What are microbes, scientifically speaking, and are they our friends? Our enemies? Or is “it’s complicated” the best way to describe the relationship? Organized into seven concise segments, each focused on a particular topic, this compilation offers a colorful survey of the microbial world and examines the impact microbes have had on humans throughout history. While it doesn’t shy away from the threat of microbial contagions, the video also shows that microbes have provided humanity with life-saving processes, technological advances, opportunities to envision life beyond Earth, and more. Produced by the Open University.
• A History of Beer: Explores the well-documented Egyptian origins of the barley-derived beverage and the role microbes played—and still play—in the process.
• The Black Death: Looks at the microbial and epidemiological factors behind the medieval plague pandemic.
• Food Preservation: How do microbes destroy the food that we eat and how has humankind sought out different ways of preserving foodstuffs?
• Nitrogen Fixation: Examines just how critical microbes are to life on Earth with their role in nitrogen fixation, providing the essential elements we need to survive.
• Antibiotics: Experts reveal how the natural processes of microbes are used to fight disease.
• Genetic Engineering: Presents the ways in which humans are learning to exploit microbes to produce medicines, fuel, and food.
• Life on Mars: Illustrates how the discovery and examination of microbes in meteorites suggest that Mars could have supported life in a manner similar to the primordial Earth.