UNC-CH scientist encourages all to watch PBS series on microbes

October 31, 1999

CHAPEL HILL -- Microbes -- those tiny miracle workers that created and sustain all life on Earth -- will be the subject of a four-part television series focusing exclusively on the microbial world and how it affects life on Earth. The hour-long programs will begin Tuesday (Nov. 9) at 8 p.m. on the Public Broadcasting System.

A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill microbiologist who was intimately involved in designing and producing the series called it "documentary filmmaking at its finest."

"Of course, it's too early to say what's going to happen with the Peabody awards, but people at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting who have seen all four parts say the series could win one of them," said Dr. Frederic Pfaender, professor of environmental sciences and engineering. "The music is all original, and the pictures are spectacular. We think all students and everybody interested in the world around them ought to watch these shows."

Titled "Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth," the series will air on Tuesdays throughout November, Pfaender said.

Program one, "The Tree of Life," follows the quest of scientists to understand how life on the planet is related. As they map the human genome, they find the ancient DNA of microbes at the roots of the human family tree.

The second program, "Keepers of the Biosphere," shows scientists exploring how humans rely on the invisible world of microbes, which drive the chemistry of life. Program three, "Dangerous Friends and Friendly Enemies," describes what happens when human relationships with microbes change and infectious diseases result.

Program four introduces scientists who are turning to microbes for solutions to problems of the damaged environment and the growing population.

"Microbes generate at least half the oxygen humans breathe and are the basis of the food web that provides everything we eat," Pfaender said. "They live by the trillions in us, on us and around us. They keep us well, and once in a while, they make us sick. They are both supremely important and endlessly fascinating."

The UNC-CH scientist is chair of the American Society for Microbiology's technical advisory committee that conceived and oversaw production of the shows as part of its Microbial Literacy Collaborative. Related projects include a college-level distance learning telecourse and companion books.

More information is available at www.microbeworld.org and www.pbs.org/als .

Support for the documentary, produced by Baker & Simon Associates, came from the society, the National Science Foundation, the Annenberg/CPB Project and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

"We are proud of this work," Pfaender said. "Just about everyone who watches will learn something, and everyone should enjoy watching."
Note: Pfaender can be reached at (919) 966-3842.
Contact: David Williamson, (919) 962-8596.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Related Microbes Articles from Brightsurf:

A new look at deep-sea microbes
Microbes found deeper in the ocean are believed to have slow population turnover rates and low amounts of available energy.

Microbes might manage your cholesterol
Researchers discover a link between human blood cholesterol levels and a gene in the microbiome that could one day help people manage their cholesterol through diet, probiotics, or entirely new types of treatment.

Can your gut microbes tell you how old you really are?
Harvard longevity researchers in collaboration with Insilico Medicine develop the first AI-powered microbiomic aging clock

What can be learned from the microbes on a turtle's shell?
Research published in the journal Microbiology has found that a unique type of algae, usually only seen on the shells of turtles, affects the surrounding microbial communities.

Life, liberty -- and access to microbes?
Poverty increases the risk for numerous diseases by limiting people's access to healthy food, environments and stress-free conditions.

Rye is healthy, thanks to an interplay of microbes
Eating rye comes with a variety of health benefits. A new study from the University of Eastern Finland now shows that both lactic acid bacteria and gut bacteria contribute to the health benefits of rye.

Gut microbes may affect the course of ALS
Researchers isolated a molecule that may be under-produced in the guts of patients.

Gut microbes associated with temperament traits in children
Scientists in the FinnBrain research project of the University of Turku discovered that the gut microbes of a 2.5-month-old infant are associated with the temperament traits manifested at six months of age.

Gut microbes eat our medication
Researchers have discovered one of the first concrete examples of how the microbiome can interfere with a drug's intended path through the body.

Microbes can grow on nitric oxide
Nitric oxide (NO) is a central molecule of the global nitrogen cycle.

Read More: Microbes News and Microbes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.