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Arts & Culture

NOVA: Trapped In An Elevator

Looking up the hoistway of the world's longest elevator at the Burj Dubai.
Courtesy of WGBH
Looking up the hoistway of the world's longest elevator at the Burj Dubai.

Airs Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

How do elevators work? Are they safe? Why are so many people afraid of them? Across North America, elevators move 325 million passengers every day, and, most of the time, people don’t give them a second thought. In "Trapped In An Elevator," NOVA reveals the secret life of these ubiquitous machines and investigates personal stories of those who have been caught inside when they fail.

Share Your Elevator Story

Ever been trapped in an elevator? Have you overcome a fear of them? Share your elevator story and peruse others'.

NOVA cameras ride the world’s fastest elevator to the top of the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building, and test whether the Burj’s elevator system is ready for the task of moving people to unprecedented heights. On the other side of the world, NOVA follows one of the thousands of elevator maintenance crews in Manhattan that keep New Yorkers moving up and down every day. Then, at the Otis Test Tower—a 28-story high-rise that’s the most over-elevatored building in the world—viewers experience a few heart-pumping moments as a test elevator is sent into free fall.

Once brawny but simple machines, elevators are getting a brainy makeover. Computer controls, like those in the elevators at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square, are getting passengers to their destinations faster and more safely than ever before. But will the elevator-wary be comfortable handing over the reins to computers?

Preview: NOVA: Trapped In An Elevator
NOVA: Trapped In An Elevator: Smallest Room In The House