Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth

Microbes on Primetime

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 four-part 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.

Watch the Trailer

While you can watch the entire four part series online here on MicrobeWorld, you can also purchase Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth on DVD for home or classroom viewing at In addition, if you subscrbe to the free MicrobeWorld Video podcast we produce you can also get the program on your iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch and/or Apple TV. Click here to launch iTunes and subscribe to MicrobeWorld Video now. Look for the Intimate Strangers episodes at the bottom of the MicrobeWorld Video podcast feed in your iTunes podcast section after you have subscribed

Also, check out the Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth companion book, a trove of microbial lore, stories and profiles building on the TV series.

Series Details

  • Program One: "The Tree of Life" - As scientists map the human genome, they find 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 azaelas 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.

Comments (1)

  1. This video broadcast documentary really a wonderful initiative by ASM
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