The six-episode, science-meets-storytelling series Breakthrough airs Sundays beginning Nov. 1 on National Geographic Channel.
With multitasking cellphones in our pockets, artificial knees and hips a normal part of the aging process, and instant access to lifesaving vaccines, Americans are easily inured to the daily wonders of science. Breakthrough, a stirring, six-episode series from National Geographic Channel — in partnership with GE, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, Asylum Entertainment and eager celebrity guest directors — aims to change that, one awe-inspiring innovator at a time.
Each hour of Breakthrough takes viewers into the workspaces of today’s most diverse and driven scientific explorers to examine how their hard-won discoveries will impact our lives. (Click on any of the episode titles to explore Nat Geo’s ultra-cool web experience tied to the series.)
“Fighting Pandemics” (Peter Berg directs and narrates) — Nov. 1
Berg introduces viewers to Dr. Maria Croyle, Erica Ollmann Saphire and Dr. Ian Crozier, leaders in the war on worldwide epidemics. Says Croyle, who developed a fast-acting, inhalable Ebola vaccine, “We’re very confident that our vaccine works, but everybody is thinking funding, funding, funding … so that we can get the vaccine to a wide variety of people for further testing.”
“More Than Human” (directed by Paul Giamatti) — Nov. 8
Are artificial limbs and pacemakers medical miracles — or the first steps to our becoming man/machine hybrids? Giamatti introduces you to Lockheed Martin’s Trish Aelker, who builds exoskeletons that give industrial workers super strength, and Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, leader of the Walk Again Project, an international collaboration that could put people with traumatic spine injuries on their feet again.
“Decoding the Brain” (directed by Brett Ratner) — Nov. 15
“The great creators on our planet, from Spielberg to da Vinci to Mozart — basically, 3 pounds of something that looks kind of like meatloaf,” marvels uber-producer Ratner of our most mysterious organ and the subject of his episode, which introduces MRI pioneer Dr. John Schenck and Dr. Steve Ramirez, who believes that planting and erasing memories are key in helping people with PTSD.
“The Age of Aging” (directed by Ron Howard) — Nov. 29
Could slowing the aging process also diffuse devastating age-based diseases? Howard introduces you to venture capitalist Laura Deming and influential biologist Dr. Brian Kennedy, a pair of innovators who believe expanding our “health span” is the key to increasing our lifespan.
“Energy on the Edge” (directed by Akiva Goldsman) — Dec. 6
Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, Fringe) follows some of the rare breed of scientist-engineers behind innovative alternative energy projects, including engineer Louis Michaud, who hopes to re-create and harness the power of tornadoes, and scientists at the National Ignition Facility who are working toward a carbon-free energy future through fusion.
“Water Apocalypse” (directed by Angela Bassett) — Dec. 13
“If we’re in space and looking at our Earth, we see all this beautiful blue — but only 1 percent of it is fresh water that we can consume,” says Bassett of the subject of her hour, which spotlights folks like Sandra Postel, who is working to revive the Colorado River Delta, and Italian architect Arturo Vittori, who is crafting a visually stunning water-collection tower for a remote Ethiopian village.