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Historical Fact Vs. Fiction, Our Understanding of the Natural World, and Immersive Media

How do we separate historical fact from fiction?

“The story of the old west is a very, very colorful and romantic period of history. That’s why I was captivated by it as a child. And lots of other people have been. It’s just a great story and the characters are larger than life. And of course the forces they were up against were so incredible.” — Paul Hutton

Renowned western historian and author, Paul Andrew Hutton, Ph.D. explores the lives and myths of legendary characters from the Old West.

Are the human race and the natural world on a collision course?

“Environmental communication is based on the fundamental premise that the way we communicate with the natural world profoundly influences and to a large extent determines how we view and treat the natural world.” — Judith Hendry

Communications and Journalism Professor Judith Hendry, Ph.D. discusses how media influences our understanding of the natural world.

Viewer Question of the Month

In this month’s Viewer Question, David Beining, Immersive Media guru at UNM’s innovative Arts Lab, answers the question “Why Dome?”

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 20th at 7pm on New Mexico PBS 5.1

Matter in Our Universe, Climate Change & Discovery of New Molecules

What are the basic forces that have shaped our universe since the beginning of time?

“One of the things my group is interested in studying is heavy quark systems. Heavy quarks are interesting because they don’t appear in our daily life. What we find in our daily life, what our bodies are made of, what our houses are made of, are protons and neutrons which are made of light quarks. Heavy quarks very rarely manifest themselves in daily life, but it turns out that they may actually hold the keys to the answer of the question: Why is there matter but no antimatter present in our universe today?” — Dr. Sally Seidel

The momentous Higgs Boson discovery opened the door to new understandings of the universe. Physicist Dr. Sally Seidel, Ph.D. and her team use the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to find answers.

What killed off the massive Woolly Mammoth and reshaped the earth?

“Mega fauna became extinct about the same time as the humans were arriving on the continent. And the question has always been, did human killing do it, or was it climate, and recently, was it some asteroid that impacted the earth at the beginning of the Younger Dryas? We would like to argue, in fact, that climate was the main factor for the demise of the mega fauna. This was a very dramatic event.” — Dr. Yemane Asmerom

Scientist Victor Polyak, Ph.D. and Professor Yemane Asmerom, Ph.D. find evidence from an unlikely place, deep below the earth’s surface, that points to climate change.

Viewer Question of the Month

In this month’s Viewer Question, Dr. Larry Sklar, Director of the Center for Molecular Discovery, answers the question, “How are new molecules discovered?”

Original Airdate: Thursday, November 29th at 7pm on New Mexico PBS 5.1

Life on Mars & Navajo Poet Luci Tapahonso

Curiosity has landed. Will we discover life on Mars?

“Billions of years ago there were environments where life could have existed. We are looking for evidence of what those environments were like and also if there was life present at that time. There’s a possibility that life is still present on Mars but it would almost certainly be deep underground.” –Dr. Horton Newsom

Curiosity ChemCam Science team member Horton E. Newsom, Ph.D. shares an insider’s view of the Mars Rover’s amazing technology and its search for the essential elements of life buried in Martian soil.

Renowned Navajo poet Luci Tapahonso shares with us her inspirations and poetry.

“In Navajo, they say the sacred begins at the tip of my tongue. So there’s very much sacredness or a holiness that’s associated with creativity. Whatever a person creates and brings into this world is sacred. And it adds to the beauty of the world. We all benefit when people create something new.”–Luci Tapahonso

Inspired by her heritage and imbued with female spirit, renowned Navajo poet Luci Tapahonso shares with us her inspirations and poetry. In a special segment, Luci reads a new poem, Hanezbaá Wolyá, which is about her granddaughter.

Original Airdate: Thursday, October 18th at 7pm on New Mexico PBS 5.1

The Dark Matter Phenomenon; Classic Stories and Popular Culture in Film & Television

We remain in the dark about what makes up 96% of the universe.

“What has always excited human beings is the unknown. It’s always the edge that we’re working on. But there’s also the idea of going where no one has gone before.” –Dinesh Loomba

Join Physics and Astronomy Professor Dr. Dinesh Loomba as he sheds some light on the dark matter phenomenon.

Why are the stories of the ancient world being told and retold in the movies?

“I think there’re some things about us as Americans and our American culture that we relate back to the Greeks and Romans in ways that are cultural and political, sexual…all kinds of different ways. Ancient Rome is such a great location for talking about the modern world.” –Monica Cyrino

Classics Professor Dr. Monica Cyrino discusses how the movies reconstruct the image of ancient Rome and the intersection between classics and popular culture in film and television.

Viewer Question of the Month

In this month’s Viewer Question, Dr. Christopher Witt, Curator of Birds at UNM’s Museum of Southwest Biology, answers the question “How will global warming affect hummingbirds?”

Original Airdate: Thursday, September 20 at 7pm on New Mexico PBS 5.1

Prairie Dogs & the Native Habitat; Human Bone & Heart Valves Grown In A Laboratory?

Why Is It Important For Prairie Dogs To Be Restored To Their Native Habitat?

“Bison and prairie dogs co-existed for thousands of years and the ecological role of these large herbivores, like bison and cattle with prairie dogs, is such that they actually CAN have a mutual relationship. What I realized is they’re [prairie dogs] among the most important, but yet among the most hated animals. So I figured they had one of the biggest challenges to overcome in conservation. They parallel the story of the wolf.” — Dr. Ana Davidson

Biologist Ana Desiree Davidson, Ph.D. shares insights about the ecology of New Mexico’s grasslands and the importance of reestablishing this keystone species.

Can human bone and heart valves be grown in the laboratory?

“Stem cells are great cells; everybody has them. They are basically cells that haven’t committed to what they want to be when they grow up. The body has the ability to repair itself. We want to leverage that and trick the body into regrowing bone at a time and place where it wouldn’t naturally do it. If you have a source of stem cells, you can direct them to become any type of tissue you want. I can direct them to help form bone, and I can direct them to become a heart valve.” — Dr Elizabeth Dirk

Dr. Elizabeth Dirk, Ph.D explains how medicine is being reinvented through research into self-renewing stem cells that act as a repair system for the human body.

Viewer Question of the Month

“We’ve designed the course to prepare students for a career in engineering using a race car as a focus. We are preparing students for hands-on experience, teaching soft skills, communications and writing. Students dictate the pace and have to lay out the complete project.” — Dr. John Russell

In this month’s Viewer Question, John Russell, Ph. D. and his students answer the question, “How does building a race car help UNM engineering students achieve their career goals?”

Original Airdate: Thursday, August 16 at 7pm on New Mexico PBS 5.1

Photographic Masterpieces and Legendary Navajo leaders Manuelito and Juanita

What makes a Photographic Masterpiece?

“Any great picture that we can call a masterpiece has an enduring quality that lasts over time, and has something that you can come back to over a very long period of time and [it] still resonates with a person…”
— Dr. Michele M. Penhall

Dr. Michele M. Penhall, Curator of Prints and Photographs at the UNM Art Museum, shares insights into the evolving understanding of the art of photography.

Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita

“Manuelito is presented as a person who is dedicated to the protection and preservation of Navajo territory. [And] I came to be a bit more understanding of what her [Juanita’s] life must have been like as a leader of her people on her own terms…” — Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale

The great, great, great granddaughter of legendary Navajo leaders Manuelito and Juanita, Dr. Jennifer Nez Denetdale, Ph. D. shares her discoveries while writing the book: Reclaiming Dine History: The Legacies of Navajo Chief Manuelito and Juanita.

Viewer Question of the Month

“Radio at long wavelengths is the only method where we can directly measure the planet separate from the star, because at low frequencies the planet actually outshines the stars they are orbiting.” — Dr. Gregory B. Taylor

Dr. Gregory B. Taylor, Ph. D. answers questions about detecting distant planets using a new telescope called the Long Wavelength Array.

Original Airdate: Thursday, July 19 at 7pm on New Mexico PBS 5.1

“For me there was a fire inside, a light that just shone Flamenco.” – Eva Encinias-Sandoval

Eva Encinias-Sandoval is a one-person tour de force.

Master teacher at the University of New Mexico and Flamenco artist, Eva Encinias-Sandoval is the heart and soul of what has become one of the most celebrated Flamenco dance programs in the United States. She has also brought international distinction to the program. Celebrating 25 years of excellence this year, Eva is the founder of the renowned Festival Flamenco Internacional de Albuquerque.

In this special episode of Connect, Eva shares how her family instilled a deep love for Flamenco and how teaching is so close to her heart. We also see excerpts of great performances from the 25th Festival Flamenco program.

“My life was of full of magic, beautiful music, beautiful dance… Flamenco was the language with which my mother instilled in me the elements of discipline and energy and focus.”

Viewer Question of the Month

Dr. Andrew J. Schuler, Ph.D. explains how he is using bacteria to harvest energy from wastewater and developing energy-efficient materials to clean waterways. By engineering microbial fuel cells and biofilms, Andrew’s UNM research group has discovered that bacteria can be “put to work” to generate electricity as well as remove toxic chemicals during wastewater treatment.

“What a microbial fuel cell does is very clever. You insert a circuit into the bacterial metabolism and it looks a lot like a battery where we can generate a heat or light source.”

Original Airdate: Thursday, June 21st at 7pm on New Mexico PBS 5.1

The Collapse Of The Great Mayan Civilization and Chaco Chocolate

What led to the collapse of the great Mayan civilization of Central America?

Using high tech satellite and LiDAR images, Dr. Keith Prufer. Associate Professor of Anthropology, UNM, and his students peer through the dense jungle canopy to discover ancient Mayan ruins. What he found is fascinating…

“There are a lot of lessons we can draw from the past,” said Dr. Prufer. “The advantage of archeology for exploring the past is that we can see the whole picture. And this can give us examples of lessons we can use to face our problems today.”

Chaco Chocolate?

Forensic technology helps to tell an unexpected story about the Anasazi in Chaco Canyon. Patricia L. Crown, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, UNM, has found evidence of chocolate inside one thousand year old cylindrical jars from Pueblo Bonito.

“This demonstrates that archeological collections in museums continue to have a value long after they have been excavated,” said Dr. Crown. “New technology comes along that reveals a new fact about the past.”

Viewer Question of the Month

“What might happen if an Asteroid explodes close to the Earth?”

Dr. Mark Boslough uses the RedSky supercomputer at Sandia National Labs to discover an answer.

Original Airdate: Thursday, May 24 at 7pm on 5.1 NMPBS

This month we investigate Cabeza De Vaca and “The Folsom People”

Cabeza De Vaca’s Translated Journals

This month, CONNECT begins with author and Professor at the UNM School of Architecture and Planning, Baker H. Morrow. Baker shares his recent book, “The South American Expeditions 1540 to 1545”, the accounts of the 16th century explorer, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca. Until Baker translated Cabeza de Vaca’s journals from his South America explorations, his character, for the English world was somewhat unknown. The explorer’s North American travels and writings are fairly well known, but what is not widely known are his explorations of South America. Baker reveals intriguing new insights about the explorer’s attitude toward the Natives and how he sought exploration over conquest.

Who were the Folsom People?

Dr. Bruce Huckell, Associate Professor in the UNM Anthropology Department, presents a detective story that brings us closer to discovering, “Who were the Folsom People?” Dr. Huckell’s research applies archeological and forensic techniques in identifying the climatic and environmental conditions the Folsom people would have experienced in North America, approximately 11,000 years ago.

Viewer Question of the Month

“Can we non-invasively detect skin cancer?”

Dr. Sanjay Krishna’s cutting edge research in the development of a new imaging chip for an infrared “Retina” camera may change the way skin cancer is detected.

Original Airdate: Thursday, April 19 at 7pm on 5.1 NMPBS

This month we investigate the Grand Canyon, curanderismo, and solar flares.

A Fascinating Walk Through Time

Connect has an all-star line-up this month. It all begins with a fantastic trip through the Grand Canyon and a fascinating walk through time. Dr. Karl Karlstrom, and Dr. Laura Crossey, Professors in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UNM helped design the Trail of Time at the Grand Canyon. Their expertise in geology and formal geoscience education was called upon to help design the Trail which represents 4.5 billion years of earth’s geologic history where each step on the trail represents 1 million years. Closer to home, Laura and Karl compare the geologic stories of the Rio Grande Rift formation, which is three times larger than the canyon.

Traditional Medicine and Curanderismo

Next is a personal story of the healing power of traditional medicine and curanderismo. , the Vice President for Student Affairs at UNM and Antoinette “Tonita” Gonzales, Traditional healer and Curandera discuss the Traditional Healers without Borders program. As an alternative to modern medicine, they share various traditional and holistic health techniques.

Viewer Question of the Month

“How do solar flares impact life on earth?”

Dr. Harjit Ahluwalia, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UNM, explains the current solar cycle.

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 22 at 7pm on 5.1 NMPBS