What does sweat have to do with the global water crisis? What if we could create a truly biodegradable plastic? With NOVA’s new Out of Our Elements, we discover that the familiar and ordinary can be extraordinary if we look closely enough.
The new digital series introduces viewers to a diverse set of chemistry experts who explore the surprising molecular connections of our everyday worlds. The nine-episode series launched recently on Terra, PBS’s science YouTube channel.
The hosts are GBH’s Arlo Pérez Esquivel and Caitlin Saks, whose highly successful Antarctic Extremes series reveals what it takes to do science in Earth’s most remote natural laboratory. Antarctic Extremes was the first show on PBS’s Terra, which is now home to a variety of science and nature shows, attracting new audiences to public media.
“We were ‘out of our element’ when we went to Antarctica,” says Saks. “We're also out of our element in the world of chemistry, but — just as in Antarctica — we're embracing that as a way to be on the path of discovery with the audience,” she said.
Viewers will meet Shy Brown, a Gatorade sweat scientist; the Exploratorium’s Desiré Whitmore, who calls herself “LaserChick;” and Boston University’s Malika Jeffries-EL, a plastics expert, among many others.
“The scientists are the stars of the series,” says Saks.
Pérez calls the series “a gateway to science.”
“The videos are not made to be the be-all, end-all explanations, they are meant to be fun and get you excited about the world of chemistry.”
The episodes, infused with music that feeds the momentum of the stories, are 5-15 minutes long. They have the same feel as Antarctic Extremes, with immersive visuals, irreverent humor and a sense of adventure. Two of the episodes, one about the first molecule in the universe and another exploring whether we can turn CO2 to stone, were selected via a poll of the Terra audience.
“We focus on the molecules that have the most societal impact,” says Pérez. “We chose our topics, not only because they are fascinating, but because they have a huge impact on the world.”
See the trailer here.