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Intimate Strangers

In November 1999, millions of television viewers tuned in to the national PBS broadcast premiere of Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth, the first ever prime-time program to focus on the fascinating but (for many of us) little known realm of microbes and microbiology.

Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth is the story of the scientific detective work that leads investigators from the very large to the very small, from the present to the remote past, from humankind at large to the delicate life systems within every one of us.

This ten-part web video series challenges us to forge new partnerships with the microbial world to control disease, fight hunger in developing countries, reclaim our damaged environment, and clean up even the most toxic of wastes.

Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth features vivid computer animation and videomicroscopy that dynamically illustrate creatures and processes too miniscule to see with the unaided eye. You'll meet a microbial cast of characters, both heroes and villians, as well as a host of scientists whose work today is helping to shape our future.

Saturday, 10 June 2017 16:07

The Quest (Part 1 of 10)

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Join Dr. Karl Stetter on a mission to find the closest living relative of the first life on Earth as he discovers a strain of bacteria he names "Thermatoga."

Friday, 09 June 2017 16:22

Solving the Puzzle (Part 2 of 10)

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A new understanding of life on Earth has forced us to redraw the tree of life. Dr. Carl Woese and Norman Pace describe the process and challenges of categorizing microbial life.

Thursday, 08 June 2017 16:25

Who We Are (Part 3 of 10)

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Dr. Karen Nelson and Dr. Craig Venter map the genome of Thermatoga, the microbes Dr. Karl Stetter discovered in Episode 1 of this podcast, and find convincing evidence that Thermatoga's origins are very close to the beginning of life on Earth.

Wednesday, 07 June 2017 16:29

The View from the Forest (Part 4 of 10)

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Dr. Dan Janzen and Dr. Ignacio Chapela catalog both the larger and microbial life forms inside a single ecosystem in Costa Rica, finding that neither plants, animals, nor microbes would be able to exist without the others.

Tuesday, 06 June 2017 16:33

Oceans of Microbes (Part 5 of 10)

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 Dr. Steven Giovannoni finds microbes in the most unusual places in the ocean and attempts to grow a mystery microbe in the lab.

Monday, 05 June 2017 16:36

Dangerous Friends and Friendly Enemies (Part 6 of 10)

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Dr. Stuart Levy and Dr. Fred Koster track a mystery killer from a Navajo community in New Mexico with help from Dr. C.J. Peters with the Centers for Disease Control.

Sunday, 04 June 2017 16:40

A Friendly Enemy (Part 7 of 10)

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A look at the common food pathogen called Salmonella and how it spreads. And the hunt for the cause of English Sweating Sickness that once ravaged the English countryside in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Saturday, 03 June 2017 16:42

Life in a Contaminated World (Part 8 of 10)

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In underdeveloped countries, poor conditions increase the risk of disease and scarce medical resources make harder to treat disease properly. Witness how a strain of Hanta virus in Argentina evolves to pass between humans without an intermediate host.

Friday, 02 June 2017 16:45

Resistance Fighters (Part 9 of 10)

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As antibiotics lose their ability to control infectious diseases, scientists are busy looking for new, more effective drugs from the soil of a park in Vancouver to the radioactive environment of Chernobyl.

Thursday, 01 June 2017 16:48

A New Age (Part 10 of 10)

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Explore the future of microbes and how they can improve the quality of life on Earth through genetic engineering, bioremediation and electronics.