A World Without Microbes: An Apocalyptic Thought Experiment

7m 2s

A world without microbes seems at first like a utopia without bacterial infections, mildew, or mold. But let’s take a deeper look.


  • Solving Crimes with the Necrobiome: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Solving Crimes with the Necrobiome

    S1 E11 - 7m 10s

    We can’t talk to the dead, but in their own way, the dead can speak to us. Death and decomposition is the beginning of new life for the many microbes that take over our bodies after we die: an environment known as the “necrobiome.”

  • Microbes from Mom — Vaginal Birth vs C-Section: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Microbes from Mom — Vaginal Birth vs C-Section

    S1 E10 - 9m 12s

    Do you remember your first birthday present? No? Good, because it’s gross. Your first birthday present was actually the microbial bath you got if your mother delivered you vaginally—the beginning of your very own microbiome.

  • Nature's Cutest Symbiosis: The Bobtail Squid: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Nature's Cutest Symbiosis: The Bobtail Squid

    S1 E6 - 8m 5s

    This squishy species is no bigger than a golf ball, making the squid a tasty mouthful for any hungry hunter that feeds along the coastal waters of Hawaii. To avoid becoming a snack, the bobtail squid has formed a powerful alliance with a luminous bacteria, and at nighttime, these tiny tenants will glow to match the pattern of moonlight coming from above.

  • A Wasp Mom’s Gift: Blankets of Bacteria: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    A Wasp Mom’s Gift: Blankets of Bacteria

    S1 E5 - 9m 10s

    In this episode, Ed talks to Martin Kaltenpoth about something strange he found inside the mother beewolf’s antennae—a paste packed with bacteria called Streptomyces. Ed and Martin discuss what a beewolf is doing with this antibacterial goo, and what exactly would go wrong if she didn’t have access to it.

  • Mosquitoes Might SAVE Lives, Thanks To Bacteria: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Mosquitoes Might SAVE Lives, Thanks To Bacteria

    S1 E4 - 9m 4s

    Ed Yong talks with Scott O’Neill, Professor at Monash University and leader of the Eliminate Dengue project, about his plan to infect the mosquito with a bacteria called Wolbachia that spreads through the mosquito population and stops the transmission of dengue.

  • How Giant Tube Worms Survive at Hydrothermal Vents: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    How Giant Tube Worms Survive at Hydrothermal Vents

    S1 E3 - 10m 20s

    In this episode, Ed talks to Colleen Cavanaugh and finds out how the tubeworm can live in complete darkness and, more curiously, without even having a mouth or anus. In a process called chemosynthesis, symbiotic bacteria inside the tubeworm use hydrogen sulfide spewed from the vents as an energy source for themselves and for the worms.

  • Termites Digest Wood Thanks To Microbes: asset-mezzanine-16x9

    Termites Digest Wood Thanks To Microbes

    S1 E1 - 7m 12s

    In this episode, Ed Yong explores the secrets behind termites’ power to digest an abundant source of food: wood. The key is microbes in their gut. Ed checks in with Princeton scientist Xinning Zhang to learn how termites evolved into wood-eating specialists about 150 million years ago, and how they use a unique social behavior to pass along the microbes.

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