A really fantastic science show on TV

I recently stumbled across Time Scanners, a tech-heavy, pop-science reality show. And, get this you guys, I learned things. I know. From TV. It's crazy.

Shows in this genre have a bad reputation for vapid coverage of science, overuse of bad CGI, wild speculation in the name of drama, and (possibly the most obnoxious part) repeating the same facts and even the same sentences over and over and over for an audience that the show assumes is not really paying attention.

Time Scanners — show about the use of Light Detection and Ranging (or LiDAR) technology in archaeology — manages to avoid all of this, for the most part, while also being really interesting. LiDAR is a pretty cool tool that can produce detailed, 3D models of ruins, including features that really aren't easily visible to the naked eye. Time Scanners gets big points in my book for showing how scientists use this technology while simultaneously emphasizing that the technology doesn't just magically work without the interpretation of skilled researchers and while also showing the audience some really cool discoveries that were made without the aid of LiDAR. That last bit is all the more impressive given the fact that the show is covering archaeological sites we've all heard a lot about before. I watched episodes on the ancient city of Petra (of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade fame) and the Great Pyramid.

Here's one of the fascinating things I learned about Petra from the show. The whole city was carved out of the rock walls of a canyon — and it was carved from the top down. How do they know that? Because there's actually an unfinished building at Petra where you can see how the workers must have begun the construction of all the city's buildings. I'd never heard of it before, or seen it. (I wasn't able to find a good Creative Commons shot of Petra's Unfinished Tomb, but you can see several fantastic photos of the place on Flickr.) Definitely a TV series worth checking out.