COSMOS Episode 8: Sisters of the Sun (2014) explains the vital role a group of Harvard women had in developing the first star catalog. This is a great episode showing that even in a male-dominated field, women have the same expertise and capabilities as their male counterparts. Because of Annie Jump Cannon (who was also deaf) and Cecilia Payne, we know that stars are made of mostly hydrogen and helium.
Origins: Back to the Beginning (2004) is a NOVA documentary, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, that takes the viewers all the way back to he instant of creation—the Big Bang. The story, from then to now, is told using the language of science. Tyson examines the accumulated evidence, from the Hubble Constant to the cosmic background radiation, and pieces together the 13.8-billion-year-old story in about 55 minutes.
This episode would work well with biology, physics, physical science, astronomy, or astrophysics classes. But keep in mind that the questions are entirely conceptual, no math is needed for this video guide. Of the 32 questions on this documentary video guide, the overwhelming majority are higher-order in nature, with only a scattering of the lower-level types.
The concepts discussed include: the steady state theory, electromagnetic wave frequency, cosmic microwave background radiation, the COBE satellite, 1964 Bell Lab researchers, matter distribution in the early universe, the W-Map, element formation through nuclear fusion, supernova element formation, the Pillars of Creation, spectroscopy, and the Hubble Deep Survey.
Origins: The Earth Is Born (2004) is a NOVA documentary, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, examining the history of the earth from its infancy up to the present. Even though this is from 2004, the visuals have aged extremely well. The cg is still impressive, even by today’s standards. The clarity of Tyson’s presentation is impeccable, making it easy to understand for the students. For example, Tyson condenses the entire history of the earth into a 24-hour day, giving a timescale the kids can relate to. The documentary gives a scientific explanation for the world we see today. It also helps us see, through the eyes of science, ourselves as a species as well. This documentary would be an excellent showing for the following classes: astronomy, astrophysics, physics, geology, biology, and history. Of the 33 questions on this documentary video guide, the overwhelming majority are higher-order in nature, with only a scattering of lower-level types. The concepts discussed include planet formation, plate tectonics, magnetic fields, solar system formation and dynamics, asteroid impacts, radiocarbon dating, magnetic pole movement, the solar wind, moon origins, chemical analysis of zircons, and spectroscopy.