Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth

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Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth captures some of the detective work that has led 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.  The series challenges each of us to forge new partnerships with the microbial world to help control disease, fight hunger in developing countries, reclaim our damaged environment, and clean up even the most toxic of wastes.   To view episodes of the series, go to MicrobeWorld podcasts on iTunes.
Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth features vivid computer animation and videomicroscopy that helps viewers visualize fascinating creatures and processes too miniscule to see with the unaided eye. The audience meets a cast of microbial characters, both heroes and villains, as well as a host of scientists whose work today is helping to shape our future.   To purchase Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth for home viewing, call 1-888-423-1212. Or order the series on-line from A&E. Educators who want to purchase the series for classroom use may also call Annenberg/CPB at 1-800-LEARNER.


Critical Acclaim for Intimate Strangers

“The stories of the scientists, the lush cinematography, and well-thought-out special visual effects, analogies, and metaphors that drive the scientific points home make Intimate Strangers, in Hollywood jargon, high end, slick, and inviting.”

The Scientist, Oct. 1999

Intimate Strangers succeeds admirably in showing that there is more to microbiology than germ busting…the series portrays the dominance and diversity of microbes as a group of invisible creatures on which all plant and animal life depends.  It effectively conveys that microbes are Earth’s most successful inhabitants.”

Science, Nov. 1999

The series was produced with major funding from the National Science Foundation, the American Society for Microbiology, the Department of Energy, and the Annenberg/CPB Project.  Additional funding was provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Series Details 

Program One: “The Tree of Life” — As scientists have mapped the human genome, they have found the ancient DNA of microbes at the roots of our family tree. This hour follows the quest of scientists to understand how all life on the planet — from E. coli to azaleas to us — is related.

Program Two:
“Keepers of the Biosphere” — Microbes drive the chemistry of life. They affect the global climate. They do most of the recycling that keeps the world habitable. This hour follows scientists as they explore our reliance on this invisible world for our planet's health and well-being.

Program Three: “Dangerous Friends and Friendly Enemies” — Infectious diseases occur when our relationship with microbes changes or when an intruder invades. This hour follows scientists who seek to understand our most personal relationships with the microscopic world, which usually keeps us well but sometimes makes us sick.

Program Four: “Creators of the Future” — The 21st century challenges us to reclaim our damaged environment and feed a growing population. This hour introduces scientists who are turning to microbes for solutions and the tiny organisms who are making new cleanup technologies possible.