Eight players whose cumulative age totals over 700 years compete in the Over 80 World Table Tennis Championships in China’s Inner Mongolia. British players Terry, 81, who has been given a week to live, and Les, 91, a weightlifter and poet, are going for the gold. Inge, 89, from Germany, has used table tennis to paddle her way out of dementia. And Texan Lisa, 85, is playing for the first time. This film is an inspiring and unusual story of hope, regret, friendship, ambition, love and sheer human tenacity in the face of aging and mortality.
Who better to cover the Paralympics, the international sporting event for athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities, than Niko von Glasow, the world’s best-known disabled filmmaker. Unfortunately – or fortunately for anyone seeking an insightful and funny documentary – this filmmaker frankly hates sports and thinks the games are “a stupid idea.” Born with severely shortened arms, von Glasow serves as an endearing guide to London’s Paralympics competition. As he meets a one-handed Norwegian table tennis player, the Rwandan sitting volleyball team, an American archer without arms and a Greek paraplegic boccia player, his own stereotypes about disability and sports are delightfully punctured.
In this program filled with innovative photography and scientific revelation, we investigate how our favorite pets get in touch with their wild side through play. From talkative budgies, marathon-running hamsters, wall-climbing cats and diving dogs, discover how our pets’ playful games are just a whisker away from the wild.
This is the unique story of flightless birds. They say a bird is three things – feathers, flight and song. But what happens when you’re a bird who can’t fly, who can’t sing, and whose feathers are closer to fluff? Flightless birds include ostriches, emus, rheas, cassowaries and kiwis, and, interestingly, all have evolved independent of each other on different continents. Research has shown that some of these big birds at one time could fly, but once the dinosaurs were wiped out, these same birds no longer needed to take flight from their enemies. As they began to explore a world rich with food and free from predators, they grew fat, and their legs grew long and strong – until the day they discovered that although they had become good at walking, they’d also become too heavy to fly.
Diseases that were largely eradicated in the United States a generation ago – including whooping cough, measles and mumps – are returning, in part because nervous parents are skipping their children’s shots. Go around the world to track epidemics, explore the science behind vaccinations and discover the risks of opting out.
A remote, bleak speck of rock in the Pacific, Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, has mystified the world ever since the first Europeans arrived in 1722. How and why did the ancient islanders build and move nearly 900 giant statues, or moai, weighing as much as 86 tons each? And how did they transform a presumed paradise into a treeless wasteland, bringing ruin upon their island and themselves? NOVA explores controversial recent claims that challenge decades of previous thinking about the islanders, who have been accused of everything from ecocide to cannibalism. Among the radical new theories is that the islanders used ropes to “walk” the statues upright, like moving a fridge. With the help of an accurate 15-ton replica statue, a NOVA team sets out to test this high-risk, seemingly unlikely theory – serving up plenty of action and surprises in this fresh investigation of one of the ancient world’s most intriguing enigmas.
Today, researchers are discovering that some creatures have mastered skills purportedly restricted to humans. Many are bird brains. Meet a cockatoo with a talent for picking locks; a wild crow on a mission to solve an eight-step puzzle; and a tame raven who can solve a puzzle box so quickly that his performance has to be captured with high-speed photography. Are these skills really evidence of high intelligence or just parlor tricks, the result of training and instinct? To find out, NOVA tests the limits of some of the planet’s brainiest animals, searching for the secrets of a problem-solving mind.