‘Manhunt – Boston Bombers’ a Special ‘Nova’ to Premiere Wednesday, May 29 on PBS
via press release:
[BOSTON] – At 2:49 pm on April 15, two bomb blasts turn the Boston Marathon finish line from a scene of triumph to tragedy, leaving three dead, hundreds injured, and a city gripped by heartbreak and terror. Less than five days later, the key suspects are identified. One is dead, the other in custody. How do investigators transform the chaos of the bombing into a coherent trail of clues that point to the accused killers? In a special new one-hour NOVA documentary, producer Miles O’Brien looks at the quickly unfolding events, step by step, examining the role of modern technology—combined with old-fashioned detective work—in cracking the case.
MANHUNT – BOSTON BOMBERS premieres Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 9PM/8c on PBS (check local listings). And in a special collaboration, Miles O’Brien is also reporting a special broadcast that same evening prior to NOVA for PBS NewsHour.
“From robotics to explosives to chemistry to digital and social media, NOVA demonstrates how scientific innovations were involved in this high-stakes, fast-moving criminal investigation,” said Paula S. Apsell, Senior Executive Producer of NOVA. “Viewers will gain a better understanding of how new technologies might help investigators in the future.”
“We are delighted to have another opportunity to work with NOVA. PBS NewsHour always benefits from partnerships with other strong public media producers and NOVA is one of the best. We both respect excellent reporting, which is what Miles O’Brien brings to every project he works on,” added Linda Winslow, Executive Producer of the PBS NewsHour.
In MANHUNT, NOVA and Miles O’Brien follow the hunt for the bomb suspects and examine the subsequent investigation conducted by city, state, and national law enforcement, meeting with experts across the country to learn how the case was cracked so quickly. The NOVA crew travels to New Mexico Tech University’s testing range in Socorro, where some of the world’s leading experts in explosions demonstrate how investigators identify pieces of debris and use chemical analysis to identify what makes up an explosive device. NOVA commissions the construction and detonation of a pressure cooker bomb, and the explosion is captured on high speed cameras that record 6200 frames per second. Painstaking analysis of the footage and bomb fragments allows forensic specialists to glean crucial insights into how to best investigate terrorist attacks.
O’Brien also visits New York City’s Domain Awareness System Command Center where a system created by the NYPD and Microsoft enables authorities to monitor a network of 4000 public and privately owned security cameras in Manhattan. At the NYPD Headquarters, the Facial Recognition Unit shares with viewers a technology that enables police departments to match photos against their databases. However, the system is not as powerful and reliable as one would think from watching TV and movies. Although the technology has improved over the years, images that are not head-on and relatively clear are nearly impossible to match. The day after the bombings, investigators had pinpointed images of the two Marathon bombing suspects captured by the sea of cameras near the finish line. But facial recognition software failed to find a match. NOVA travels to Carnegie Mellon University to meet with scientist Marios Savvides, who demonstrates how experiments in their Cylab are able to analyze the grainy shot of Suspect #2 using a new algorithm. The finished product of their work might have made it possible to identify one of the suspects by comparing it against a database of drivers’ licenses or passport photos.
NOVA also explores the phenomenon of social media, which in unprecedented and chilling ways, affected the course of the investigation. Authorities were reluctant to release the pictures of the suspects as they could prompt them to panic, flee and commit more violence. But the social-media-fueled “24-second” news cycle forced investigators to release the photos sooner than they wished.
As the actual manhunt gears up, NOVA uncovers how authorities are able to track the suspects using the carjacked Mercedes’ satellite tracking system, and cell phone triangulation technology, which has been in wide use for more than 20 years. NOVA also gets in the air with the Massachusetts State Police helicopter crew whose infrared camera confirmed that a person was hiding in a boat in a Watertown backyard to help end the manhunt, and we go behind the scenes to explore the potential surveillance power of future infrared devices currently being developed.
In a two-part report on PBS News Hour, O’Brien travels to New Mexico Tech’s Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC), the nation’s leading lab for studying explosives. With the help of high-speed cameras, he’ll demonstrate the power of a pressure cooker bomb and learn how the center uses their research to train first responders – including 1,500 from Boston.
In part two, O’Brien joins New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly at the NYPD Anti-Terror Command Center for a look at the high tech tools used in the fight against terrorism, including remote controlled robots and the latest in camera technology, such as facial recognition software and airborne FLIR cameras that create images using thermal-energy – similar to the one that helped Boston police locate one of the suspects hiding in a covered boat at night.
Now in its 40th season, NOVA is the most-watched prime time science series on American television, reaching an average of five million viewers weekly. The series remains committed to producing in-depth science programming in the form of hour-long (and occasionally longer) documentaries, from the latest breakthroughs in technology to the deepest mysteries of the natural world. NOVA airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET/PT on WGBH Boston and most PBS stations. The Director of the WGBH Science Unit and Senior Executive Producer of NOVA is Paula S. Apsell.
NOVA is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers and described for people who are blind or visually impaired by the Media Access Group at WGBH. The descriptive narration is available on the SAP channel or stereo TV and VCRs. To order NOVA direct from PBS, visit shop.pbs.org.
National Corporate funding for NOVA is provided by The Boeing Company and Franklin Templeton Investments. Major funding for NOVA is provided by David H. Koch Fund For Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and public televi- sion viewers.
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