In the first half, Professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington David R. Montgomery and biologist Anne Bikle addressed the latest scientific discoveries and theories surrounding the microbial world and our tangled relationship with microbes, from garden to gut. Microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, are a rich and diverse world of organisms that make up half the nature on our planet. So small as to be invisible to our senses, we're still learning fundamental insights into how they interact with the visible part of nature, Montgomery noted. When it comes to the human microbiome-- all the microbes that live on and within us, we've been learning over the past few decades how important some of the beneficial ones are for our health, he continued.
Strangely, as Bikle and Montgomery were researching their book on the positive benefits of microbes, Bikle was diagnosed with the type of cervical cancer caused by HPV, the human papillomavirus virus. "The duality of the microbial world is really something to consider," as it can be deadly as well as life-giving, Bikle remarked, adding that the microbial world was able to transform the soil in their yard to yield a lush garden. The idea of the last 100 years to sterilize our environment and kill all the microbes is not a strategy that is going to succeed in the long run, said Montgomery. "But if you start to see them as potential allies, and figure out ways to enlist the good microbes" in our fight against the detrimental ones, "it leads to very different strategies that have great pertinence for future developments in agriculture and medicine," he added. For further info, check out these two in-depth articles by Bikle and Montgomery: What Your Microbiome Wants for Dinner/Junk Food is Bad for Plants, Too.
In the latter half, scientist, explorer, and author Charles Pellegrino discussed both his research on the sinking of the Titanic, and the science behind the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Working as a forensic archaeologist, he's done several expeditions to the Titanic site, and served as a consultant to James Cameron. While some gruesome elements were found such as a human finger wearing a wedding band, the underwater remains and artifacts were treated respectfully, he said. "There's a strange aspect to some of these horrible events," Pellegrino shared, as not only has he extensively studied the Titanic, Hiroshima, and the World Trade Center destruction site, but he's survived two plane crashes. In some instances, the horror happens too quickly for people to contemplate, but in others, time seems to slow down and "stretches to its outermost limits."
During the Japanese atomic bombings and afterward, people saw blue balls of light moving over the land, he reported. They could have been some kind of plasma or ball lightning, though one Nagasaki witness described them as the "souls of people who had died." Nancy Cantwell in Hiroshima saw them moving about one night, and they came so close to her as though they were going to attack before moving away, he recounted. Pellegrino also detailed the horrifying effects on people who were near the explosion sites.