Galileo's Battle for the Heavens

In this two-hour special, we celebrate the story of the father of modern science and his struggle to get Church authorities to accept the truth of his astonishing discoveries. The program is based on Dava Sobel's bestselling book, Galileo's Daughter, which reveals a new side to the famously stubborn scientist—that his closest confidante was his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun.

The actor Simon Callow plays Galileo in dramatic reenactments of key moments from his life: his pioneering telescopic observations of the Moon and planets, his revolutionary experiments with falling objects, and his fateful trial before the Inquisition for heresy.

Born in 1564, Galileo lived a generation after Nicolas Copernicus published his controversial theory that the Earth was not the center of the universe around which the heavens revolved. Galileo supported the idea that the Earth turned on its axis and that it, along with the planets, revolved around the sun. The view was considered absurd by most scholars since it contradicted certain passages in the Bible and challenged the commonsense experience of the Earth as a solid, unmoving object.

But Galileo found merit in the idea, especially after he aimed a newly invented instrument called the telescope at the night sky and saw that the Moon and planets were far from the perfect realms accepted by the Catholic Church. His discovery of moons orbiting Jupiter and phases in the appearance of Venus, analogous to the phases of the Moon, supported the Copernican view.

The Church insisted that Galileo couch his speculations in hypothetical terms only. But he stepped over the line in 1632 when he published his Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, in which a simpleton mouths the views of the then-reigning pope, Urban VIII. This was too much for the Pope, and Galileo was hauled before the Inquisition, which had tortured and burned to death malefactors for far less.

Galileo's clash with the Vatican put Sister Maria Celeste in an awkward position, but she continued to correspond and meet with her father and even served as his editor.

Though his life was spared, Galileo was put under house arrest, and the Dialogue was banned. But it was a Pyrrhic victory for the Church. Galileo's arguments eventually "won the war" for the Copernican theory, making it intellectually respectable to believe that the Earth in fact moves, says Harvard professor Owen Gingerich.

Part One

Part Two

Previously an obscure branch of philosophy, science was now on the road to becoming the preeminent method for discovering how the world works—thanks to Galileo.

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True Story of Black Hawk Down

On October 3, 1993, an elite force of 120 American Delta units and Ranger infantry were dropped into Mogadishu, Somalia, to abduct two lieutenants of Somalian warlord Mohmaed Farrah Aidid. When two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, a mission that was supposed to last one hour turned into a 15-hour ordeal that resulted in 18 American deaths and 73 American casualties. This documentary combines actual footage of the operation and interviews with key survivors to present a minute-by-minute account of the battle.

Drawing on Mark Bowden's bestselling book about the incident and extensive interviews with the author, The True Story Of Black Hawk Down is a compelling, minute-by-minute look at the battle that claimed 18 American lives. US Rangers and Somali militiamen share their harrowing experiences, and former officials from Aidid's organization reveal how they were able to use the attack to their advantage. Finally, diplomats and high-ranking officers reflect on the incident's legacy, including the widely-held assumption that it weakened America's resolve to send troops abroad.

Balancing exceptional combat footage, brilliant commentary and the recollections of those who were there, The True Story Of Black Hawk Down is an unforgettable look at modern warfare.

Juan Enriquez: Beyond the crisis, mindboggling science and the arrival of Homo evolutis

About this talk
Even as mega-banks topple, Juan Enriquez says the big reboot is yet to come. But don't look for it on your ballot -- or in the stock exchange. It'll come from science labs, and it promises keener bodies and minds. Our kids are going to be ... different.
About Juan Enriquez
Juan Enriquez thinks and writes about the profound changes that genomics and other life sciences will cause in business, technology, politics and society.

Jill Tarter: Why the search for alien intelligence matters

About this talk

The SETI Institute's Jill Tarter makes her TED Prize wish: to accelerate our search for cosmic company. Using a growing array of radio telescopes, she and her team listen for patterns that may be a sign of intelligence elsewhere in the universe.
About Jill Tarter
SETI's Jill Tarter has devoted her career to hunting for signs of sentient beings elsewhere, and almost all aspects of this field have been affected by her work.