The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our country’s infrastructure a D. Faulty bridges, congested roads, and crumbling public buildings all helped account for that barely passing grade. But for all we bemoan these systems’ failings, our infrastructure still manages to keep America’s food, energy, transportation, and manufacturing sectors moving. This four-part documentary series glosses over our industrial woes, but through a combination of aerial footage, striking data visualizations, and interviews with power grid technicians, air traffic controllers, and others who work behind the scenes, it provides an intimate look at the hidden systems that we rely on every day. Host Yul Kwon, a former telecommunications attorney and winner of the Survivor 2006 season, guides viewers on a sweeping tour of the nation that has them flying over California’s largest reservoir (at left), descending into a coal mine in Wyoming, and perching atop a wind turbine in Washington State. Wednesday, 10pm ET / 9pm CT.
Creatures of Light
American Museum of Natural History,
New York City
In the world’s dark caves and dim ocean depths, a wide variety of resourceful creatures generate light to scare off predators, entice curious prey, and woo potential partners. This new exhibit showcases these rarely seen glowing critters and their habitats. Visitors can venture through a recreated New Zealand cave where gnat larvae string glowing lines to ensnare the insects they eat, and can explore the underwater world of a jellyfish that absorbs blue light and, for reasons unknown, radiates flashes of green. Live light-emitting creatures populate the exhibit too, including a tank of flashlight fish, who lure the shrimp and plankton they eat with a blue-green glow, produced by bacteria living in translucent sacks under their eyes. Open now. (See images from the exhibit on the DISCOVER Blog Visual Science.)
The Island President
With 80 percent of its territory rising three feet or less above the surface of the Indian Ocean, the Maldive Islands form the world’s lowest-lying nation. When Mohamed Nasheed became the country’s first democratically elected president in 2008, he tackled an existential threat to its future: the advancing sea. Climate scientists predict the oceans could rise three feet by 2100, submerging Maldivian fishing villages and luxury resorts alike. This documentary captures the crusading president’s first year in office, following him as he struggled to win cooperation from the world’s biggest carbon polluters at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. Nor did Nasheed, who was ousted in February, limit his concerns to his own country. As he told director Jon Shenk: “If you can’t defend the Maldives today, you can’t defend England tomorrow.” Out now in limited release.