Olga the Magnificent - Thinking, Fast and Slow - Science & Islam

Hour One

Olga Kotelko is an athlete who excels in a number of track and field events, winning medals and beating the competition in contests all over the world.

She can also bench press weights that would challenge any man.

She's been a runner for many years.

One other thing: Olga Kotelko is 92 years old.

She has the physique, the strength and the stamina of someone 20 or more years younger.

She is so extraordinary that scientists who study the mysteries of aging are trying to unlock the secret of her longevity.

In our First Hour, a documentary portrait of Olga the Magnificent by John Chipman and a conversation about the secrets of aging or not.

Hour Two

The science of the mind in Hour Two.

Daniel Kahneman probably knows more about how we think and how we think we think, than anybody in the world.

He is a Nobel Prize winner and the author of the phenomenal best seller Thinking, Fast and Slow which is all about memory versus experience and intuition versus cognition.

A conversation which will alter your mind in our Second Hour.

Hour Three

Science and Islam in our Final Hour. Why are there so few scientific discoveries or inventions in the Islamic world? Or is asking the question an example of Western indifference to Islam and Science?

A conversation about religion and science in the Muslim world in Hour Three.

Elsewhere in the show: a young Canadian violin virtuoso pays homage top the Spaghetti Western, we explore the strange world of men and gifts and a defense of His Honour John Crosbie

Hour One

Olga the Magnificent:

Saying Olga Kotelko is aging well is a little like saying Wayne Gretzky was pretty good with the puck.

The track and field star owns 23 world records, has won more than 650 medals.

And she is 92 years old.

She took up track and field when she was 77.

If you go to a Masters World Championship anywhere on the plant, people will know who Olga Kotelko is. Medical scientists took note when they heard about Olga.

Research into aging is a relatively new field of study. Until 20 years ago, most researchers thought turning back the aging clock was impossible. Aging may be inevitable but more and more scientists believe how we age can be changed.

Unlocking the secrets of Olga's athletic prowess and remarkable longevity could mean future treatments for a host of age-related diseases, including dementia.

Here is John Chipman's documentary "Olga the Magnficent," follwed by a conversation about the research of aging with two experts in the field.

Judith Campisi is a professor with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California. The Buck Institute is America's first independent research facility focused solely on understanding the connection between aging and chronic disease. Its mission is to increase the healthy years of life. She was in her office.

Siegried Hekimi is a professor or genetics and aging at McGill. He was in our studio in Toronto.

Hour Two

Thinking, Fast and Slow:

Consider this question, if you will.

If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

For most people, an answer immediately springs to mind. That answer is 100 minutes. And that answer is wrong. The correct response is, of course, 5 minutes.

For Daniel Kahneman, getting that wrong answer is more than just a party trick. It's an exercise that helps explain what kind of mistakes in judgement we tend to make. And it also explains why.

Professor Kahneman is a Nobel laureate who's a professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University. But the award didn't come for his work in either one of those disciplines...- at least not directly. He won the 2002 Nobel Prize for Economics - and he's the only non-economist to ever win that prize.

Daniel Kahneman is one of the godfathers of "behavioural economics" - a school of thought with prominent followers you'll find everywhere from the Oval Office to the baseball diamond.

He's just laid out his theories in a new book called "Thinking, Fast and Slow," which is published by Doubleday Canada. Daniel Kahneman was in our Toronto studio.

Mail - Cancer Prevention:

If one thing has become obvious over the past couple of weeks, it's that there are as many different opinions about cancer as there are people listening to the radio.  Michael's conversation with two doctors - an oncologist and an epidemiologist - about cancer prevention sparked yet another avalanche of letters.  Here are a few of them.

Men Who Give Gifts:

With just 20 shopping days left until Christmas, the malls are packed with shoppers. And they almost all have a certain something in common. They are women.

Seven years ago, we at the Sunday Edition bravely revealed a truth that people...women to be exact...had been silent about for far too long . We sent the then-young documentary producer, Frank Faulk, out to rip the wrapping off widespread undercover activity, exploited labour and deception.

Remarkably - despite our hard-hitting expose - the practice continues. In fact, it shows no signs of ending at all. So here, once again is Frank's report, " Men Who Give Gifts And the Women Who Buy the Gifts Men Give."

Hour Three

Science and Islam:

One of the touchstones of the struggle between the west and Islam over the past couple of decades has centered on the question of ccience. Is Islam hostile to science, or even compatible with science?

Critics of Islam like to point to evidence and statistics that indicate that Islamic societies seriously lag behind western societies in the number of scientists, the amount of funding in science projects and education spending on science.

It is such a significant issue of perception that major papers are produced with titles such as Does Islam Stand Against Science? Other scholars struggle in vain to name a major scientific advance that emerged out of an Islamic culture.

Now the reality is of course that there are critics of religion out there, especially the scientific ones like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who don't see just Islam as a 'problem' but all religions, all religious world views. For the aggressively scientific atheist, religion is a force that needs to be expunged.

On the other hand, there are a large number of deeply religious individuals who believe that any science contrary to the word of God is obviously wrong and possibly the work of the devil.

But there seems to be something about Islam, especially in the last decade, that leads many of us to think that the religion is fundamentally anti-science while seemingly many devout Muslims believe that there is something intrinsicly anti-Islam about science.

This state of affairs is something Robert Morrison spends a lot of his time thinking about. Professor Morrison teaches religion at Bowdoin College in Brunswick Maine. He is an historian of science and an historian of Islam and the author of Islam and Science: The Intellectual Career of Nizam al-Dn al-Nsabur.

Earlier this fall, he delivered the Wiegand Lecture at the University of Toronto and his topic was: Islam, Science and the Importance of History.

Professor Morrison was in a Maine Public Broadcasting Network Studio in Portland Maine.

Mail: Huronia:

Last week, The Sunday Edition documentary producer David Gutnick told the story of former residents of the Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia, Ontario.  For a hundred and thirty three years, it was the largest of what were then called "homes for the mentally retarded." Today, twelve thousand of them are suing the Ontario government for what they say are years of neglect and abuse there.

Steven Tsitsos:

What do classical music and spaghetti have in common?  

Ask the young violin phenomenon from Thompson, Manitoba - Steven Tsitsos.

His new CD is called "Into the West", a tribute to Ennio Morricone and the music of the Spaghetti Western.

Steven Tsitsos grew up in the small northern  mining community of Thompson, Manitoba. He started taking piano and violin lessons when he was 10, a bit late in classical circles.  But just a year later, he was studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Now, at age 22, Steven Tsitsos is one of the most gifted young players in classical music.

At some point, when all that was going on, he developed a passion for the music of the Spaghetti Westerns, so-called because they were films shot on shoe-string budgets in Italy, with shoe-string plots to match.  

The most famous of these were three by director Sergio Leone and featuring Clint Eastwood as the Man With No Name:   "For a Fistful of Dollars", "For a Few Dollars More", and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".

All three films had musical scores by Ennio Morricone, and it is to this music that Steven Tsitsos pays tribute in his new CD, "Into the West", a kind of jazzy reconfiguring of those iconic themes.

Steven Tsitsos was in our studio in Winnipeg.

Winter Tales #5:

This year, on the 75th anniversary of the CBC and the Governor-General's Literary Awards, the CBC and the GG's have commissioned a series of original stories on the theme of winter.

Each is written by a past GG winner. 

This week, Douglas Glover reads from his story Snow Days - about that quintessentially Canadian experience of being snowbound.

Douglas Glover is the author of five books of stories and four novels, including Elle which won the Governor-General's Award for Fiction in 2003.

He was the editor of the annual, Best Canadian Stories, for a decade, between 1996 and 2006. He currently publishes the online magazine Numéro Cinq.

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