TVNZ7 takes a scientific bent, writes Jacqueline Smith, with a month of revealing what you never knew.

Did you know it was the International Year of Chemistry? And did you know that. tucked away in a laboratory, a bunch of Kiwis are trying to find a bacteria that may one day power our vehicles?

Whether or not you can recite the elements of the periodic table, TVNZ7's new catalogue of science and innovation stories should give your brain plenty to digest this month.

Teaming up with the Ministry of Science and Innovation to celebrate those who peer down microscopes and sell their discoveries to the world, TVNZ7 is rolling out a selection of programmes aligned with its aim of providing television that incites discovery, discussion and debate.

Among the new local series that celebrate Science and Innovation month is Ever Wondered?, which will highlight some of the ground-breaking scientific discoveries bubbling away in New Zealand.

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Host Dr John Watt, who was named 2009's Young Scientist of the Year for his research into toxic pollutants from vehicles, travels the country talking to people working in everything from brain research to creating virtual entertainment platforms to making exciting discoveries in sports science.

Local success stories feature too. There's the Auckland skincare company bringing new meaning to the idea of scaly skin by using fibres from hoki fish skins and the Palmerston North-based company selling its touch applications to leaders in international computing.

A selection of international documentaries encouraging viewers to see the world differently includes Elements, on Mondays at 9.05pm, aiming to get viewers excited about the textures, behaviours and stories of the elements - not just gold but its less-celebrated cousins, potassium and sulphur.

This week's documentary of the week, Race and Intelligence: Science's Last Taboo, (Tuesday, 10.05pm), was inspired by a quote from Nobel Prize-winning American scientist James Watson who suggested people with black skin were less intelligent. The comment saw him labelled an extreme racist and his speaking tours were cancelled. But some science websites started branding him "the new Galileo" and referencing evidence from IQ tests that showed marked differences in results between different races. Somali-born journalist Rageh Omaar talks to people on both sides of the debate.

Other upcoming documentaries include The Vaccine War (Tuesday, August 16, 10.05pm), which tackles the argument around compulsory inoculations and whether or not the populist measures are linked to autism, and The Smartest Machine on Earth (Tuesday, August 23, 10.05pm), which profiles IBM's "Watson", a computer that is taking on human contestants in a game show. What will win - the human brain or a piece of machinery with the capacity of 2400 home computers?

LOWDOWN

What: Science and Innovation Month
When and where: All month on TVNZ7

- TimeOut

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