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January 10, 2006 > Video 'podcast' on the evolution of life begins Jan. 31

Video 'podcast' on the evolution of life begins Jan. 31

Beginning Tues. Jan. 31, the American Society for Microbiology will launch a series of 15 to 25-minute video "podcasts" called "Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth." The weekly video podcasts excerpted from a PBS television series will explore the microbial world and how life evolved over Earth's 3.8 billion-year history.

For those who may not be familiar with podcasting, your first guess may be correct. Podcasting, a term that was coined in 2004, can refer to audio and/or video files placed on the web that users can download and play on either mobile devices such as Apple's video iPod or on a computer.

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 42,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.

"Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth" features many well-known scientists, from Craig Venter, who led the way for mapping the human genome, to Carl Woese, who redrew the tree of life as we know it. Throughout the program, viewers will see other scientists across the globe investigating the microbial world in diverse settings such as from a termite's stomach, a hospital operating room to the radioactive soil of Chernobyl.

New episodes will be podcast each Tuesday. Upcoming episodes include:

Tues., Jan. 31, "The Quest": Dr. Karl Stetter sets out on a mission to find the closest living relative of the first life on Earth as he discovers a strain of bacteria he names "Thermatoga."

Tues., Feb. 7, "Harvesting the Puzzle": A new understanding of life on Earth has forced us to redraw the tree of life. Dr. Carl Woese and Dr. Norman Pace describe the process and challenges of categorizing microbial life.

Tues., Feb. 14, "Who We Are?": Dr. Karen Nelson and Dr.Craig Venter map the genome of Thermatoga, the microbe Dr. Karl Stetter discovered in "The Quest," and find convincing evidence that Thermatoga's origins are very close to the beginning of life on Earth.

"Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth" is formatted specifically for Apple's video iPod but can also be viewed on computers and exported to television sets. The documentary is presented in layman's terms and is geared for anyone who has an interest in science. The program is a production of Baker & Simon Associates in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Viewers can access the podcasts by entering ASM's URL feed address: into your mobile device or computer. Detailed instructions on how you can access the podcasts in addition to ASM's audio podcast "MicrobeWorld Radio," will also be available on ASM's MicrobeWorld website at

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