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Science, get ready for your close-up

Hollywood producer Brian Grazer says that a curious mind is the secret to a bigger life. It’s also the secret to a thriving business, as GE can attest.

Grazer and Oscar-winning director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) recently teamed up with GE and National Geographic Channel to make Breakthrough, a six-part documentary series exploring scientific innovation.

Howard and Grazer are executive producers of Breakthrough, which premieres on National Geographic Australia on November 17 with an episode focused on fighting pandemics.

The series draws on research conducted in GE’s labs. “We’ve been living in this world,” Beth Comstock, GE’s vice chair for business innovations, told Variety. “That’s why we exist … We’re able to bring the perspective of ‘Is this a breakthrough or not?’—whether it’s ours or someone else’s.”

This video goes behind the scenes with scientists from GE’s Global Research Center who are either featured in the series or are doing work related to series topics.

GE scientists have had their share of breakthroughs. The company has employed several Nobel Prize winners, as well as scientists who narrowly missed the award, such as Nick Holonyak who invented the visible LED. GE’s research headquarters in upstate New York have also played host to other science superstars. Worth name-dropping: Albert Einstein, Lord Kelvin, Guglielmo Marconi, I.P. Pavlov and Niels Borh.

Now, six big Hollywood names have each directed one episode of Breakthrough. Peter Berg handled the premiere pandemics episode, Angela Bassett shaped the installment on clean water, Paul Giamatti focused on human engineering, Akiva Goldsman on the need for clean energy and executive producers Ron Howard and Brett Ratner respectively took charge of episodes on aging and improving the brain.

Breakthrough follows scientific explorers from leading universities and institutions during their daily quest for disruptive innovations that could change the way we live. The series features several GE scientists, including Peter Tu, who is working on computer vision, John Schenck, who helped GE build its first MRI machine and used it to image the brain, and Fiona Ginty, who works on the leading edge of cancer research. “When I was a young child, I wanted to be an inventor, but thought that everything had already been invented,” Ginty says. “As an adult scientist, I came to see how much work there’s left to do.”

“It’s science in real time,” National Geographic Channel CEO Courteney Monroe told Variety. “We’re covering scientific breakthroughs that are happening right now. Certainly, science is not waiting for us.”

This is an edited repost from

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