoltaic materials in this NOVA Next article. In 2013, researchers from the University of Oxford created a perovskite solar cell able to convert 15.4% of sunlight to usable energy, an unprecedented efficiency rate. However, perovskite solar cells may not reach the market for quite some time; the development of CIGS cells is a cautionary tale. The photovoltaic capability of copper indium selenide (CIS) was discovered in 1974, and its production was boosted by interest in the development of thin-films solar cells and the addition of gallium (creating CIGS). However, it took over 30 years for CIGS cells to reach the market. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 11-12
  • NOVA Next | Palau's Improbably Healthy Coral Reefs

    Learn about research into how some coral reefs survive ocean acidification in this NOVA Next article. Environmental changes, such as rising temperatures and ocean acidification, threaten coral reefs around the world. However, some reefs are thriving despite extreme conditions. Some areas of coral reefs, such as those found off the coast of Palau's Rock Islands, seem to be natural refugia and may be less vulnerable to climate change. Researchers and conservationists are interested in learning about how these reefs are surviving seemingly hostile conditions. Explore the focus on Palau's refugia with the "Seeking Refugia" and "Picking Winners" sections (pps. 7-13) of the article. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • NOVA Next | Custom Organs, Printed to Order

    Learn how 3D bioprinting could alleviate organ shortages in this NOVA Next article. People in need of organ and tissue transplants face a number of obstacles, including long waiting lists and potential rejection. Researchers are working on methods to create synthetic organs using 3D bioprinting. One method uses a type of ink-jet printer filled with cells or proteins instead of traditional ink. Another method called stereolithography enables scientists to create a scaffold and coat it with cells to create the desired structure. Scientists are still navigating a number of challenges, from creating complex small-scale structures to maintaining blood flow. However, scientists hope to work through these issues to produce viable artificial organs. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 11-12
  • NOVA Next | From Discovery to Dust

    Learn how a research team searched for evidence of cosmic inflation with this NOVA Next article. In the 1980s, researcher Andrei Linde described quantum fluctuations that could make cosmic inflation possible. Two decades later, scientists developed instruments to test Linde's theory. The BICEP1 detector collected data from 2006 to 2008. Researchers were looking for B-mode polarization, a signature pattern of primordial gravity waves. Researcher Chao-Lin Kuo developed the BICEP2 instrument, which captured the same data as BICEP1 in one-tenth of the time. The BICEP2 team did detect B-mode polarization; however, data from the Planck Observatory indicates that the B-mode signal may have been caused by dust. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 11-12
  • NOVA Next | Deep-Sea Mining: Bonanza or Boondoggle?

    Learn about ecological concerns related to hydrothermal vent mining in this NOVA Next article. Hydrothermal vents produce dense concentrations of several minerals, including gold and copper, which some companies hope to mine. But the environmental effects of deep sea mining are not entirely clear. Mining would likely kill nearby life, and it is unclear if those species could repopulate. There are also concerns beyond direct destruction, including potential effects of sediment and acidification. In addition, there is no clear approval and regulation process for mining companies. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 11-12
  • NOVA Next | Medical Research Has a Problem with Sex Bias

    Learn how sex bias in biomedical research can impair our ability to properly diagnose and treat women for medical conditions and diseases, in this NOVA Next article. Across many fields of medical research, scientists consistently study more male subjects than females. This has caused scientists to ignore the effect of sex differences on diseases and drugs, which impacts how doctors effectively diagnose and treat women. Studying male subjects and then applying findings to females has caused a gap in our biomedical knowledge with potentially dangerous consequences for women. However, some of the organizations that fund medical research are creating new mandates to address this bias. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.

    Grades: 10-12

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