The man who mistook his blog for a manifesto

Driving home today I was revisiting my favorite podcast, Radiolab.  It is fantastically well done storytelling that tends to live in the science space that I love.   I've never fallen so fast and so deeply into something as I did with Radiolab, I felt like I was freebasing it, just consuming it as quickly as I could.  It's one of the only podcasts that I routinely revisit stories that I've already listened to over and over.

Through Radiolab's stories, I was introduced to someone whom I am kicking myself for not mentioning in yesterday's blog post when I was listing science communicators, Dr. Oliver Sacks.  

You may not realize that you know of Dr. Sacks.  His first book as a neurologist, Awakenings, was made into a major motion picture with Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. I don't know if I realized it at the time, but this was "based on a true story".   It is quite a good film, and one that stuck with me throughout my life.

His style, not just reporting on the scientific facts of a case, but telling the story of the patient, the patient's feelings and journey, in beautiful prose split the scientific community.  Some felt his style was fame seeking, others looked at it as a throwback to 19th century medical histories.  Either way, his long and storied career came to a close very recently when he lost his battle with cancer.

So why am I putting together a post on him on an Epcot and Disney based blog?  Well, firstly, because I want to.  Secondly as a mea culpa for not mentioning him in yesterday's post.

More importantly however is how his writing style really fit hand and hand with what is missing from Epcot today.  He was able to take scientific topics and through narrative and wonderful writing, get us to connect with his patients in a deep way.  He took subjects that for the most part are treated as clinical and unemotional and he let us connect with the topic in a way that we can get not just the science, but what it means to us at a human level as well.

This is something that I think the designers of Epcot Center knew well.  They knew that science only takes you so far, but narrative and emotion (laughter, awe, excitement) are what form the bond with the individual that sticks with them.

Here is one of many appearances of Dr. Sacks on Radiolab, and I cannot recommend digging up the rest highly enough.  

His many books can be found on Amazon, his writing in the NY Times, and on quite a few Radiolab podcasts.   His autobiography was my Father's Day present this year, and sits on my nightstand.  

The Land supplemental material

After writing Monday's post on The Land and touching on the use of water in agriculture, I coincidentally stumbled into some information that I thought tied in very closely to my post.

First, I linked to this on Twitter, but would be remiss if I didn't mention the phenomenal work done at The Epcot Legacy on their Future World Soundtrack Series (specifically The Land for this post).  Download and donate, you'll be happy you did.  Now, on to the supplemental material.

I'm a massive podcast listener, I listen through my commute every day, while I work out, and pretty much any time I feel I can concentrate on the material being presented.  The TED Radio Hour is one I've subscribed to, but haven't listened to much, mainly because I had other podcasts I was catching up on.  Yesterday morning, while on the train, I randomly picked one episode of the TED Radio Hour ("Finite") and part of it dealt with water use in agriculture.  It fits in very well as a companion piece, and honestly should be a point of focus on Living with the Land, as we tour the greenhouse, so that more people understand the issue.  If anyone is interested, here is the full TED talk from Jon Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota.

Also, while I'm here, there is a good episode of NPR's Planet Money on the subject as well.  This one about the water usage in California agriculture, especially timely because of the drought.  It covers farmer's usage of water to grow water-needy crops like Almonds and the pros/cons of draining their existing aquifers to grow these crops that are in high demand.

To continue along the podcast trail, there is a 2 part StarTalk Radio (live) with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, where he speaks about water and the current/upcoming problems with a cast including Robert F Kennedy Jr.  who works with the Waterkeeper Alliance.

If you are into this kind of thing, and know of more interesting stories, articles, podcasts, videos, etc, please feel free to drop them to me in the comments or via email/facebook/twitter.  I'd love to continue to explore this.