How does dust blown across the Sahara Desert fertilize the Amazon rain forest? Why does an undersea “waterfall” in Antarctica drive ocean currents around the world? A two-hour Nova documentary attempts to answer these and other questions about the intricate connections that help sustain life on Earth. Airing Feb. 13 on PBS, “Earth From Space” uses data and imagery from satellites to create a new view of the world around us. Producers worked with NASA scientists to create an animation of the globe composed of more than 125,000 images from space. The program also shows water molecules vaporizing over the ocean and illustrates the magnetic field that surrounds the planet.
Playful, social, eloquent, passionate: These may not be the first words that come to mind when we think of such birds as crows and ravens. But “Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans” demonstrates that, in fact, these winged creatures have a complex emotional and cognitive makeup. The book, a collaboration between biologist John Marzluff and artist Tony Angell, explores the numerous traits and behavior patterns that corvids such as crows, ravens and jays share with humans. Crows, for example, use different calls — a deliberate language system — to communicate in various situations; a harsh caw is a call for help, while haaa signals hunger and longing for meat. They can imitate human speech and have been known to drink coffee and beer. The birds were caught on video intentionally dropping nuts onto busy roadways, using passing cars as nutcrackers. The book effectively combines engaging anecdotes with Marzluff’s research and line drawings by Angell to paint a flattering picture of the animals and give a new meaning to the term “birdbrained.”