Writer, Broadcaster

Category: Science

Nora’s Mental Tune-Up

Here’s another fun bit I got to produce on the summer replacement show NEXT with host Nora Young and producer Alison Moss.

We hired actor Andrew Gillies (Orphan Black) to do these bits. I’d worked with Andrew before on my adaptation of Tom Godwin‘s The Cold Equations. Andrew had played the captain of the Stardust for us. Now he played a Scotsman trying to tune up Nora’s brain.

I’ve pasted the script below, with the actual produced bits at the bottom of each one.

Photo by David Cassolato from Pexels

Part One

NORA: It’s easy to spruce up your body… okay, well maybe not easy, but you do have the option of going to the gym and hiring a personal trainer.  But what about your brain?  What if you could give your brain a tune-up too?

SFX: WOOSH! INTO NORA’S BRAIN

SFX: GRINDING, SQUEALING GEARS OF A BRAIN OUT OF WHACK

McSCOTT: (THICK SCOTTISH BROGUE) Och! Listen to that.

NORA: What?  What is it?

 SFX: OBNOXIOUS WHIRRING

McSCOTT: It’s nae wonder you cannae do arithmetic in a brain like this.  Your neural net… it’s all gummed up.  Och, and that basil ganglia. (BLOWS ON SOMETHING)  Tsk tsk.

NORA: Oh my.

McSCOTT: But dinnae you worry, lass, I’ve seen worse.

NORA: You have?

McSCOTT: Aye.  This monkey once.  Couldn’t count to two if its life depended on it.

NORA: What did you do?

McSCOTT: Lipid soluble molecules past the blood brain barrier.  Before you knew it that monkey could count to five.  Nae… you leave it to me, lass…

SFX: Power Tool Roars to Life

McSCOTT:    You’ll be doin’ math in nae time.

SFX: EVERYTHING OUT WITH A WOOSH

 

Scottish Brain Guy Part One

Part Two

SFX: POWER TOOL SHUTTING OFF

SFX: BRAIN ONLY SLIGHTLY OUT OF WHACK

McSCOTT: That should do it.  Tell me, lass: are ya feelin’ at all perspicacious?

NORA: Excuse me?

McSCOTT: Peripatetic?  Cogitative?  Erudite, scholarly?  The least bit sagacious?

NORA: I’m sorry?

McSCOTT: Are ya feelin’ any smarter, lass.

NORA: Uhhh…

McSCOTT: I’m guessin’ that’s a “nae,” then.  Nae worries, got a few more tricks up me sleeve yet…

SFX:      SWOOSH OUT

Scottish Brain Guy Part Two
 

Part Three

SFX: BRAIN HOPELESSLY OUT OF WHACK

McSCOTT: Och!  It’s nae use.

NORA: No?

McSCOTT:    I kin make ya smarter…

NORA: Uh huh?

McSCOTT: But… but not without changin’ the fundamental chemistry of your brain.

NORA:      I see.

McSCOTT: But if you dinnae mind me sayin’ so…

NORA: Uh huh?

McSCOTT:     I think you’re just fine the way you are…

SFX: BUMPER

End

Scottish Brain Guy Part Three

Pandemic Questions

(Image courtesy of Pexels and Anna Shvets)

People love to tell me that there are no stupid questions.

Well, there are, and I ask them.

I think it’s important to ask questions. I think it’s especially important to ask questions even when you think they might be stupid. Chances are somebody else is wondering the same thing. And once you know the answer, you are less stupid than you were before.

So here’s a list of questions I have about the virus officially known to the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses as “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” and “SARS-CoV-2”, or simply as the disease Covid-19 to the rest of us.

I am under no illusion that any of these questions are particularly astute or original. Some of them are obvious; others might well be stupid. Some have probably already been answered. Others, I know, nobody has answered yet, though scientists and medical professionals the world over are hard at work trying to come up with answers.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s what I’ve been wondering about:

A pangolin
  1. Once you’ve had Covid-19, can you get it again?
  2. If you get it and do become immune, how long is that immunity likely to last?
  3. Are there different strains of Covid-19 out there? The answer appears to be yes, though the differences are minute. And it doesn’t appear that one is more dangerous than the other. Will yet more strains emerge? Might they be more or less dangerous? I would like to know.
  4. Considering that Covid-19 is a novel coronovirus, a new strain that has not previously been identified in humans, why do otherwise healthy people respond differently to it? Why do some succumb to it, others get very sick, others experience minor symptoms, and yet others show no symptoms at all? Not talking about the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions; just wondering why healthy people respond differently.
  5. Just how infectious is Covid-19? What are the actual odds of getting it if I’m talking to someone who’s infected and I foolishly touch my nose, eyes, or mouth? Will I definitely get it, or am I just likely to?
  6. How exactly did this begin? We know that its origin was natural. Apparently there are two primary possibilities. It could have evolved through natural selection in a non-human host (most likely a bat) and then jumped to humanity through an intermediate host (such as a pig). This is the most likely scenario, and if indeed this was the case, it could easily happen again. A less likely possibility is that a non-pathogenic version jumped to humans (from an animal such as a pangolin) and then, once inside humans, evolved a ruthless ability to bind to human cells, and became the super-villainous virus we all know and hate today.  So… which was it? Or was it some other natural phenomenon altogether? Whatever the case, what can we do to reduce the possibility of it occurring again?
  7. Approximately one third of the planet is currently in lockdown because of the pandemic. What are the rest doing?
  8. Are people still fighting wars while the pandemic rages? If so, where? And more importantly, why? And what will the impact of that be? Nothing good, I would imagine.
  9. Will there be a second pandemic wave? If the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu is any indication, the answer is yes. How do we prepare for that?
  10. When will it be safe to emerge from our homes? The Spanish Flu pandemic lasted two years (though the worst of it was one three month period in 1918). We know more than we knew then. We are responding in an unprecedented fashion pretty much worldwide. One has to hope this will result in a much better outcome.

If I stumble upon any answers, I’ll let you know.

The Great Bookshelf Tour — First Stop

First stop on the Great Bookshelf Tour…

Author Robert Charles Wilson recently started a virtual tour of his bookshelves. I thought this was a good idea, a bit of a distraction from everything going on, and thought I’d join in. The contents may be somewhat embarrassing (among other things… I mean really, who cares about my bookshelf? forgive me; I’m suffering from cabin fever and slowly going mad) but I’m just going to let it all hang out. So without further ado, we’ll begin with the top left hand corner of my primary bookshelf, along with a few words of explanation.

I live in a bungalow, and I don’t live there alone, so the books I hang onto are routinely and ruthlessly pruned. Every book and object I retain is there for a damned good reason. Many books date back to my childhood, so they’re either really, really good, or there for powerful sentimental reasons. (I will note at this point that the decorations adorning my bookshelf are courtesy of a certain Loved One with whom I do not argue, and I appreciate the beautification.)

On the far left are magazines and anthologies that have featured my short stories over the years. Past that, Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man. Really have to re-read that one again soon. Then James Gleick… love this guys work every since reading his biography on Richard Feynman. And I love time travel.

Which brings us to my James Blish Star Trek Collection. Started gathering these when I was eleven. Took another three of four years to get them all. I’m probably one of the few people who read most Star Trek episodes before ever seeing them. And I’ve loved James Blish ever since. (Surface Tension, anyone?) Note the original Trek novel Blish penned at the end there, Spock Must Die, the first adult Trek novel ever written (clocking in at 118 pages) until 1976. To me, Blish was canon. Somewhere in his Star Trek writing, possibly Spock Must Die (though I can’t find it just now) I distinctly remember Blish giving Kirk the middle name “Thaius” instead of “Tiberius.” Nobody had bothered to tell him what the “T” stood for so he just made something up. So to me that’s Kirk’s real middle name.

Next up we come to one of my favourite books of all time, The Postman, by David Brin. It’s one of only three books I’ve read in a single sitting in my entire life (the others are Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and Replay by Ken Grimwood). I was so excited to see the movie version of The Postman that I drove from Summerside PEI to Charlottetown during a terrible snowstorm to see it, dragging my father and sister Susan Rodgers long as well. And then sank lower and lower in my seat as I realized what a botch they’d made of it. I had the opportunity to talk to David Brin about it a few years later. He told me that filmmakers got one thing right about the book: they captured the heart. Everything else they got wrong.

One of my faves as a kid

Hidden behind the figurine of the girl is The Radio Planet by Ralph Milne Farley, originally published as a serial in Argosy All-Story Weekly in 1926. It’s a sentimental fave. I haven’t re-read it in a few decades, but I remember loving it as a kid. Below is a picture of the cover.

Beside that is Starrigger, by John DeChancie. I found it in a used bookstore in Whitby one day and enjoyed it. I think it’s a series, and this one isn’t even the first one. Always figured I’d find and read another in the series someday, but never have.

Finally we have All the Bells on Earth by James P. Blaylock, friend of one of my favourite authors, Tim Powers, the two of them mentored by and friends with Philip K. Dick. I enjoyed this book and hang onto it intending to re-read it someday. And I really need to read more Blaylock.

And thus we come to the end of this, the first portion of the Great Facebook Bookshelf Tour. 

What’s on yours, and why?

Other Stops on the Tour

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