Quirks & Quarks

Dec 17: Our annual holiday book show, including the health hazards of space travel and more

A history of COVID-19 and the neuroscience of religion.

A history of COVID-19 and the neuroscience of religion.

A stock photo featuring a man sitting on a couch, reading a book, a green mug in his hand.
The holiday season is the perfect time to read a good book while having a warm drink. (antoniodiaz / Shutterstock)

On this week's special edition of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald:

A Canadian astronaut explains the toll space travel takes on the human body 

It's enough to make you think it's not a good idea. In a new book retired Canadian astronaut and physician Dave Williams, with co-author Elizabeth Howell, look at how time in the microgravity environment of space affects our nervous system, circulation, bones, muscles, immune system and more. The takeaway? If we want to live in space, we need to figure out how to be healthier there. The book is called Why am I Taller? What Happens to an Astronaut's Body in Space.


A neuroscientist asks: Do we long for a divine creator or do we just want our mommies?

Where do religious beliefs come from? Can this force that's shaped societies and cultures around the world even be explained by science? Dr. John Wathey thinks so, and he has a provocative theory for what he describes as the illusion of a deity's presence. In his new book, he argues the feeling some people describe as their connection to a god stems from the same neural circuitry behind a baby's love for their mother. His new book is called, The Phantom God: What neuroscience reveals about the compulsion to believe.


A medical historian looks at the historical echoes of the past in the pandemic of the present

Three years ago, when the COVID‐19 pandemic upended the world, many people were taken by surprise. But for people like medical historian Dr. Jacalyn Duffin, much of what has happened over the past few years was totally predictable. Her new book COVID-19: a History looks at how COVID compares to our previous experiences with disease outbreaks, comparing those events with how this novel Coronavirus spread around the world, the good and the bad of how we tried to stop it, and what we need to work on for when the next pandemic rolls around.


Dan Falk reviews:

As Gods: A Moral History of the Genetic Age, by Matthew Cobb, which delves into the continuing and unresolved ethical debates around quickly advancing genetic technologies.

Jo Wimpenny's Aesop's Animals, which takes a modern natural history perspective on the iconic animals of Aesop's Fables 

James Poskett's book, Horizons: A Global History of Science which explores the often unappreciated history of science outside the western tradition.

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