Alan Alda Searches for the Human Spark

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Few people are as passionate about science education as Alan Alda, FCRH ’56. This month, the Emmy Award-winning actor, writer and director returns to PBS to host a three-part documentary called The Human Spark.

The project grew out of Alda’s longtime involvement with the PBS series Scientific American Frontiers, which he hosted with ample curiosity, wit and good humor from 1993 until the show was canceled—much to the disappointment of its loyal viewers—in 2005.

In the new documentary, Alda travels to three continents to interview leading archeologists, primatologists and neuroscientists in an attempt to discover what makes humans unique among species, how a tiny difference in our genes, for example, makes a huge difference in who we are and what we can do.

“I don’t try to explain their work to anyone,” Alda recently told The New York Times, “I just try to understand it.”

He also participates in the research; in one episode, for example, he submits to a highly detailed scan of his brain, which, we’re pleased to know, “is in remarkably good shape for a man in his early 70s.”

The series airs at 8 p.m. on three consecutive Wednesdays: Jan. 6, 13 and 20.

“We can’t promise we’ll find the human spark,” Alda says in a video introduction posted on the project’s website. “But we can promise that looking for it will be fascinating. And it may change the way you think about who you are.”

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