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Thrilling innovations and new discoveries are being made all the time in science, and there are a few things on the horizon in the fields of medicine and technology and energy that are really poised to change the way we live—from friendly robots to smart grids and better earthquake detection. First, viewers will meet the engineers designing social robots with the smarts to understand human feelings, learn from human teachers, carry on conversations, and even make jokes. Robots already build our cars and vacuum our floors. One day soon, they could also serve as teachers' helpers, companions for the elderly, and even babysitters. NOVA scienceNOW also asks if the car of the future will be able to drive itself. The team heads to the General Motors Tech Center, where engineers are testing tiny, two-wheeled, battery-powered cars called EN-Vs, which one day might drive themselves through city streets. Then, Nebraska native Jay Keasling, a leading pioneer in the cutting-edge field of synthetic biology, shares his work on developing “designer” microbes that generate biofuels and medicines, which could save millions of lives and dollars with low-cost malaria drugs and clean-burning fuels . NOVA scienceNOW also takes an intriguing look at the science used by geologists to forecast earthquakes, like the devastating quake in Haiti that claimed the lives of nearly a quarter million people in January 2010. Scientists had forecast that tragedy with amazing accuracy two years earlier. NOVA scienceNOW shares exclusive coverage obtained while accompanying geologists as they first entered Haiti and then travels to where scientists are digging deep underground and uncovering weaknesses that could soon cause massive destruction in California. “What's the Next Big Thing?” airs Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011 at 8 p.m. on Eight, Arizona PBS.


About Eight, Arizona PBS

Eight, Arizona PBS specializes in the education of children, in-depth news and public affairs, lifelong learning, and the celebration of arts and culture -- utilizing the power of noncommercial television, the Internet, educational outreach services, and community-based initiatives. The PBS station began broadcasting from the campus of Arizona State University on January 30, 1961. Now more than 80 percent of Arizonans receive the signal through a network of translators, cable and satellite systems. With more than 1 million viewers each week, Eight consistently ranks among the most-viewed public television stations per capita in the country. Arizonans provide more than 60 percent of the station's annual budget.

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University.