What we didn’t expect was the level of adventure required to follow them. Hoffman zipped on snowmobiles with wildlife biologist Lauren Satterfield into the mountains to chase elusive mountain lions; felt an octopus hugging her finger in the San Juan Islands with neurologist Dominic Sivitilli; and tramped through primeval old-growth forests in British Columbia to measure giant trees with ecologist Ken Wu.
Each time, our guides opened up new lines of discovery and inquiry for us and viewers like you. They showed us how an octopus thinks with its arms, or how algae sheltered on high snowfields might hold keys to the origin of life. But you might have to dive into the freezing ocean or ski 20 miles up the side of a glacier to see how these researchers figured that out.
For the stars of our episodes, science was always just the jumpoff. We learned that what truly drove them was how it intersects with all parts of life — how art, sports or philosophy inform their thinking and breakthroughs. When the distinctions between those disciplines disappear, an origami unicorn becomes a breakthrough in mechanical engineering, or the death of a star gets us closer to understanding our own place in a seemingly eternal universe.
Above all, the scientists approached the natural world with curiosity and humility. That’s something in increasingly short supply, and it’s especially valuable in uncertain times. They knew they didn’t have all the answers, but that didn’t stop them from asking life’s big questions and sharing it with the world. We should all be challenged to think this way, and each of the 10 episodes of Human Elements offers the viewer an inspiring way to start.
WATCH HUMAN ELEMENTS, SEASON 1:
Editor’s note: Sarah and Ted’s idea came to life with help from executive producer Shaminder Dulai, senior video editor Amy Mahardy, production specialist Resti Bagcal, graphic designer Madeleine Pisaneschi, art director Greg Cohen, and so many more of our colleagues at Crosscut and KCTS 9.
This story was first published in Crosscut's Weekly newsletter. Want to hear more from editors like Ted Alvarez? Sign up for the newsletter, below.
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