NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Complete Series Video Questions

NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Complete Series Video Questions
NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Complete Series Video Questions
NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Complete Series Video Questions
NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Complete Series Video Questions
NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Complete Series Video Questions
NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Complete Series Video Questions
NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Complete Series Video Questions
NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Complete Series Video Questions
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Treasures of the Earth: Gems, Metals, and Power. This fun and educational series from PBS NOVA details the history and importance of precious resources such as the gemstones diamond, sapphire, and opal; metals like gold, iron, and aluminum; and power sources such as coal, oil, and uranium.

This single download contains my three separate video worksheets for this NOVA series at a discounted price. The download contains three, two-sided video worksheets consisting of nearly 150 multiple choice and true-or-false questions, along with answer keys. Files are included in both PDF and MS Word formats.

Descriptions of each worksheet and episode are below:


Treasures of the Earth: Gems

Humans have been fascinated by gemstones for thousands of years. Today, gemstones are valuable not only for their beauty and rarity, but in what they can tell us about the earth and its history. In this high-interest video, the history, lore, and science of popular gemstones such as diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and opals is explored. This video is one of the three part series NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Gems, Metals, Power.

The allure of diamonds is far-reaching. The chemistry and crystal structure of diamonds is responsible for their amazing properties. Diamonds are the hardest known substance, yet they can be consumed in fire, or shattered by an accurately placed strike. The cutting of diamonds into eye-catching gemstones for jewelry is described. A dazzling diamond gemstone is the product of adherence to mathematical principles of crystallography and symmetry. The main factor dictating the brilliance of a diamond is the cut, which internally reflects all incoming light and directs its out towards the observer’s eye. The “fire”, or flash of colors within a diamond, results from the multiple refractions whereby incoming light is spread apart into its rainbow spectra of colors. The properties of carbon in the form of diamond, the hardest known mineral, and graphite, the soft material in pencil “lead”, are explained as the arrangement of carbon atoms in crystals that correspond to differing environments and pressures of formation.

The lore of diamonds is presented with New York, where the majority of America’s diamonds pass through, with Tiffany & Co., Marilyn Monroe, and the fabled Hope Diamond. The unique blue color of the Hope Diamond is derived from atoms of the element boron that are mixed into the diamond’s crystal lattice. The Hope Diamond is rumored to have a curse which afflicted its various owners. Today it resides safely within the Smithsonian Institute. The social costs of diamond mining are explored: The presence of “blood diamonds” on the market, diamonds that are sold via an underground economy that helps to bankroll dictatorial regimes in Africa; and the presence of horrific conditions in African diamond mines.

Along with diamonds, various other noteable gemstones are explored. We learn that sapphire and ruby are different colored varieties of the same mineral, corundum, the second hardest known mineral after diamond. Brilliant sapphires are mined from gravel in the island nation of Sri Lanka, where the famous 12-carat sapphire engagement ring stone worn by Princess Diana was obtained. In China, jade is valued above all other gemstones. Its characteristic green is seen in statues, armbands, and other types of jewelry. Its tough molecular structure led to it being associated with security; in Chinese lore, jade imparts a protective aura to its owner. In Australia, the multi-colored gemstone opal is called “the Queen”. The diverse colors of opal is derived from its physical structure, billions of tiny spheres of quartz suspended in a geometric array. The world’s largest brilliant green emeralds are found in North Carolina, the gift of an ancient continental collision that created the Appalachian Mountains.

Gemstones form in various ways. Many are related to the motion of earth’s plates, what we call plate tectonics. Volcanic activity deep in the mantle creates diamonds, which form on an upwelling plume of magma termed a kimberlite pipe. Inclusions of ancient material in diamonds also reveals that plate tectonics likely started about 3.2 billion years ago. Sapphires and rubies form when one of earth’s plates subducts or pushes its way under another plate. Australian opal appears to be derived from water-borne silica which is precipitated in fissures and cracks in the earth; opal can even replace the shapes of once-living life creating amazing opalized fossils. Although technically not a crystal, opal appears under the electron microscope as a fantastic congeries of tiny, perfect spheres of silica.

You will need to obtain a DVD of the video, use the PBS Internet site, or YouTube.


Treasures of the Earth: Metals

Metals are the backbone of modern civilization. In this high-interest video, we learn about the history of precious materials such as gold, copper, iron, and aluminum. This video is one of the three part series NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Gems, Metals, Power.

Gold has been valued since antiquity. It is the best metal for jewelry making, and it never tarnishes. Gold from the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs is just as beautiful today as when it was first made. Today we know that gold and other heavy metals are the gifts of exploding stars, supernovas, that erupted before earth had even formed. Scientists are working on sending gold back into space in the form of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the enormously productive Hubble Space Telescope. A few ounces of gold will be used to form the surfaces of the segmented mirror in the new telescope. Gold is able to reflect nearly 100% of the infrared energy striking its surface, so it will enable the James Webb Telescope to see into the infrared universe and make new discoveries in this realm of light invisible to the human eye.

Copper is an important metal. Today, we rely upon it to carry electricity. Metals have the extremely useful property of conductivity. At the atomic level, metals present a “sea” of freely moving electrons. This feature allows the unique properties of metal such as malleability and ductility, as well as allowing the conductance of heat and electricity. Copper also possesses an antibacterial ability-it kills surface bacteria, and it may be useful in hospitals as a replacement for stainless steel in order to limit the spread of “superbugs” on hospital surfaces.

Tin added to copper allowed our ancestors to make metal tools such as swords and plows. Early bronze weapons are found in abundance. One noteworthy discovery discussed in the video is the Sword of Goujian. Discovered in Chinese tomb, this sword was in pristine condition and still bore an edge as sharp as a razor. The discovery of alloys, mixtures of metals, eventually led to the development of the most important alloy we have, steel, which enabled the construction of “high and strong” structures such as bridges and skyscrapers. Architectural marvels such as the Beijing “Birdnest” National Stadium, and the Millau Viaduct in France, the world’s tallest bridge, all rely upon special alloys of steel, and are discussed in the video. In the more recent past, iconic structures such as the Eiffel Tower and Chicago’s Home Insurance building, the world’s first skyscraper, were constructed of wrought iron and steel respectively.

The future of metals is discussed with the use of landfill trash as a source of carbon for the manufacture of “green steel”, which will help eliminate excess trash and require less fossil fuel usage in its manufacture, helping to alleviate the introduction of excess carbon dioxide into earth’s atmosphere, the main culprit behind the modern crisis of global warming. The video also introduces the viewer to scientists who create “metal foam”, a flexible metal that may be useful in the engineering of structures that can move, grow, and repair themselves, rather like the metal-man Terminator from the movies. The video also discusses graphene, a carbon-based material of incredible strength, which can be used as a metal-like material.

You will need to obtain a DVD of the video, use the PBS Internet site, or YouTube.


Treasures of the Earth: Power

Sources of power such as fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and the sun are essential for modern civilization. In this high-interest video, we learn about the history of earth’s energy resources. This video is one of the three part series NOVA: Treasures of the Earth: Gems, Metals, Power.

The importance of energy for modern life is underscored by a visit to the Ravenswood Generating Station, or “Big Alice”, a power plant the provides much of the electricity for New York City. Today, the station burns natural gas to power its electricity generating turbines. It once used coal, a fossil fuel resource of past importance.

Fossil fuels helped to make modern civilization possible. Coal formed from the remains of plants in ancient swamps. The weight of overlying layers compressed the organic remains into a black rock of nearly pure carbon. A lump of coal can be likened to a charged battery. The potential energy stored in the coal can be released through burning.

Starting in the 1700s, the exploitation of coal enabled the potential of individual workers to be multiplied. Burning coal was used as a power source in factories and later electrical power plants. The heat from burning coal was used to drive turbines, devices that convert the chemical energy stored in coal into mechanical and electrical energy. Coal was the original fuel of the industrial revolution, and it helped to elevate the life of the average worker from a “nasty, brutish” existence into one of greater prosperity.

The next great fossil fuel resource was oil or petroleum. Today, oil is refined into gasoline to drive our cars. Oil is still pumped today in California. Many of today’s power plants burn natural gas, the cheapest and cleanest fossil fuel resource. Natural gas helps to mitigate some of the negative effects of fossil fuel usage such as air pollution and man-influenced climate change. Scientists have linked carbon introduced through fossil fuel burning to climate change and global warming. The carbon dioxide gas created by burning fossil fuels is considered a “greenhouse” gas, and it helps to trap the sun’s heat in earth’s atmosphere. A warmer earth has led to an increase in global sea level, the melting of earth’s glaciers, and the damage and degradation of the ocean’s coral reefs.

The problem of climate change has spurred efforts to find alternative energy sources. The sun emits tremendous amounts of “free” energy as it fuses hydrogen into helium at its core. Cloudy weather, and the expense of creating solar panels, has led to experiments to mitigate these situations. In China, large arrays of rechargeable batteries are being tested to store energy during periods of cloudy weather. Chinese scientists are also working to lower the cost and increase the efficiency of solar panels. The horrific air pollution in Chinese cities has encouraged these efforts to replace coal-burning power plants.

Another power source already in use, nuclear energy, is also being reassessed in today’s world of global warming. Nuclear power utilizes energy from ancient stars that died in titanic supernova explosions that occurred before the earth's formation. In brief instances of incredible temperature, heavy elements such as uranium were fused in these ancient dying stars. Today, it is realized that heavy elements such as gold and uranium formed when neutron stars, the remnants of stars that previously went supernova, spiral together and collide. Despite having an “image problem” due to its use in bombs, and nuclear accidents in Russia, Japan, and the United States, nuclear energy can provide carbon-free energy. We are introduced to uranium by Taylor Wilson, a young nuclear scientist famous for creating a nuclear reactor at the age of 14! One pound of uranium fuel is the energy equivalent of 3 million pounds of coal. If the safety issues inherent in nuclear power generation can be solved, it will provide a viable substitute for fossil fuels and help to mitigate climate change.

You will need to obtain a DVD of the video, use the PBS Internet site, or YouTube.

Total Pages
12 pages
Answer Key
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Teaching Duration
3 hours
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