From Beer to Antibiotics, the 7 Wonders of the Microbe World

Microbes are the oldest form of life on Earth and they outnumber all other species. From the fine folks at Open University -- who previously brought us this brilliant series of six famous philosophy thought experiments, animated -- comes Seven Wonders of the Microbe World, a fascinating short documentary about what microbes have done for humanity (which, by the way, they still refer to as "mankind" -- and we've just observed the problem with that). From microbes' role in producing some of our favorite foods, including bread, cheese, yogurt, and beer, to nitrogen fixation as the cornerstone of modern organic farming to how the Black Death enabled a new class of entrepreneurs, the seven "wonders" covered include the history of beer, The Black Death, food preservation, nitrogen fixation, antibiotics, genetic engineering, and life on Mars.

One of the interesting social implications of The Black Death is that church leaders were not able to provide any explanation of how this disease was caused and, as a result, the authority of church leaders began to be eroded and people began to question whether they should listen to religious leaders at all. Some people have even said that the English Reformation was caused by the Black Death.

For more on the fascinating world of microbes, you won't go wrong with March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen. And for something a little fuzzier, there's always Giant Microbes' series of stuffed microbes -- who can resist a huggable E. coli?

Via Open Culture.

TEMPLATEBrainPickings04.jpg

This post also appears on Brain Pickings, an Atlantic partner site.

Presented by

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in Health

Just In