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TV highlights April 13-19 

TEN DAYS THAT UNEXPECTEDLY CHANGED AMERICA: EINSTEIN’S LETTER
9 p.m. Friday, April 15
The History Channel
(Comcast Ch. 70)
On Aug. 2, 1939, physicist Albert Einstein penned a letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that would alter the course of human history. Einstein expressed concern that Nazi Germany had cut off all exports of uranium from its newly conquered territory of Czechoslovakia. For Einstein, this was telling and terrifying, especially given what he knew: That in the most theoretical realms of physics, researchers had recently posited that a bomb of incredible strength could be created using a core of uranium. If America didn’t get up to speed, he told FDR, it likely could be left behind in an arms race that might end in the birth of a devastating new weapon and result in Nazi world domination. The History Channel, in a new series, explores how Einstein’s letter became the roots of the Manhattan Project, the Cold War and the nuclear age.

NATURE: THE GIRAFFE
7 p.m. Sunday, April 16
AETN (Comcast Ch. 3,
Broadcast Ch. 2)

The tallest living land animal on earth, topping 18 feet in the case of some large bulls, the giraffe’s distinctive mottled coat and odd appearance led early Roman explorers to suspect it was the result of a mating between a camel and a leopard (which is why some old texts refer to it as the “Cameleopard”). While it may look weird, every school kid’s favorite mammal is a marvel of the animal kingdom, and one of evolution’s great designs — with legs, body, neck and amazingly prehensile, 18-inch tongue perfectly adapted to get at the leaves that other inhabitants of the African savannah can’t reach. With the intrepid documentarians of PBS’ “Nature,” Lynn Sherr of ABC’s “20/20” heads to the African plains to track down and learn the secrets of this graceful and amazingly versatile creature.

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: THE GREAT SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE
8 p.m. Monday, April 17
AETN (Comcast Ch. 3,
Broadcast Ch. 2)
n Just after 5 a.m. on April 18, 1906, one of the most damaging earthquakes in American history — measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale — struck San Francisco. In a matter of minutes, more than three quarters of the city’s homes were destroyed. Modern scholars estimate the number of dead at well over 6,000, though city fathers at the time did their best to lowball the estimates, worried that the truth might hurt property values. After the quake, with all the water mains ruptured and natural gas lines spewing, the city went up in flames, eventually destroying more than 500 city blocks. PBS calls on historians and the news accounts of the day to paint a picture of this unfathomable tragedy.

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