Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Media: Quirks and Quarks 35th Anniversary

Ten scientists joined host Bob McDonald for the taping of the Quirks and Quarks 35th anniversary show at the Glenn Gould studio in Toronto, Ontario on 2-November-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - The first Canadian radio show that made it into my permanent listening habits was CBC Radio One's science show, Quirks and Quarks. The program, traditionally airing at noon on Saturday, is only a matter of months younger than I am. While I didn't discover it until 1993, it had been airing since 1975, meaning that it turns 35 this fall.

Host Bob McDonald introduced the 35th anniversary Quirks and Quarks taping to a live audience in Toronto, Ontario on 2-November-2010

Originally hosted by David Suzuki (its second host, Jay Ingram was in attendance), the program has been hosted for the last 19 seasons by Bob McDonald, whose enthusiasm for space and physics and propensity to use very simple props in television appearances has inspired considerable satire. To open the evening, McDonald asked questions based on this season's programming and gave away Quirks and Quarks t-shirts; a particularly smart couple sitting in front of me each won a shirt to go along with the "Corporate Ladder" puzzles given to each attendee.

Each attendee of the 35th anniversary taping of Quirks and Quarks received a "Corporate Ladder" puzzle seen on 2-November-2010

The audience of the show, and in particular this taping, tends to be quite educated and technology-savvy. Quirks and Quarks was the first CBC show to offer on-line streaming audio, MP3 downloads, and a podcast--I remember each. High-powered scientists fit right in the group--someone who turned out to be geneticist Marla Sokolowski actually spent some time with the general audience line trying to figure out where she should go as a guest on the show!

Geneticist Marla Sokolowski spoke with host Bob McDonald during the 35th anniversary show of Quirks and Quarks on 2-November-2010

The person that really stole the show, though, was Dr. Lee Smolin. The theme of the show was the greatest change or discovery in a variety of fields in the 35 years that Quirks and Quarks had been broadcasting. Smolin stated that for basic physics, the biggest surprise was that there had been no surprises in those 35 years--relativity theory had largely held up, and no unified theory had emerged. What resulted was a wonderful exchange between host McDonald questioning whether the field was progressing and Smolin talking about his excitement about experiments about to be run in supercolliders.

Lee Smolin and host Bob McDonald shared enthusiasm for physics in a great exchange during the 35th anniversary show of Quirks and Quarks on 2-November-2010

Quirks and Quarks may last another 35 years. In her introduction, Denise Donlon, Executive Director of English Radio Services, pointed out that the Australian science radio show on ABC, The Science Show, is equal in age with Quirks and Quarks, and she wants the CBC show to last longer. In any event, the 35th anniversary show itself will air on 13-November-2010.

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