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tv   Book TV In Depth  CSPAN  July 7, 2013 12:00pm-3:01pm EDT

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>> you're watching 48 hours of nonfiction authors and books on the c-span2 book tv. >> the next three hours a your chance to talk with author and journalist marry roche. a popular explorer of taboos and topics will talk about living in space in zero gravity trying to prove the existence of an afterlife and the strange world of the human digestive system. the author of five books including best sellers. >> how did elvis died? >> there are different theories. ..
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i spent a day with elvis presley's doctors and learned about this troubles with severe constipation. >> host: who was his doctor. >> guest: doctor nick copolus. >> host: what was that like? cincinnati was lovely. the anniversary of elvis' death. always a gathering of all of elvis' hard core fans who come to grace happen and they were milling around. -- nick was doing a memorial tribute. then i went over to his house, the house that elvis had built for him in the '70s, and doctor
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nick and i sat around in the living room of this wonderful 1970 -- at the time very, very posh place, great big rooms, and we sat there, doctor nick here and his wife, edna, and edna would be -- the furniture was quite far apart and i would try to lean down to put my coffee -- i'd have to get up to get the coffee cup down, and we talk about elvis, and every now and then edna, from -- would pop up with an observation or comment about priscilla presley or -- a dispatch from edna. >> host: what did you learn from doctor nick? >> guest: i was there to talk about -- well, i should explain to people, gulp is thed a ventures on the al meantry
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candle. >> you hear about people who die on the thrown, so i was interested in this notion, because everybody -- most people assume it was drugs that -- it was an overdose that killed elvis, and in fact he certainly took a lot of drugs and that didn't help but the actual moment of death as far as i could tell from the autopsy, from the cause of death was a fatal heart arrhythmia, which can come on when somebody is pushing, straining at stools, so the moment of death would have appeared to have been defecation associated. so i thought i need to talk to doctor nick, man in his 80s now, and invited me in and we
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chatted about elvis and constipation and things. >> host: where did you get the idea to write "gulp." >> guest: it's kind of a wonder i didn't write about this topic before. it's kind of a taboo subject, and i enjoy writing about taboo topics that -- particularly that relate to the human body, partly because it's fun to play with taboo because everybody stays away from it. therefore all the more for me to play with. i'm a bottom feeder of nonfiction. so i'll take that? you don't want to? i'll do it. and because it's taboo, people -- anything that is taken away and made taboo, people are secretly fascinated with. it's kind of like somebody says, you know, you're on a diet that you can't have any desserts or whatever ask that's the thing you crave. so people are both repulsed and
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drawn to it, and kind of want to peek behind the curtain. so i'm pulling the curtain apart for people. and i also -- i think when it's your own body you're talking about, the taboo does it a disservice because sometimes people have health concerns and issues they don't feel comfortable even talking to their doctor about, like elvis presley's problems. those are things that, because it's taboo, people don't want to bring it up, feel embarrassed. constipation is embarrassing to talk about. >> host: you write there's a feeling hey had ten times, a mix of wonder, privilege, human hue milt, and all that borders on fear. i felt it in the fields of snow on the outskirts of fairbanks, alaska, with the northern lights so seemingly close, i drop my knees. i look tub sparkling smear of
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our galaxy. what experience were you having win you wrote this? what made you have that feeling? >> guest: well, i decided to get my first colonoscopy without any drugs, because i wanted to see what it looked like in there because my feeling was, this is your own body and here's this opportunity, this very, very rare opportunity to see these miraculous parts of you that are day in and day out keeping you alive and doing these amazing things, and i thought, okay, i'm going to observe this. i'm going to see my own colon, and i expected to feel the emotions that i'm describing there in the passage that you just read. when in fact i felt mild to moderate cramping. but -- anyway, that had been my hope, it would be this kind of transcendent experience, and it was actually very -- it was an
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amazing thing to witness. however, the intermittent sharp pain and discomfort kind of distracted me from my goal of lofty feelings. >> host: mary roach, there's national museum of health and medicine here in washington, dc? waste there? >> guest: the home of the mega colon, which inspired the trip to memphis to visit with doctor nick. elvis' physician, personal physician, for many years. so, that is the mega kole lop that brought on this whole chapter. >> host: what is bonk mean? >> guest: bonk is slang for sexual intercourse. i have to say, though, people are going to start calling going, excuse me, i believe you misspelled the title of your book, it's bunk, not bonk, to which i replay it is both. bonk is a little more common in the uk. but i grew up in new england and to me boink is a silly word, and
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bonk is like -- an an an -- people write me and say, p.s., i think it's boink, as if that made it past the copy editor and nobody noticed the title had been misspelled but enough people complained that i made up for a book tour a little yellow letter i that had a peel and stick letter i and i would have also bowl of that people would take and apply to the cover of the book if really bothered them i used bonk instead of boink. >> host: what did you reserve? >> guest: it's a book about sex labs, and this is a book about people, brave souls who studied the physiology of sex, not
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generalster -- jury gender stuff but the bio organics, arousal and intercourse, and this is a human system and deserves like any other human system to be stud yesterday and understood, and for centuries nobody did that. it wasn't until the well, masters and johnson and kinsey got it rolling in earness -- ernest, and nobody wanted to get there. so i look at brave souls who went there. >> host: how significant were the masters and johnson and kinsey studies? >> guest: well, kinsey was more -- hence si's contribution has had to do with -- he had people come in and do a long, not unlike this three-hour
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interview -- he would do this expense stiff interview about sexual habits. what do you due, who, how many times, what position, really very specific personal questions about people's sexuality. and he published these two volumes and that was quite controversial the things he uncovered. so that was mostly what -- however, he did get interested in -- we're talking -- this is the '40s and '50s and he did bring people up to the attic of his house in indiana and the attic sessions were essentially him with a movie camera and a note pad observing, taking notes and answering certain questions he hads' studying the responses; but the work was never published in any journal or anywhere else. it was -- he didn't have an institute. wasn't wearing a white coat. now fast forward to masters and johnson. they actually -- this is in the
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50s, mind you -- brought volunteers in to be observed, and sometimes it was couples, sometimes it was one person and they took tremendous -- they were documenting the entire sexual response cycle in men and women, like beginning stages of arousal, plateau, orgasm, and to published this book, the human sexual response, in the '50s or -- but at a time when it was really scandalous, and they had gone out of their way to dress it up in the trappings of formal signs, -- formal science. they came up with euphemisms things. the couple having sex would be the lasting unit. if the man lost his erection it would be the failure, and
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pornography was stimulant. and the book is absolutely not titillating. it's a big book and it's very thorough. nonetheless, even though there's nothing scandalous in there, that they had so much hate mail they had to hire a second secretary to handle all of the hate mail. so my hats off to them. it was a tremendously brave thing to do at the time. a very conservative era. nothing like this had ever been done. and they did it. and they got people to come into the lab. that was the amazing thing. i would -- i would have loved to interview some of their subjects but they were anonymous and masters and johnson were fiercely protective of their identities and if you have -- i was going to put an ad in the paper saying, if you were one of those subjects, please contact me. and some of the people said if you do that and we have tried, you will get people pretending
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to have been subjects who will just want tell you these sort of titillating and absolutely false stories. so, i thought, well, how can i kind of -- how can i get across to people what -- i wanted to know, what would that have been like to -- it's an extraordinarily awkward situation to be in a laboratory setting with somebody in a white coat with a note pad, who is going to say, okay, now, remove your clothes and proceed to do what you orderly do. don't mind us. pretend we're not here. so the way i got around that is -- i did find somebody who was -- it's not common these days -- not very many studies where two people are required. if you're studying arousal or orgasm, whatever it is, you can do that with one person if you know what i mean. you don't necessarily have to have two people. so i did find one study, and i
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asked -- wait as dr. dang in london, four-dimensional ultrasound imaging stud where where they can make a four dimensional film of the body parts in question, and i e-mailed dr. deng and i said i'm very interested in this next project you have. this was a legitimate research venture. and i said, i'm really interested in this historic undertaking. could i be there? in the room? and he wrote back right away and he said, well, you -- yes, you could, but unfortunately we're having difficulty finding a brave couple for intimate study. so, if you -- your organization would like to provide a volunteer, i'd be happy to arrange it. so my organization called its
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husband and i believe the way i phrased it was not entirely forthcoming. said to ed, you know how you said you haven't been to london in 25 years, and let's go, and i'll take care of everything. we'll stay in a nice hotel, see some nice plays jeremy irons, we have to have sex in from of a guy in a white coat. go to stone hedge, and in that way i -- my husband, ed, is -- he is a wonderful capacity for denial. so, he sort of latched on to the, hey, we are going to lon don, this will be great, and did not even thing about the segment in which we were going to have to -- and this is ultrasound, people say you were filmed in an mri tube. no, it wasn't a tube. in that case you would have
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privacy. cramped and uncomfortable but privacy. with ultrasound, the guy is right here with the wand. so, it was a tremendously awkward experience that at the same time i was thinking ex-this will be so fun to write. so much fun to write up. it was less -- my husband, ed, deserves a medal for this. he didn't have any silver lining like that. for him it was just a really awkward thing, and of course the burden of performance is on him. and i -- yeah. i could go into more detail but i don't think we need to probably right here. >> host: in your first book, stiff, the lives human cadavers. the first line is the human head is the approximate sight and weight of a roaster chicken.
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>> guest: this is a book about postmortem careers. people who donated their bodies to science. science research, education, and kind of the -- some of the more unusual places they ended up. people are familiar with anatomy. classes and dissection, but there's a lot of other things that dead people have gotten up to over the years that are quite fascinating. one of them is that surgeons will use cadavers to practice on, and to learn techniques or to refresh themselves and to practice -- to basically -- you don't want to practice on a live person. so the dead are useful for practicing, and the place i went was a seminar for facial and reconstructive surgeons, and they were practicing some techniques on heads, and people think, why didn't they have the whole body? the thing is, with cadaver
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research, you don't want to waste usable tissue, so you would -- the head would be in liaison instructive surgery lab, the arm might be in a test of a power window to make sure that the -- somebody's hand were in it, it's not going to cause an injury. the legs might be -- anyway, you can be in five places at once as a research cadaver. which i think is kind of a -- the ultimate multitasking. so, anyway, the heads. the heads were -- they had them set up -- a long-winded answer to you. they were in roasting pans of the sort that you would use to roast a chicken, and because in fact they're about the same size. so i happened to make that observe vacation because -- on sirration because there were 30 heads in roasting pans in this surgical training seminar i was at in texas. >> host: who donates their
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bodies? that people who go nate their bodies ten to be people like myself, kind of practical, utilitarian, cheap. they -- it's door-to-door service. you can do a service if you want to but you don't have to. so they'll pick you up and you go -- plus you get sort of wonderful feeling of having helped -- making a donation to science, contribution to science. >> host: tax deductible? >> guest: you know, that would require putting a value on a dead body, and if you -- which is an interesting issue because dead bodies are kind of like cards -- cars. part by part. if you add up what each individual part costs, and add them up, it's a far greater
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number than it would be just for a whole body. so, it's difficult to put a figure actually on it. should the irs audit -- well, see, the irs -- they're not going to audit you on this. going to be a really strange scenario if they audit you after -- beyond the grave. >> host: is there a shortage of dead bodies for surgeons, et cetera? >> guest: yes and no. people -- depending on where you live, because if you're in -- if you live somewhere near, say, stanford or harvard, people love to donate to those schools. it's kind of like you can say, i'm going to harvard. i've often thought the people who run the real body program should have t-shirts made up that say i'm going to harvard, the hard sadr will body program. and it's funny. there can be two medical schools close by. i think there's duke and then
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there's another smaller college that has medical school. but it doesn't have the same prestige, so duke is always sort of quietly giving their surplus. so they're regional surpluses and deficits. some places have plenty of bodies, others are always scrambling to get more bodies. >> host: in "stiff: the cure you lives" you write it makes little sense to try to control what happen to your remain when you're no longer around to reap the joys or benefits of that control. people who make elaborate requests concern disposition signifies of their bodies are probably people who have trouble with the concept of not existing. >> guest: yes. that is the number one reason in my experience, that people fight -- they're not going to donate -- they don't want to donate their body to science to research. they say i want to be able to say what it's used for. i want to cure cancer.
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i don't want to be used in a plastic surgery seminar or whatever. people want to exert control over the circumstances. though they are no longer in the circumstances at the time. so, it's in a way a way -- it's a way of still being around. people don't -- people have a lot of difficulty with the prospect of no longer being around. of course, you're not going to be around to care or take issue, so it doesn't make -- it's not a rational thing. and i know the feeling. people are you going to donated your body to science in and i have to say i have the paperwork for stanford and for ucsf medical school, the two schools within the radius of where i live in the bay area. so i have the paperwork but haven't filled it out.
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i'm sort of deciding where i want to go and what's the view like from the anatomy lab and what are the facilities and how am i going to be stored? who cares. i'm dead. but i have that irrational kind of desire to -- and i also think it's interesting. i haven't pulled the trigger. i haven't filled out the form, signed and it turned it. it is my intent, and as the author of "stiff" kind of have to to be cremated now seems wrong. but i haven't quite got -- >> host: the last chapter is, remains of the author, will she or won't she? is the title. mary roach, you write, though, you're also concerned about ed. >> guest: yes. >> host: and his take on your being donated. >> guest: yes. ed is my husband, and ed is a
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very squeamish man and the thought of me being on a table -- for him it's like, die get to keep my underwear on? that's what he is focused on. don't want to take my underwear off. plus you're dead you look like crap. so that's his concern. but to me, the thought of me being parceled out and used was disturbing to him. and one of the things i realized in talking to medical ethicists and various people is that the wishes of the living are more important than the wishes of the dead. i guess somebody said, if somebody leaves elaborate plans for what is to be done with their remains that has a tremendous impact on the living, the people who just lost their loved one. so it's hard enough to cope with the loss, and then if you find out they wanted to be donated to science and they're going to be
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used in some kind of research or experimentation or whatever it is and that an upsetting thing for the family. the people who work in willed body programs will usually go -- take the side of the living because the dead, let's face it, they're dead, and the living still have emotions and things to deal with. and so when that -- and that circumstance does occasionally present itself, where the family is just very, very uncomfortable with the wishes of the deceased to go to an anatomy lab or be used in medical research. it's just very upsetting for them. and in that case the body wouldn't be. it's not like the university is going to pull the body away from the -- it's horrible, traumatic tug of war going on. it's not. they let it go. they understand. >> host: being caught in possession of a corpse is cuff links is a crime but being caught with the corpse itself
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carried no penalties. what kind of laws there are regarding body snatching corpses, et cetera. >> guest: yes. in body snatching is -- grave robbing was the practice of stealing somebody's cuff linkses or the family heirloom, the jewel to stake the stuff of value. for centuries there was no need to have a law about body snatching because who, let's face it, wants to go to the trouble of digging up a grave to pull up a dead body. there was no value. so no value in a dead body. then with the dawn of anatomy schools, anatomy schools, they needed dead bodies. they needed to have material for dissection. and no one back then filled out a will body form and donated their body to science. so, if you wanted to study the
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human body, you wanted to teach anatomy, you had to pay a body snatcher, a resurrectionist was another term. these are folks who would go into cemeteries, and they would have been casing the cemetery because you have to be a fresh body. has to be one that's just been buried. they don't want to practice dissection on a decomposed body, and a skeleton would be useless. so they're looking for a fresh grave and come in late at night and dig up the body and take it over to the anatomy school and they would be paid for the bodies and they did quite well. they were -- i have a number in "stiff" of the number of part fulltime resurrectionist employed in london, and i don't remember that number but let's say it was a popular way to make a living. and even then there was a showing -- some of the schools
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back then, at least one instance where you could pay part of your tuition in bodies. you could, as a student -- students -- it's a midnight prank, dig up a grave, get the body, bring it in and then get tuition credit. get a discount on tuition. >> host: you write that the instructors became known as the kind of guys who whom you could caketake your son's amputated leg and sell it for beer money. 37-1/2 cents. happened in rochester, new york in 1831. >> welcome to book tv's in depth on this holiday weekend. our guest is author mary roach. and she began writing books in 2003 and that first book is "stiff." all the books on "the new york times" best sellers. second book, spooked. science tackles the afterlife. bonk came out in 2008.
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packing for mars, and her most recent just came out, a month or two ago, gulp, adventure in the al -- al meantry canal. here's the numbers to call. you can e-mail us as booktv or our twitter feed. >> mary roach, where did you grow up and when did you become a writer and, again, why the topics you pick? when did you start being interested in this stuff? >> guest: i grew up in -- well, i was born in handover, new hampshire, and grew up in that area. the upper valley, which includes a rural town in vermont, right on the other side of the riff.
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-- of the river so i grew up in a small town, college town, dartmouth is there. we weren't in downtown. we were in it ma -- aetna, my father was assays isn't professor and we can't afford the fancy houses and we were in aetna. and i loved aetna. aetna is where i spent most of my junior high and high school. that's where i was. i did not have a desire to be a writer. i didn't give any thought to my career all the way through senior year of college. i just thought, i had this sense of, well, i -- i went -- someone will see i'm this special kind of person with a lot of potential to do something, and i really had not a clue.
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i had -- okay, when i was in sixth grade i had a desire to be the person, when you have -- when you write a letter to a company, say, like, scrubbing bubbles, hello, really love scrubbing bubbles. do you make a wining scrubbing bubble? the person who wrote the letters back. i thought it would be fun to be the person -- i think you call it corporate communications now? i had that -- that was something i thought would be fun to do. that's as far as i -- i never wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, a writer, actress. i never gave -- just never gave it any thought. >> host: so after you left wesleyan, what happened. >> i got in a driveaway car -- they might still have driveaway car. a service kind of a shady service, where somebody says a
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car -- they leave on the east coast and moving to the west coast and they want to get their car as cheaply as possible. you as a college student or a very -- someone without a love of funds funds and want to travl across country you volunteer to drive the car. you're not paid but you get a free car to use, and then the poor person on the other end receives this car that's been run down, taken out the toe death valley and back, the odometer turned back. we had had an olds cut last people and i remember the rearview mirror fell off. and i came out in a driveaway car with two friends, just because i'd heard san francisco was kind of a cool place and there was this thing called dim sum, where they pushed carts around with chinese food and you would point to what you wanted then the cart and this seemed
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impossibly exotic because there was no chinese food in aetna at the time. and the ocean was there. and just sounded kind of exotic so off i went to san francisco, with no clue what i would do to make a living. but back then you just got a job as a waitress, market research, catering. all that stuff you can kind of do to pay the rent. my rent was $185. i lived at the corner of haight and ash bury in the haight. >> what would that cost today to live there? >> god. the rents in san francisco now -- yeah, just one room, probably 2,000 bucks. well, maybe not that high for one room, maybe a thousand bucks. i haven't checked out the reps lately. >> host: did you began wishing for san francisco zoo?
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>> guest: yeah. i got a job at the san francisco sow -- suologial society and i was the pub affairs assistant. a public relations job and i realized i'm not cut out for public relations because this is what would happen. i would -- we took all the calls from the press, and so every now and then, because the public -- the zookeepers and the society, the hsiehologyal society, a certain amount of ill will in between and my boss -- anyway, the supercoppers would kell the press something. i would get a call, the cheetah was sucked dry by fleas and i was damage control. i would like, deny, spin,
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anything. but what i would do i would be like, really? okay, how much blood in one flea and how much blood in a cheetah. howeathld take. and i would be on at the tangent and taking the side of the reporter, completely abandoning my job, which was to mitigate the damage and deny or whatever or stall or whatever, anything. to keep us out of the press in a beside light. so, i didn't last very long. but it was very fun job. i worked in a trailer by governorll -- gorilla world, and people would say, is this gorilla world? and i'd like, not quite. >> oo i how didout get from there to "stiff" in 2003.
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i worked for magazines. i was free lance writer. the zoo job was half time so i was doing some freelance writing while i worked there which is a nice way to transition to freelance. i didn't go cold turkey from fulltime to freelance, which even back then was tough row to hoe. so i would write for the san francisco examiner sunday magazine. that's where i got my start, free lansing for -- freelancing for them. i decide a little commercial writing. i wrote nor original banana republic, and army pants from india and by the tame i came to the job, the clothing was not being found in exotic places. was made to look like it was found in exotic places and then
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we have to come up with stories for the clothes, little story. >> host: so you had make those stories up? >> guest: i'm saying we made those stories up. yes. >> host: david chow from new york city e-mails: miss roach do you consider your work and findings to be scientific? how would you define signs to be differentiated from work which does not conform in this method? >> guest: do i consider my work to be scientific? i consider -- what i do is i report on work that is scientific. i think of scientific as in you're doing formal research published in journals. so i am reporting on the scientific material published in journals. what was the second half of that? i think do. >> host: i think that was the point. whether or not you consider your work to be scientific. >> guest: yeah. well no because i guess the word scientific to me suggests you
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are a scientist who is doing formal research that will be published in scientific journals or science journals. >> host: there is life after death? >> guest: i don't know. i just wrote a book on it. >> host: what's your conclusion from your research? >> guest: you know what? this -- "spook," my second book, it wasn't -- i knew from the get-go it was unlikely that mary roach, with her b.a. in psychology, was going to be the person who, after all these millenia, would pin down the definitive answer to the question, what happens to us after we die? i became fascinated -- and this started with a chapter in "stiff" that had to do with people looking at -- people trying to physically find the soul in a body. they would take a body and --
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part of early dissection was looking around for -- at all these bits and pieces and going, is this the center of the being? is this the soul? and a lot of that work was obviously in the head because people very early on could tell, with a head injury, something happens to someone's essence. they're no longer themselves. they change. or they disappear. so, the head was the place that people looked. in that chapter on the physically looking for the soul, i got interested in this motion you could use scientific method, you could apply that to something as ethereal as the spirit or the soul. there are different ways to go about that. but bringing that search and that question into a laboratory setting i found fascinated. so i was interested in the techniques and the people, and what they had done to go at that question, rather than setting
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out to provide the definitive answer for people. i think that when you look at the question, what happens when we die? religion is a better place for you to search than science right now. partly because it's very difficult to -- how do you define the soul? how do you define spirit? what are you looking at? like trying to bring love into a laboratory setting. you need to -- for your subject pool you need to find people who are or aren't in love. well, if you leave it up to them, how do you know what that person is experiencing this same as what this person is? there's no way to quantify it. there's no way to be sure everybody is experiencing the same thing. so likewise with a soul or spirit, what are we talking about here? so, it's a problematic area to bring into the lab, but a fascinating one. so that is what the book was about. >> host: explored the 21 grams.
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>> guest: yeah. yeah. that notion of 21 grams comes from a physician, duncan mcdougal, in the 1900's, worked in a tuberculosis sanitarium. and sadly there were a lot of -- a lot of people were dying he had a reddy subject pool to work with. and he had this idea that you might be able to prove that the soul has substance by putting somebody on a very sensitive scale as they die, and at the moment they die you look at the needle and see if it goes down just a tiny little bit. so very primitive way to go at it, but, yeah, i just loved the fact that he decided to do it and he did it. he built -- it was -- he had an industrial scale and he outfitted it with kind of a cot and he would install these patients who were -- you can tell when somebody is going
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to -- is dying. so, you can tell when somebody is in the exodus mode as my mother's physician once put it. you can tell. so they installed the people on there, and he'd look at it. it was a very fraught experiment. the word got out in the community. people who felt this was inappropriate, who at one point nurse and that -- one point burst in and then he was having trouble zeroing the scale. so one clearcut case where he claims the needle went down 21 grams. so, that's where that comes from. >> in "spook" you write, a belief is not something you are born into or you simply choose to adopt. belief calls for plausibility for me. >> guest: that's just me. i was the kind of kid, my mother was a catholic. raised in a very -- catholicism
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was very important to the family. i have a photograph of my great-grandmother, who had built into the-her doorway, her own holy water supply. the local priest was giving her, her own supply. my mother -- my grandmother wanted my mother to become a nun. catholicism was very important on that side of my family. my mother was endless source of frustration for her that it didn't take with me. i was the kind of kid -- my mom would read to me from the bible at night, and i was the kind of kid that she read about when the walls came down and the priests were trumping, and i said, isn't it possible there was, a earthquake at the same time? the hornes could have been a coincidence. i was that kind of annoying kid. jesus walked on the water.
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what about if there's a hole -- the surface wag was a couple inches be the water. did you really -- did anybody go in the water and look at what was under there? i was that kind of kid. even though i didn't go into science, i didn't major in science. it was just a -- i guess i'm just wired that way. >> host: in fact, in by gulp" placing history aside, let's look at the digestive real estate of jonah and the whale. >> guest: all that reading of the bible it stayed with me. not in the way my mother would have liked. didn't engender faith, but the illinoiss stayed with me and my mother's bible had these beautiful reproductions of paintings, and i don't know who the artist was on this but
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there's a painting of jonah and the whale, it's -- oddly it's a baliene whale, and you can see jonah is -- halfway out and is wearing this red robe and his hair is wet and he appears to be swimming out of the whale, and anyway, that image is -- all of the images in my mother's bible sort of. in my brain and when i was working on "gulp" i thought it would be interesting to fact check that in the sense that, is there a whale in which you could live? in fact, it wouldn't be a. baline whale. it would we the sperm whale. the sperm whale feeds by suction. and the opening to the first stomach is big enough to allow a man, which in other whales wouldn't be. so the sperm whale is the logical choice. also, there's no acid in the
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first comp partment, -- compartment, so that's handy. unfortunately the sperm whale kind of chews in its stomach, very powerful contractions going on so say you were a scuba diver and you had an air tank, you might be able to survive for a while and it would be quite uncomfortable. broken bones or at the very least a lot of differ comfort. but you could possibly enter a sperm whale. so that led to -- i became curious about, the experience of being prey inside the stomach of an animal that swallows its prey whole, including human beings oyster. i chew my oysters but some people don't, so i spoke to a biologist about what that experience would be like for an oyster.
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so that's a chapter that has to do with the reality -- the possible reality of living inside another person's stomach. >> host: e-mails, i witnessed an autopsy years ago and i was astounded how the body was treated. let's just say that the pathologist would weigh the organs and go for a three pointer in returning the organ to the body cavity. right then there and i decided i would never allow an autopsy on anyone i love or myself unless it was a coroner's case and there wasn't any permission involved. >> guest: interesting. i've never seen an autopsy but i would hear stories about anatomy labs, mostly from the '60s60s ad people my age talking about medical school. i know that medical schools have gone to fairly extensive lengths
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these days to instill a sense of respect and gratitude in medical students, and that includes having people from hospice come and talk to the students before they begin the gross anatomy course. also, they typically will do a memorial service at the end of the anatomy class, not all schools but a lot of them now, and i went to one of those, not knowing quite what to expect. thinking, oh, this is something that all of the students are just going to go to because they have to go. but in fact the students had -- the students got up on the stage and -- not all of them but a lot of them. some of them read journal entries. there was a woman who read this tremendously moving passage where she said she, when i -- this was addressed to the cadaver she worked with. when i palpate an abdomen i
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think of your abdomen. when i listen to a heart, i see your heart. it was -- people were teared up. i was teared up. it was very emotional. someone composed a song that -- so the readings came from the students and it was obvious there was a lot of emotion, they hadn't really processed they were now expressing to the group who were gathered there, and in many schools the families are invited as well. the families of the cadavers. so, i was -- every anatomy class and i don't know what goes on when there's not a writer there. people on their best behavior when someone is in the room with them but my sense is people out there are -- that students today are a lot more respectful. used to be there was this whole tradition of taking photographs.
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the do dissection photographs, d the students working on the body would pose for a photograph and they would sometimes have the cadaver sitting up and these photographs were then used as christmas cards. a whole book -- i forget the name of the book but it's a coffee table book of these photographs but it was not -- it was what people did back then you have to look at these things in the the context of the day. also, humor was encouraged as a coping strategy years and years ago. now that's not the case. i can't -- i haven't spent a lot of time in pathology labs. i post if your day-to-day job is doing annot a my -- anatomy, you become a little desensitized and
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when it's your job to work on dead bodies, they are very much tissue and not people. they look like people but they are not people. and that's very difficult for people to wrap their heads around when they think about even organ donation, just because the dead -- the remains of someone you knew, it leaks like that person. it looks like a person. it's not. it's a hull. it's now muscle and tissue, and when you're a pathologist you never knew this person. i can imagine your respect doesn't really enter into the equation after a while. >> host: from stiff, mary roach writes many of the students gave their cadaveres names. real names. he introduce met to ben the cadaver who retained an air of purpose and dignity. we are talking with author mary
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roach here. 202 itself the carry yesterday, 585-3830. here's the numbers. >> we'll start with ernestine. >> caller: i have enjoyed the conversation. and like mary, i have -- planning on donating my body for the met students at the west virginia school in lewisburg, and my family, like you've said, is aghast at me doing this. but i have worked in hospitals for over 56 years, and i feel that it is worthwhile to donate my body to these students. my second comment is, i was in
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college when masters and johnson's work came out and it really was the topic of conversation in the dorm, in classes, and what have you. so, those are my two comments, and i am enjoying the program. >> guest: thank you very much. that's interesting. masters -- i just well-i could -- just wish i could have talked to some people who volunteered for the masters and johnson's statutey because i just think it was such a heroic thing to have done. really brave. not just masters and johnson but the people who volunteered to do that. so, it's interesting to get the perspective of somebody who was there then. >> host: dan bridgewater, new jersey. go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: yes. i wanted to point out that why
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we're so shy about being seen sexually is the same reason we and other animals are shy excreting because it's a time when we're vulnerable, and we can be attacked by predators. the second thing i would say is a lot of tissues and bodies are not used by anatomy students but used for salvage tissue and replacement tissue, and this raises a very complex, difficult question about when you're really dead, because there is this bias for you being declared dead because they want the tissue and want to do something with it. so that's what scares a lot of people also, that you might have revived but you have people who are revived at 20 minutes of declared with no life signs. the last thing i would point out is that as a medical student, i
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recall in my country they had the could did he -- cadavers inn and formaldehyde for five years before we used them and there was a 12-year-old girl cadaver and her face was still radiating so beautiful, it was really hard to imagine she was dead. but when you -- the throwing around of the organs you see is because even the undertakers, they take out all the organs. they're not left in the body and the rope they might get thrown around is because it's really hard work in pathology. >> host: dan, when and where did you good to medical school? >> caller: i went to medical school in eastern europe. very primitive and anatomy was a two year course bag -- back then and we did a lot of anatomy.
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>> host: thank you for calling. let's get a response. >> guest: thank you, dan. i was curious -- your comment about their there being people -- there is obviously a great need for organs, and tissue, but i don't know of any evidence to suggest that the staff in icu or wherever the person is being kept oxygenated on the reps rate -- reps rater and the issue of them rushing the death in order to get the tissue. my understanding is that's not true. the staff at the icu, they're not the people -- they're completely separate from the people who need the tissue and organs and the families or the people at the organ donation network. so that -- if the person is brain dead and they're gone, they're legally dead, there's a hope that the family will make
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the organs available, but in terms of rushing the death, i don't know of any evidence for that. >> annette posts on our facebook page, mary roach, i'm almost 70 years old and if i could afford to i would hand your books out on the street corners. gulp is one of the most entertaining entertaining and informative books i have read. had to stop quoting it at the dinner table, however. what is next? >> guest: thank you very much. i just love the image of you out on the street corner handing out -- i'm going to hire you. governorll -- gorilla marketing. i'm looking into something actually -- i don't know yet where i'm going. i'm looking into a possible next book. it gets harder for me over the years. the obvious topics and mary rochable topics have been done so it's harder for know find
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something. seriously. >> host: you're not going to -- >> guest: write me, people. >> host: you're not going to tell us? >> guest: i'm not. i'm going to be coy and secretive. >> host: besides having religiouses -- relations in frot of strangers in a lab, what's the first -- what is one of the first trips you took that had this kind of setup when you said, i'm going to medium school or i'm going to meet with elvis' doctor. >> guest: i'll tell you the trip that most disturbed ed that made him actually concerned for my safety, and it was before i did any of these books. it was -- i wrote a column for, he human body -- similar roach topics. and one time i was writing about
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bashful bladder. which is a -- if you have some people have that -- you're at the stadium and you -- just a trough. there's some men who find it hard to get going. and it's called bashful bladder. so i was writing a column about -- this one is -- you have so much regret that you asked the question. >> host: already. >> guest: okay. so, the way that you treat bashful bladder, it's similar to the way phobias are treated. spider phobia. psychologists start you out in a room with a spieder and then they bring it progressively closer and closer over time until you are holding the tarantula or something, and there's a term for that, like progressive exposure. i don't know what the term is. but anyway that's what you do. so with bashful bladders you can help somebody by being what its called a p buddy.
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show to person drinks a whole lot of water to load up and then you start out in the kitchen water and the boardroom and then you say, i'm in the kitchen, and okay, i'm all right. and then you move down the hall away. i'm in the hallway and the guy in the bathroom is going, okay, that's good. that's great. and you don't no -- i never went into the bathroom, okay? but i was telling ed. i'm going over to walnut creek, somewhere in east bay. i'm going to be a pee buddy for this guy who has bashful bladder and ed was like, do you know who this person is? how is -- what are you doing? and i said, look, i was on one of the bulletin boards online communities and i found somebody who was hoping to do this, and i -- it was very help toll the man...
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>> caller: and all these different topics about the cadaver and stuff like that and the research. and i commend you for that, commented you highly. commend you highly. what got you started into this, i mean, the adventures? branch out in all these different topics? >> guest: good question. it's possible there's something wrong with me. [laughter] i, okay, i -- yeah, how did i
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end up, i'm trying to think where my career kind of verged off in this direction. i think i, i think it was the salon column. now, was a very early online magazine and was for the first time you could get a sense of how many people had read your article. you could look at the number of hits. so both you and your editor could see what got the most hits. and when i was writing this column -- and there was a reported column. it was some first person, but it was, you know, researched. they were reported pieces. and there were a couple of them that had to do with cadaver research. not anatomy labs, but more unexpected things. and the hit rates on those columns were very high which suggested that it wasn't just me that thought that this was interesting, but that people had a fascination. and i think, again, this gets back to what we were talking about earlier with the fact that it is taboo, that in our culture there is such a taboo around death, around dead bodies. and so nobody explores that or
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talks in a straightforward way about it. and i enjoyed tackling those topics, and i found that people responded. there's a lot of connection with the topics because everybody dies, everyone has sex, everyone eats. but they're the things that we'd rather not think about. i think human beings like to think of themselves as minds, as personalities. they don't want to think of themselves as just another excreting, mating animal. we kind of want to turn away from that. so i found that whole area to be, to be a fascinating one to step into and explore. >> host: when people meet you, what's the first topic or the main topic they want to talk about? >> guest: um, well, it usually depends on which book has just come out. i get asked a lot about -- well, with "gulp" people bring their own experience to it. for example, with "book --
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spook," of course, i got people's experiences that seemed paranormal, like a dream they'd had when people died. a ghost story, i got a lot of personal ghost stories, which was fascinating. "gulp" people tend to want to talk about their digestive issues. [laughter] sometimes i go on a.m. call-in radio, and they have to make an announcement. mary roach is not a doctor, you know, because otherwise they'll be like i have a mucoid intestinal plaque that has been troubling me, or i have had irritable bowel, and my medication has changed. i'm not a doctor. so i get that kind of questions. and with "bonk," yeah, it was a lot of questions about that particular experience that i shared with your viewers earlier. >> host: jean's in stockton, california. jean, you're on booktv on
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c-span2. author mary roach is our guest. >> caller: oh, hi, can you hear me? >> host: we're listening. >> guest: i can. >> caller: well, this is the question i have, i don't know if they gave it to you. i have a friend who donated his body to science, and they had so many bodies. and later what ended up happening is they it's cremated and gave the body back to the family. so the wishes of the person were not taken care of, and a lot of people don't know that that is something that can happen. so here's their family's now got to decide whether to buy a grave and bury you or take you out to sea or that kind of thing. so a lot of times people don't think about that, and i just wonder -- the only personal experience i've had, we had someone to die in the family, and we were very upset because we didn't want an autopsy, and they wanted autopsy.
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and that person had been a victim of a crime. so that was, you know, our family everybody gets buried, you know, in the grave and big ceremony, that kind of thing. so all of this is really new to me, so i just wanted to get your thoughts on someone donating and later find that their wishes weren't -- >> host: thank you, jean. mary roach? >> guest: yeah. that's unusual because normally what happens is if there's a surplus of bodies, the institute, the medical school that received them will make them available to other medical schools or even in the case -- i was in, when i was in san francisco researching "stiff," i went to the college, san francisco mortuary college. and they, students, the students were practicing their techniques
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on a man who had donated himself to the medical school buttenedded up at the -- but spd ended up at the mortuary college. they couldn't use him at the medical school, so they passed him on -- it's rare to, quote-unquote, waste the body. there's a demand -- it must have been an area where there wasn't another facility close by that could make use of the body. because normally there is an effort because they're so, you know, it's a precious gift that someone's made, and like you said, you want to respect the wishes of the family, but also there's usually somebody or some institution who could make good use of that body with. so that's aen unusual -- an unusual circumstance. >> host: mary roach, what's going on at the university of tennessee? >> guest: the university of tennessee is the home of one of several now, the body farm. they're like starbucks now. [laughter] they're cropping up all over the place. but the original body farm is a
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facility in knoxville, the university of tennessee, and it's a forensic research facility. and what they are doing there is they're studying the timeline of decomposition in different environments. for example, buried in soil versus buried in sand versus in water versus the trunk of a carvers us the backseat of a car and how does it effect the timeline of decay. in order to pinpoint the time of death, this is forensics folks -- detectives look at what state the body's in, and then they can work backwards from there and say, okay, this body has been decomposing for approximately six weeks. so then we can figure out when the person was killed. which used to be really -- they'd sometimes be off by decades, way off because it's not always, it depends a lot on the environment; the weather, how moist things are.
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so that's what they're doing at the body farm, looking, creating different environments and seeing how it slows or speeds or effects the process of decomposition. the reason there are so many of them now is that there are, they're cropping up in different ecological -- like a dry climate or a tropical climate. so they can learn about the timeline of decomposition in different ecological systems. so there's actually a project going on right now that you can go on a web cam and watch. there's a pig underwater. they're doing -- they're studying what happens to a body underwart. they've got this -- underwater. they've got this pig be, you've got a web cam that comes on every 15 minutes. in fact, what tends to happen is in this area a lot of crabs show up because crabs, crabs like
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pork -- and humans as well, as much as humans like crab. so the crabs tend to take care of the body. it's kind of like, you know, there's that kind of burial, sky burial it's called where the body is put out x these vultures come down. in india there's outside of, i think it's outside of mumbai there's a place where the bodies were put out, and i've never been. i've only heard about it. but sky burial. so a sea burial is kind of similar. you let the in, and you become part of the ecosystem via the crabs. >> host: rachel posts on our facebook page, thank you so much for being an amazing writer. i'll read and buy any book you write. why did you choose to write about the space program in "packing for mars," and what was your favorite part about researching the book? she says that she is a recent resident of the space coast in
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florida, and your book gave me a great new perspective on my surroundings. >> guest: ah, thank you. that's lovely to hear. i, i chose that topic which at first hearing sounds like a bit of a departure, but in fact, it's a book about the human body. but the human body in the extraordinarily surreal circumstances of space travel, zero gravity. because any system or machine that was built on earth that is built to function on earth in earth gravity, you put it in zero gravity, and it just doesn't work the same way, and all kinds of surreal things happen to human beings in orr -- orbit, in zero gravity. and i found that fascinating. and also the way it came up is years and years ago i wrote an article for "discover" magazine about the knewal buoyancy tank which is at nasa space center,
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this giant tank that's like the world's largest space station, life sizeed. and the astronauts will put on their space-walking suit, and they will rehearse their moves because you're floating in water. it's is similar to floating in space. and the amount of practice that goes into, you know, a one, two-hour space walk where you're out there, say you're adjusting a solar panel. just the amount of everything's been rehearsed and practiced, and it's tremendously complicated and fascinating. and at the same time, it's very human. of -- i love this, in the early, the earliest space lab, the earliest space station before this space station they put, they had a dinner table, okay, which it doesn't make any sense. you put something down, and it
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floats away. a chair. this makes no sense to have chairs, to have ceilings and floors, it makes no sense. you can be wherever, it's all the same. so they realized, they took it out. it's ridiculous. but the astronauts demanded that it come back. they said we are human beings, and at the end of the day when we're done with our jobs, when we're done with our work, we want to sit around a table together and eat and be human. so we want a table and chairs. we want -- so they brought it back. and now it's equipped with vel you and -- velcro and straps and things so you don't just put things down on it, but there's a table. and there's also the floor and ceiling. there's these elements of being human. although everything's changed and you don't really need them, people want them. so it's interesting to see what you can take away and how much strangeness the human spirit can
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endure before it's like, it protests. >> host: in "packing for mars," norbert craft summed it up nicely, you write: i had asked him if he thought being an astronaut was the best or worst job in the world. [laughter] >> guest: i love norbert craft. yeah, nasa ames. i call it psychological issues. that -- people read that quote, and i was of two minds of whether to even include that, because i don't want to, i don't want -- what i didn't want this book to do was to dash people's dreams of becoming an astronaut.
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and i'll tell you why -- and i go on to say this in the book -- that's all true. but for me it's the same, i like to go backpacking. my husband and i, we go up to the sierras, you know, middle of nowhere. we carry it all on our backs, our tents, our sleeping bags, and we go up into the sierras, and we spend a few days up there. and we've got friends who say why would you, why don't you just go on cruise? why don't you go to europe? why would you -- yeah. the food is horrible, you can't get a good cup of coffee, it's uncomfortable, you're sleeping on the ground, you're bit by bugs, it's -- you get hot and sunburned, you're all sweaty, you can't wash your clothes, it sounds like a horrible vacation. to which i say, yeah, that is true, all that stuff's there, but look where you are. look where your. look at your surroundings, and there's no one else up -- you know, you're in -- it's this privileged feeling of being in this spot where so few people
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have been, and this is no one around -- there's no one around, and just the perspective and the experience dwarfs all that minor inconvenience stuff. and i think that space travel is that times a thousand. yeah, it's uncomfortable, you're stressed out, your body feels weird and the food is bland and all of that stuff, but who cares? like, look, you're in space. you're floating, you're flying across the room like superman. you're like a soap bubble. and you're looking down on this massive, beautiful planet that is earth. who cares that the toilet stinks, you know? it's that kind of thing. >> host: um, you talk about space walks and the effect they have on astronauts in "packing for mars." what's the effect? >> guest: yeah. space walking is a the term that a i pries -- is a term that applies to being outside the spacecraft. it's just you floating in space. attached by, you know, attached
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by an umbilical usually but not always. and in the early, in the gemini era there was a lot of hand wringing about what will, will that blow the mind of the astronaut? will it just completely freak them out to be in this infinite space floating, this tiny, vulnerable human being? and there was this fear that they would psychologically become up hinged. but, in fact, what happened in both the fist and the second -- first and the second space walkers, alexei -- [inaudible] i think in the soviet union and i think it was ed white here, what happened though he got out there -- white, i believe it was -- and he didn't want to come back in. there was this i euphoria, this just like, wow. and he kept stalling. it was like a kid being called to the dinner table who's in the
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middle of, you know, some make believe thing that he's doing and doesn't want to come downstairs, in a minute, in a minute, and mission control was getting concerned. he needs to come back in. he needs to back. he's already a minute late. he'd be out there, oh, i've got this great view, he's taking photographs. ed, get in, you need to get back in here now. and he finally said, okay. he said i'm coming back in. this is the saddest moment of my life. he just loved it out there. and he comes back in, and the other guy, i my mcdivot was his name, they're in there are and they're talking about this experience, and this is, you know, a couple hard core sort of military guys, air force guys, and one of them's saying, wow, you looked like you were back in your mother's womb. yeah, it was the most amazing feeling. sort of this new age feeling. they really, this sort of transcended, amazing experience, and that hadn't been what --
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there was an expectation that it would be terror or something worse. like their minds would be blown. >> host: in the acknowledgments in "packing for mars," you write: the first time i visited johnson space center, a sign near the door said hard hats required, and it kind of was. a lot of nos got lobbed my way. space agencies keep a firm grip on their public image, and it's less troublesome for employees and contractors to say no to someone like me than to take their chances and see what i write. happily, there are people involved in the human side of space exploration who see value in unconventional coverage or are just plain too nice to say no. [laughter] our next call comes from houston. carol. hi, carol. please go ahead. >> caller: how are yo doing? >> guest: fine. >> caller: i have been sofas nateed with your comments today, and i share your consternation at some of the stories from the bible that i studied when i was young, too, and tried to find
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some sort of reasonable explanation for some of those things. it seemed almost like a quest. and one of the things that i thought of when i was thinking of this while you were speaking of it, what do you think about the search that scientists are undergoing now looking for the god particle? >> guest: oh, the god particle -- you mean the part of the brain -- oh, the god particle as in the can -- >> host: the super collider thingy. sorry, didn't mean to use a technical term there. >> guest: precisely. well, i have no background in particle physics. i dated a particle physicist for a while, and he was a very beautiful man, and i would sit down across the table from him and be like, okay, explain matter and antimatter to me, and i would try to hang in there as long as i could, and i would quickly become ross. but i -- lost. so i can't really make an intelligent comment, but i think
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it's fantastic that it is underway and that there might be a better understanding -- because my understanding is that's the bulk of what's out there, right? the stuff? but anyway, i'm all for it. [laughter] >> host: on our facebook page,, teresa glazer writes in: mary, my 10-year-old son zack is as big a fan of yours as we are. he loved "packing for mars," and we are currently reading -- [inaudible] are your books written for 10-year-olds? >> guest: they're run for 10-year-olds and 90-year-olds and everybody in between. thank you, thank you, zack. [laughter] >> host: and, well, we'll continue then, and saw writes: when you said you wanted ideas for a new topic, zack thought that guns, how they shape what we do and the problems around the world with regulating them, would be a good next book. any thoughts on that? >> guest: i agree. i think that, zack, that is a
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great idea. it's a little -- to try to think of my brand of humor applying to the topic of guns is a little challenging, but it's a really interesting topic, and i have thought about, i have thought about that. i have thought about it. >> host: michael dunlap posts on our facebook page: i was surprised when you concluded at the end of "spook" that you believed in ghosts. the conclusion seems to be at odds with what i had found to be a very skeptical exploration of the subject. >> guest: i'm glad you asked that question, because i get asked that a lot. the point that i was making at the end of "spook" was that i was trying to make a different, point out the difference between knowledge and belief. for me to know, to know that there are ghosts is one thing and to believe is something else. and belief, i think, is just a decision that you make. and sometimes it's based on how you're brought up, and sometimes
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it's more fun to believe that. in the case of ghosts, i just thought it's more fun -- i don't know. i mean, i know of no solid evidence for their existence, but a belief is just, okay, i'm going to believe just because it's more fun to believe than not to believe. i was just making, i was playing around with the difference between belief and knowledge. but i don't think that came through very well, and if i had to write the book again, i would change the ending somewhat because it sounds like the last page is like i flip-flopped and is suddenly, whoa, she spends the entire book sort of making the case that there isn't a lot of persuasive evidence for this, and then what the heck, all of a sudden she says i believe in ghosts. but anyway, it came out of that discussion in the end about knowledge versus belief. >> host: bob is here in washington d.c. bob, please go ahead with your comment or question for mary roach. >> caller: thank you, mary. i've enjoyed this, your talk immensely. here's the thing, i'm 70 years
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old, and i'm kind of playing options, you know? >> guest: yeah. >> caller: death. i will never give my body for an autopsy, you know, for a cadaver. but i have been giving some thought to this, i read a piece sometimes where people pay a service to, in effect, freeze the body and the head, and i gather the view of the people who do this is that there's some possibility that, you know, maybe 50, 40, 30 years from now they'll find a way to, in effect, revive your body. and, you know, i've always loved, i thought, well, they'd revive younger bodies before they'd revive older bodies like me. but my thought is, you know, that apropos of your comment about the 21 centimeters looking for the soul is that, you know, who i am and what i am is stored in my brain. and the question i have for you is do you have any knowledge
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about the feasibility of this? i mean, i tend to think it's a possibility over the next 30, 40, 50 years they might be able to, in effect, recreate you through the use of your brain. and how much does it cost? [laughter] >> host: all right, thank you, bob. >> guest: yes. that's, it's called cryo preservation, and you can freeze either just the head or the whole enchilada, and the idea being that if you can thaw out the head, you could just attach, reattach it to another body. like you said, the brain would be the repositive tear of the self. repository of the self. the challenge is that it's, essentially, freezer burn. you go out -- a single cell or a layer of cells or, you know, sperm, for example, is a good
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example. you can freeze and thaw and everything's hunky dory, but when you've got an entire brain, a three-dimensional structure in millions of layers, then it becomes, then it becomes trickier, and i don't -- nothing beyond just the single cells as far as i know has been successfully ren mated as it were -- reanimated as it were. but like you said, you know, 40, 50 years down the line who can say? i don't -- there's a fair amount of skepticism that surrounds it, i think because right now it isn't possible. but like you said, who knows what will be possible? um, you know, even though -- the notion of reattaching a head to a body i looked into in "stiff," there was a researcher in the '60s, robert white, i believe his name was, and he successfully took a head from one, we're talking rhesus monkey, i believe it was, and took a head.
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if you can reattach the blood supply and ox yes nate the brain, it would be possible, in essence, to do a whole body transplant. say you had a really brilliant person and you didn't want their knowledge to disappear. you could, in essence, give them a whole new body. they would not -- the nerves wouldn't, the spinal nerves wouldn't be reattached, so the person couldn't move, but you would have a head on a pillow being ox yes nateed by a blood supply and a body. at the time the animals lived only a short while partly because of rejection of the immune system rejecting the tissues. but, you know, we've made such progress with stem cell research, i think that is something, actually being able to do a whole body transplant it sounds very frankenstein and sci-fi, but that's something that would be feasible, strange as it seems. so something like cryo preservation is in that category
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of it sounds sci-fi, bizarre, but who knows where things will be in a hundred or 500 years? i don't know. >> host: and from "stiff" mary roach writes: we are biology. we are reminded of this at the beginning and the end, at birth and at death. in between we do what we can to forget. [laughter] ken's in atlanta. ken, good amp to you. good afternoon to you. >> caller: mary, this has just been a dwight. i'm enjoying everybody bit of it. i have to share a couple of things based on ideas and experiences that you have brought back to light. i'm in my 70s, and i was born about 20 years before vatican ii, and i'm, of course, catholic. and the idea of donating a body or giving the body which my wife and i have both done, but we grew up with, you know, the prayers that the resurrection of the body, and these ideas are
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still out there. so it's the work that you're doing and others that are really opening up people's minds to the idea of we're really a throwaway society, and the idea of a good use to be done with the body is a marvelous idea. >> host: ken? >> caller: one last thing i'd like to say is you've made a couple of comments that took me back to a meeting i had with a buddhist monk when i was in vietnam in the '60s. and he made a comment that has stayed with me, and the comment is you will never understand what you believe, and you will never believe what you understand. these are two different processes which we comingle all the time. >> host: ken, before we get a response from mary roach, can i ask is it considered anti-catholic to donate your
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body to science? >> guest: it used to be, but it isn't now. it was in the '80s, i think, when my wife and i -- we went to my aunt's funeral, and the body wasn't there. and so it has taken time. each bishop in each diocese has to give approval. and i don't know of any diocese in the united states where this approval has been denied. but it takes a long time for traditions to fall away, and, you know, all we have to do is go back and think about the galileo trial. it just takes a long time for us to progress. >> host: and finally, ken, are you still a practicing catholic? >> caller: very much so, even to the point of i'm hoping to help pope francis get the vatican bank reconciled.
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>> host: thank you, sir. mary roach, response for ken. >> guest: yeah, yeah. it was, vatican ii was an extraordinary time. i believe that's when cremation began to be allowed, because it used to be there was a requirement that the body be interred, be buried. ..
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>> guest: when i was working on "stiff" i came upon a method of dealing with remains called water reduction, the euphemism, tissue digestion, putting the body in a pressure cooker with lime in it, and you can dry that and you get a very sort of tidy powder, and it's used to with livestock and animals with a disease because it actually destroys the disease. so there are some forward-looking more morticianss and i called up the bishop and said how do you feel about this process? and -- or also about composting. now also a movement for composting bodies and that's
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something that people like that idea of being taken up into a plant material. he said don't know. i think of compost as garbage and stuff going down the drain as sewage. he said i think it sounds odd but something the church would have to look into, and the church is always evolving with these issues of body disposition. and the creamation, vatican ii is a great example. thank you. >> host: we are halfway through our in-depth with author mary roach, and plenty of time for phone calls, facebook comments, tweets, and e-mail, as we continue. our producer on the program is tawnya davis, and tawnya send out also questionnaire to the authors to find out what they're
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reading and what are their influences and what are some of their favorite books. she did that with mary roach and here's her response.
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>> one of the points we make in this book is a perennial question, did it make any difference to have direct popular election and we come down on the side of, yes, it did make a difference. senators began to act like house
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members. and scarf -- looking for votes and there are 26 members of your state senate, owl you need is 14 votes and you can pay off and they did in some cases pay off 14 senators, paying off mortgages in a couple of notorious cases to buy their election. >> no man needs a strong partner, an honest partner, more than the american president, sheltered and cocoones in what hard harry truman, that those presidents with hard spouses that are willing to speak truths to the big guy, those presidents
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have a disstink advantage -- distinct advantage. ed a pat nixon been able to cut through her husband's pair noah, watergate might have been avoid it but pat nixon has given up on her husband by the time they reached the white house. they were leading virtually separate lives as you'll see in my portrayal of this saddest of all presidential couples. i don't give me husband advice. pat was quoted assaying, because he doesn't need it. well is there a man or woman alive who doesn't needed a vice from the person who knows him or her best? >> as we continue our conversation on first ladies, our author talk about first ladies. >> back live with author mary roach. mary roach, some of your greatest influences you write my
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snowmobile-owning, fun-loving, slim jim and vienna sausage eating, childhood neighbors. who were they? >> guest: they were my neighbors. i grew up in a little college town that was very much the town was the college, the college was the town. my folks couldn't afford to live in downtown so we lived out a ways in aetna, and so i was -- i had this upbringing that was very kind of skitsy. i spent most of my time over at their home, riding snowmobiles, shooting b.b. guns, watching chickens being slaughtered and eating spam and then identity go tome to my dartmouth professor home and i was -- i don't know. i think that was -- i ended up
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being very comfortable in different worlds and different communities, different types -- not only comfortable but i sort of sought that out. what i do and what i'm privileged to do is to step into other worlds for a span of time, like this work that i do enables me to step into worlds i would never otherwise see. nasa is a whole other world at the johnson space center, and i would never have been able to spend any time there without doing what i do. so i maybe trace it back to that. the joy of stepping back and forth between two very different worlds. >> host: another one of your greatest influences, my eccentric dad who was 65 when i was born. >> guest: yes. my dad was -- you don't want to rush into these things. he was -- my dad was -- my dad came over from england -- born in 1894.
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would be 119 now. he came over from england on the lusitania, no less. yeah. and my brother -- my dad was a great story in the irish tradition, great story-teller, always had a story, and he talked about coming over on the lusitania, and my brother thought, that is just one of those stories, he did not. and i wrote to the national archives, and they lo and behold it was this xerox pasted together, some years back, a xerox of the log book from the lusitania and there was his name and there was who was going to sea, how old he was, color of his hair, he had $25 in his pocket. there it was. and like 1915, i think. yeah. so, there you go. >> host: how long did it take when you wrote the national archives to get the information? >> guest: it wasn't that long. i don't remember.
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i don't weeks. >> host: in one of your books, i think it's "spook," you do as an aside say your dad drank too much. my daddied drink a lot. my dad -- well, i didn't know dish never thought of him as an alcoholic when i was a kid because he was never staggering around and being bellicose and abusive or anything. he was just quietly -- at 5:00, get out those scotch -- whatever drink it was. he went through a martini phase and then old fashioned phase, and bitters and the sugar, and then he got lazy and just be the scotch. over the years, the number of jiggers -- isn't a jigger a shot? anyway, jigger, but it sounds like a word you're not supposed to say. but the number would go up -- by the time i graduated from high school, three jiggers of scotch, and my brother told me this said, you need to cut down on
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the booze. but i never saw it affect his behavior or thought of it as an issue. but i guess if your definition is that you need to have alcohol every day, i suppose that's the definition. i don't know. >> host: well, doug fraser tweets in, what did your parent does as a living. what did he teach? >> guest: he taught speech and he was the manager or assistant manager of the dartmouth players so very involved in set design and publicity for the plays at dartmouth at the time. so, theater. he loved the theater. he -- before he met my mother and settled down he was in summer stock theater and something called -- traveling lectures lectures and talks and events. and now it's amazing you can go
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online and to the newspaper databases and put in -- i put in his name and all the reviews of the plays and the descriptions of the plays. so, i could figure out where he -- from portland, maine to denver. he loved to travel and had a spirit of adventure and that's why i think of him as an influence. >> host: you mentioned in favorite books, bill bryson. >> guest: bill bryson -- the ability to seamlessly blend really fascinating information with humor, no one does it better. on my best days, reaching as far as i can, i can maybe graze the him of his clean knows, whatever he is wearing. he is just a tremendous writer.
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never a steal turn of phrase. here's an example. bill bryceson was describing -- he is grown up here in and also lived in the uk, and he described summer in the uk. of course it's covered by this gray clouds, and almost the entire summer, this gray color, and instead of saying, it's gray overhead the entire time, he say, it was like living inside tupperware. so, anyway, he just has this marvelous ability to blend research and fact with fun and humor. >> host: you're watching booktv on c-span 2, our guest is author mary roach, the awe for thereof fine nonfiction books beginning with "stiff," 2003. "spook," 2005, science tackles the afterlife. "bonk" the curious coupling of
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science and sex, packing for mars, the curious science of life in the void, 2010, and this year, "gulp." adventures on the alimentary canal. and this facebook comment comes from laura: mary, i am a recent medical school grad. i red "stiff" both before and after starting school and can't skrine out i changed my perspective on the museum body. have you ever thought about writing about psychological disorder, the history, taboo, how animals experience these disorders? i'm sure it's been done before but never with your humanness and openness. >> guest: i have thought about that and thank you very much. that's something that i feel without a medical or
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neuroscience background i would feel a little bit lost and unsure of my footing. so i have stayed away. but it's interesting. i wanted to recommend a couple of -- an author who has written on both topics. christine montrose, who is both a physician and a poet, and wrote this wonderful -- her first book was called "body of work" and that was about her experiences in gross anatomy and her reflections on that. and then the next book, which is i think is coming out, "falling into the fire." she was a resident in an inpatient psychiatric unit and it's about mental illness and, again, very reflective, wonderful book. i have -- it's kind of a natural topic in the sense, but i -- again, it's the lack of knowledge of the working of the brain would make -- it's one of those situations where my lack of a medical background would
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really kind of challenge me. >> host: and christine montrose has appeared on our q & a program. you can watch that good, to, type her name in and she'll be right there in the video library and you-watch that online. >> marcy wells facebooks for new: a new book. push, birthing through the ages and across cultures. >> guest: that's a fantastic idea however i have -- there's one book called "get me out of here" in which, as we have the same publisher, and i know these books. i had been sent them by the -- they were wonderful. gosh. and there's -- i'm forgetting the title. it's a perfect topic for me but it's been done so well by these two or three authors who i wish
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i had their names right here. >> host: this is -- just going back to facebook. this is from alex tealander: in researching your books you always seem to throw yourself all in with whatever the subject may be. has there been any point where you felt you'd gone too far? >> guest: there has been a point where my editor felt i went too far, and this was in "bonk" and i probably won't go into it here because i don't want to get c-span into trouble. but anyway, yes, the answer is, yes, there was a small scene in -- and it was over in cairo, it was in the offices of -- i'm going to just say that -- >> host: we're cable. you can tell us about it.
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>> guest: it's not a really big deal. it was -- he was this wonderful professor who had this tremendous sense of curiosity, and he was fascinated by reflections and sometimes they were the reflexes of sex. things that would happen during intercourse, and i said what are that's? and he said you can come here and i will dem mob straight them for you, and i went there and there was supposedly going to be somebody demonstrating a reflex, and it was a woman, and the woman had wisely not shown up to work that day, and so here i was, i traveled all the way to cairo, to do this -- part of the ron i went there was to visit the professor, is he published this story on the effects of polyester on fertility. and he made little polyester pants for rats, okay? and in this study, it's like
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figure 2, the underpant worn by the rat and there's a line, it's in "stiff." we can show it. but peter is having a heart attack. but the underpant worn by the rat. and i thought this maintenance after me, man who dresses rats in a pollessster pants for the purposes of the study and polyester, because it's hot, it does lower your sperm count. so, for the record, polyester underwear not advised. and when i got there, the professor -- i look at him and he is wearing this beautiful bright blue suit but it's polyester, and i'm like, polyester. what are you doing? he said, yes, but underwear never. so, anyway, i have to go visit this man and he was going to dem machine straight these reflexes of sexual intercourse, and the woman took off and he said, well, i have someone else here, a man, i can demonstrate some
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reflexes. one of them had to do with a muscle which raises and lowers the tess testicle, and the reflex is the anal wink and it's very easy to elicit. you basically scratch on the side and it winks. so, -- but my editor felt i had gone a little too far with the wink. and i also went on -- i believe i said that looking -- because we were observing and the doctor is -- one of this metal pointers so he points with the pointer to this poor guy who is winking, and i just have this memory of -- when i was a kid, at easter, the sugar egg with the
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little opening you look through and see the scene of bunny rabbits and chicks inside the sugar egg. i just flashed on this looking through the little hole of the egg and my editor just crossed out the whole thing and wrote, no. so the wink is gone. no anal wink. >> next call from maude in toledo. hi, maude. >> caller: hello. yes. there is a book i heard of called the incorruptibles, and it's about the catholic religion who after they die it's said their body does not decompose. and i was just wondering, is there anything true of this? have you ever heard of such a thing? how well documented is this and i heard someone -- is this true? is this myth? >> guest: i'll answer the first part and then ask you to repeat the second. the incorruptibles, i don't --
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don't ever decompose -- there's a vast array of relics of saints which is fingers and taos toes d bits and pieces. but i don't know of whole nondecomposed bodies that are on display somewhere, like lenin. lenin was very carefully embalmed. so that is beyond my area of expertise. but i alphas nateed by the topic of relics and i have a cousin who once told me there's such a thing as forensic reliccology, and it's these people whoa figure out that for each -- say, for a given saint, 12 fingers and if there's two extra, who do they belong to and he went on this long story, my cousin dominic made this up. he was pulling my leg. so there's not -- i wanted to either be or report responsible
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forensic legalliccologyist -- reliccologyist. but i don't dare to write the book because i just don't want to mess with it. my take in religion, i don't want to stir that pot. but it's a fascinating topic, and i touch on it a little bit in "spook." the idea that bone -- that indestructible bone and the jewish faith, there's a little bone in the big toe, is it -- thursday these little tiny bohns nominated and then they tried to destroy them and low and bee hold they were easy to destroy so they crossed that off the list. so the notion of their there being incorruptible remains is not unique to the catholic church. >> host: maude asked about when they're opened up, there's a pleasant scent.
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>> guest: incontributeibles? >> yes. >> guest: embalming fluid. >> what does it smell like? >> guest: actual lit it's not pleasant. it smells formaldehydey, very heavy. in anatomy labs they'll sometimes -- when they're done with the lower half of the body, take it away so. the formalin, formaldehyde exposure is lower, and it's a very strong, unpleasant odor, so wouldn't be embalming fluid. >> host: marine in wrightwood, california, you're on book tv, go ahead. >> caller: thank you. i've enjoyed the discussion so much. i have kind of a question about, is there a genre of taboo anatomy and physiological subjects? i'm thinking of two books i recall. one is a children's book called "everybody poops" and the other one is a book by a physician and i'm sorry, i don't know his name, either, it's called "how we die."
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>> guest: sherwin newland. >> caller: i was wondering if you ever talked to other authors who do the kind of writing that you do, because it makes it so accessible for people. >> guest: yeah. there should be a conference of taboo writers. i don't know who wrote "everybody poops" but it's a popular book. we should get together and hang out. i've not met any of these folks and i don't know that there is a name for the genre, either. yeah, it's a small but fun group. >> host: and sherwin newland has been ton the problem. you, watch it go to and type in his name and you can watch that in depth interview we did. this is an e-mail from allen. your favorites included the
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amazing adventures of clay. how have either of these specifically influenceed your writing. >> guest: the amazing adventures hasn't influenced me in any way other than to make my hang my head in shame i can even call myself a writer because what he does, if that's writing, i'm doing something else. he is a god. amazing. what he does with language. unbelievable, and stories. so, not a specific influence. i spoke anytime you read someone who is hat -- that extraordinary, it's a kick in the butt, an inspiration, a push to do better and try harder. so anytime i'm reading someone like that. anne falls into that category as well. beautifully thought out and crafted reported essay that is
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just -- the thinking, the writing and the reporting, all of those elements just beautifully executed. again, just sort of a push, a reminder to keep trying harder as a writer. >> host: mary roach, what are you reading this summer? >> guest: right now i am reading a collection of short stories called "irish girl." tim johnston. dark but really amazing. and also a collection of essays, mostly about travel, jeff dire, a british writer. so on the plane here i was reading -- it's called "yoga for people who can't be bothered to do it" the name of one of the stories in the collection. and i'm also -- am about to start -- "falling into the fire" i'm reading the galleys. and a novel called "snapper"
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that's next up. so that's sort of what is on my list right now. >> host: bob from massachusetts, e-mails in: misfavorite book of yours is "my planet." your book of personales says. how did the reader is digest column come about and will you write more those of columns. >> guest: thank you. that column came about years and years ago i wrote for a magazine called hypocrisy, and morphed into other titles and early on it was wonderful magazine to write for. i did some of my -- that was my first feature writing experience. the publisher of that magazine was a gentleman who then went on to become i think ceo at readers digest. ...
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>> guest: would have been for me to have a regular feature reader's digest. it's different from the books in that it is, it's life with ed, basically. it's day-to-day life. it's not reported. there's not a lot of going out and reporting. there's no science in it. but it was very fun to write. it was very fun to write. at a certain point they, the magazine leadership changed, and they didn't want to have the column anymore. so i don't know, it would be fun to do, it'd be fun to do another column at some point, yeah. >> host: what does ed do? >> guest: ed is a graphic artist and illustrator. he, for many years, worked for
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the san francisco chronicle. >> host: and are you both working from home, basically? >> guest: yeah. because he -- they had buyouts at a certain point. newspapers, as you know, are shrinking. so now, yes. he works -- i don't work from home. i have an office with about ten other writers and some radio npr producers, fiction, nonfiction, kind of a wonderful mix of folks, and we all have a little, you know, a door and a window can. but we occupy, we've kind of taken over the corner of an old building in downtown oakland. >> host: why do you not work from home? most authors we talk to -- >> guest: sanity purposes. i just, nothing to do with being around ed, but just being that isolated, just to have somebody to go to lunch with, to kind of get you out of your held is good for me. i work -- your head is good for me. i worked alone. when i was living alone for
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about a year and a half, working alone, i find it's like solitary confinement. i'd be there all day, and day would go into night, and if i didn't have plans that night, i'd go to bed and wake up, and i'm still here at my desk. i haven't left. it was like house arrest. so it's better for me to be socialized. occasionally. >> host: another e-mail. this is from megs glidewell of sarasota. could you say roughly the relative usefulness of these sources while writing your books: google, google looking at edu and scholar site and then books. >> guest: google scholar is very useful for me. that would be the number one. google scholar -- google as a gateway to things like pub med which is a, a lot of pub med is on google scholar r so i use google to get to data bases like pub med or nasa technical reports. there are a number of databases.
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i'm not using just sort of going in and typing in a keyword, i mean, because it's not a useful -- that's not a useful way to get trustworthy information. [laughter] sometimes i'll look something up like, say, those little silver balls on cupcakes. i wanted to know something. so i typed those in, and lo and behold, they have a name. drage. they have a name and, in fact, they're illegal in california. somebody sued saying the coating is silver, it's real silver, and it shouldn't be in the food, and now if you live in california, you can't get little balls for your cupcakes, they won't ship to california. so anyway, i go off on these tangents, and google takes me off on those tangents which then become footnotes which are the best part of my books anyway. >> host: what about wikipedia? >> guest: wikipedia is a good place to go when you're starting out and you just want a broad overview. particularly in the realm of science. some of the, some of the, you
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know, physiological things or anatomical entities, if you just want a good overview, i find they're very, very helping. you definitely want to when you stray out into the fringes, you know, you definitely want to fact check that before you go and put it. and what's interesting here, this was fascinating to me. my wikipedia page, somebody did a wikipedia page for me, and she said you need sources for this. and i said, well, i am your source. i am mary roach, i can tell you it's true. she said wikipedia requires a link. so they're using the internet like the source nobody should use, you have to have an internet link. so i would have to fudge an interview somewhere, have it online, and then she could source that. but coming from me she said, no, you can't just say -- i said, but, yeah, i can, i'm mary.
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for the mary roach entry. she said, no, they need a link. so a lot of what used to be on the mary roach page was stuff pulled from internet web pages, and there was a lot of information that wasn't right. that ended up because -- but it was source toed to the internet. [laughter] sourced to the internet. so anyway, google scholar is very useful for me, and what was the third one? >> host: books. >> guest: books. yeah, a surprising amount of misinformation in books. and i'll tell you why, books are not fact checked. magazines like the new yorker or discover or wired or outside, they employ fact checkers whose job it is to go through and meticulously check everything, and publishers don't do that. some authors hire a fact checker, but it's very time consuming to fact check a whole book is months of work. i try to do it myself, and then i have a technical, somebody who
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is in the field read it for accuracy. so anyway, books i've gotten into trouble. there's a couple -- in "stiff" in particular i treated, and a book is a secondary source. you shouldn't be using it as a source, but a couple of times i did, and it turned out to be not a good source. so that would be bottom of the list. >> host: next call for mary roach comes from joy in moses lake, washington. hi, joy. >> caller: hi. i am so happy to be talking to mary roach. >> guest: hi, joy. >> caller: hi. you know, first book i read was "bonk," and i ran out and bought "tin." and told all my friends. i don't use electronics, but i have three ideas for you, and i wanted to ask because i would read anything that you wrote, and i just want to gush, but i love your writing. dna, have you thought about doing anything with dna? >> guest: that's a good one. i, again, i would feel like it
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would be -- i would want to have a background in genetics. it would take some getting up to speed, but i do think about that one. it is a really interesting topic, and there is a lot of kind of surreal work that goes on in that area. >> host: and what are the other two, joy? >> guest: i wanted to ask about the history of hiv. i want to comment that i find it fascinating that most of the conversation has been about "stiff" and not about "bonk," because people are much more willing to talk about death than they are about sex. [laughter] >> guest: yes. >> caller: that's interesting to me. and so the history of hiv, i think there's a book in there somewhere. >> guest: yeah, yeah. >> host: and any others? >> caller: it's escaped me, but i just wanted to tell mary roach i absolutely love her writing, and as far as i'm concerned, she's as good as bill bryson easily. >> guest: oh, thank you. thank you so much. >> host: so dna and hiv. >> guest: hiv, i would get --
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didn't someone do, you know, like "the emperor of all maladies," that wonderful cancer book, wasn't there an-? i tend -- hiv? i tend to think someone did one, but if you don't know, then probably they didn't. that's a great idea. >> host: well, you write a little, just, you touch on hiv and aids in "gulp," and i just want to read this. with regard to saliva, more than just disinfecting is going on.
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>> host: on the glass, the next person picks them up and transfers them to the respiratory tract via an eye rub or nose pick. >> guest: and i should say this is why i love science. there was a study where someone actually wantfied how -- quantified how frequently people pick their nose. they did this, it was a medical grand rounds where everybody's facing the podium, and there was somebody on the stage surreptitiously noting down when they observed a nose pick. [laughter] the rate is in there. but you have to love science. the name -- what was the name of that paper, it's in there. but it was, basically, how often do people pick their noses. and they did, they compared the,
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everybody facing the same way with a circle and in a circle, of course, where you can be observed, the pick rate was a lot lower. >> host: but i'll read that, you've got it in a footnote here. >> guest: yes. >> host: and we'll get there, but the healing effects of saliva. >> guest: saliva, the subtitle of that chapter is someone ought to bottle it or something. and it is, it's finish saliva was -- that might even be the longest chapter in the book, the spit chapter. and it is this substance that is reviled, people are disgusted. people are more upset by saliva that poop, i believe, based on a random sample of people that are written to me. did you find -- did you want to -- >> no, no. >> guest: it's reviled. i could go on and on, i won't, but i could go on and on about not just what you realize there,
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but the other thing that saliva is doing. it's a curse to spit on someone unless you're greek, and then it's a blessing. but it's this substance that, yeah, people -- because it's mucoid and it's upsetting. anyway -- >> host: in 1973, this is the footnote in "gulp," inquisitive researchers from the virginia school of medicine investigated the frequency of exposure of nasal mucosa to contact with the finger, plainly said, how frequently people pick their nose. under the guise of jotting notes, an observer sat in the front of a hospital amphitheater during grand rounds. over the course of seven 30-5 minute observation periods, a group of 124 physicians and medical student picked their collective noses 29 times. momentum sunday school students were observed to pick at a slightly lower rate. not because religious people have better manners than medical personnel, but the researchers speculated because their chairs were arranged in a circle.
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that's part of the footnote from mary roach's "gulp." steve is in smithberg, maryland. hi, steve. >> caller: hi there. hi, mary. you are as good as any of the authors that you spoke of, bill bryson and -- >> guest: oh, thank you. >> caller: i just enjoy reading your book, and i'm looking forward to "gulp." my question will involve elvis presley. but a prelude to that, for the last two years i've been going through a lot of dental implant surgery as well as cancer treatment, and aye been subject -- i've been subjected to a lot of pain medications. that may have had some effect on elvis' problems. >> guest: yeah. >> caller: but i read somewhere that when elvis died, the postmortem revealed that he had something in the nature of 50 pounds of fecal matter inside of him. do you know anything regarding that, and what is normally in
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people's intestines when they die? >> host: steve, why -- just curious, why is that -- why are you curious about that? >> guest: well, because, you know, having been on a number-pain-killing medications, i suffered from what i call occasional regularity. >> guest: stops you right up. [laughter] >> caller: yes, it does. it does. >> host: all right. let's hear from mary roach. >> guest: yes. that is true, what you heard about the tremendous volume and weight of fecal material, and it had been there a long time. it was hard. his doctor looked across the room. there's a stone fireplace. he said just like that rock, it had been there a long time, and, yes, there's a large sol yule. as to the -- volume. as to the normal volume, i don't have a figure for you, but let's just say the amount that elvis had was way more than the average person would have had.
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and way harder. and that was -- you made a good point. i mean, elvis presley did, you know, at the moment of death he was having iowa rivet my ya that was brought on my pushing too hard, but he's on a lot of prescription drugs and particularly painkillers, line you said, slows gut mow tilt way down, and that's a big problem. my husband was in a bike accident, and he was on painkillers for a while, and he said i'd rather have the pain than the constipation, honestly. he's probably watching right now going, oh, thank you. [laughter] >> host: paul in moab, utah. good afternoon to you. >> caller: good afternoon. do you have a new -- you have a new fan, mary roach. i'm going to go out and read it. you're fascinating. thank you. >> guest: thank you. >> caller: my question is about science fiction and what wonderf you have some favorite authors, anything like that. and secondly, are you a fan of
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futureama? >> guest: i haven't seen, i know what it is because it comes right after -- doesn't it come after "the colbert report"? >> caller: yes. >> guest: yeah. so, you know what? i haven't watched it. i should because when i've left it on for a while, i go, oh, this looks pretty trippy and fascinating. my favorite, ray bradbury. i loved ray bradbury. there was this particularly haunting short story, and i'm hoping it's ray bradbury and that i don't have the wrong person. oh, there was a couple. there's one called the veld -- oh, i won't go into that one, but the one that was amazing was this one where the alien, it was this beautiful woman, and she had her hair for the whole story draped down over half of her face. and as it turned out, that's because when she pulled back her hair, this horrible thing came out, and it actually pulled this guy's skeleton out of his body, and he ended up -- his wife came
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up, and heas it was a very -- but it was written just beautifully, you know? anyway, ray bradbury, man. >> host: and by the way, mary roach does include that story in her first book, "stiff," in the last chapter. whether or not she will be donating her body or her skeleton. >> guest: did i mention the ray bradbury in there? >> host: yes, you did. >> guest: see? it stayed with me. >> host: alicia likes your books. near the end of "spook," you told us about the scientist in norway or sweden who developed the chamber where a body would be put in a chamber, frozen and then exploded. do you know if there's been any advancement in her work? also i would love to see a book written by you on ufo phenomenon. >> guest: oh, yeah, ufo. i simultaneously would love to go there and not want -- i, i need to notten gauge with that
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community. >> host: why? >> guest: i just -- to find your footing in, quote-unquote, legitimate research in a topic like that would be tough. and it's just so cloaked in conspiracy theory. i mean, i do talk about it a bit in "packing for mars." i did the roswell incident in some of it, because what the military -- some of their projects had to do with mannequins. they were dropping mannequin down and testing, i forget exactly what they were testing, but the mannequins had three fingers only, and some people would see them briefly before they were taken away in a truck, and they're like, oh, they were like weird aliens. but anyway, so i did step into that world a little bit, but i'm hesitant to drive all the way under. and what was the -- >> host: about the exploding people at the end of -- >> guest: oh, yeah. they didn't exactly explode them, it was vibration. they were going to either shake
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them or vibrate them or use ultrasound to break up the frozen remains. and they would then be composted. so it was a human composting, a very mechanically complex human composting process called promession. and suzanne in sweden is still working on that and has people interested in a whole bunch of different countries. the, i'm not sure why it's taken so long. i think just the complications of the equipment. it's a very complicated process. but is she still working on it, and i have confidence that one day they will be doing human composting or promession is the word she's using. >> host: and there's an e-mail in here from somebody, and i apologize, i hopefully will find it, asking -- that's a good follow-up -- is what about, what about follow-ups with some of
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your book, with some of the people looking back? "stiff" is ten years old now. >> guest: 10,000 years old. [laughter] i think it would be fascinating to do a where are they now for "stiff." but the way to do that, i think, maybe you could do it for an e-book just like they have on a, when you rent a movie, you know, dvd they've got the film maker doing a narration like, you know, kind of here's what was going on behind the scenes, etc. i think it would be interesting to have kind of a after-the-fact narration of, you know, what's going on with promessa or what's this researcher up to or what's going on now. that might be a way to do it. to the release a whole book my publisher would be not really interested in that. but that could be kind of an interesting, kind of the extras on the disc.
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>> host: all right. george from chicago e-mails in something you write about in "packing for mars," sex in outer space. has it happened yet, if not, when it does happen will you, please, write about it? a roach-able topic. >> guest: oh, it is roach-able, there's a whole chapter in "packing for mars" called the dolphin club which has to do with zero gravity intercourse, and i'm not going to give this one away. you need to go buy the bookful. [laughter] >> host: has it happened? >> guest: not that anybody is willing to own up to. there was a married couple that flew -- normally mar rayed couples do not, nasa doesn't fly married couples partly because if something happened, there goes the whole family. that's part of the reason, and the other reason is you're supposed to be loyal to the mission and not your spouse.
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so that would create sort of, you might be torn between loyalties to the mission and loyalties to your spouse. anyway, there was a couple that flew on the space shuttle, and my understanding is that they got married right before the mission. so you're talking newlyweds on the shuttle. you kind of have to -- you would think that they would. on the other hand, and someone explained this to me at nasa, astronauts are career-driven people. if they did this, word would get out. there goes your career, the thing that you dreamed of, you know, you've spent your whole life working up to. and i told this to my agent, and he listened to me, and he goes, yeah, but it might be worth it, huh? [laughter] so, and i tried to find, because my -- i didn't really care if somebody had done it in space technically the boundaries, i just wondered had anybody done it in zero gravity. so i thought there's all these
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commercial flights, zero gravity corporation, and i called them, and the guy said, you know, nasa is a contractor of ours, if that got out, we'd stand to lose a lot of money, so, no. he said, no, but of course he's going to say no. i'm guessing maybe one of the staff at the zero gravity corps might have done that, you know, after hours or a flight that's just -- one of the early flights where they were working out the kinks. it seems to me. but nobody's owning up to it, let's say. >> host: but your research on that topic included locating a porn star, correct? >> guest: yeah, yeah. sylvia saint, it was, i believe. sylvia saint. okay. there was supposedly this, it was a trilogy called the uranus experiments. and what i'd heard is that there was a scene shot in zero gravity not in space, but on a zero gravity simulator. it's a plane that does the parabolick flights.
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you've got 20 seconds of zero gravity, so conceivably you could. and i called, i tracked down the producer of the your rain yous experiments who lived in spain, and we had a conversation. he said, oh, yes, we definitely did. i'll send you a link to the movies, you can check it out. he went on and on, he said, oh, yeah, i have a timeshare on the corporate jet, and we got the pilot to do that flight. i said, really? you got a pilot to do a zero gravity flight? that's extreme. he said, oh, yeah, we had to check the planes really thoroughly afterwards, and he had a lot of detail, and i thought, okay. and then i downloaded the uranus experiments, and i fast forwarded -- i'm the only person who fast forwarded through the porn to get to the -- i got to the scene in zero gravity, all right, and right away if you know anything about zero gravity, you can tell that this is fake because her ponytail is
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hanging down. her ponytail is not -- it would normally be, like, floating. in zero gravity it'd be like this. it's hanging down, and other parts of her anatomy are similarly not buoyed by zero gravity. there would be no hangy down >>, and there was. all they were doing, their legs were hidden, so they're standing behind a sofa going up and down trying to look -- and then for one shot, the money shot, they kind of just flipped it sideways, it loaded like they're -- looked like they're floating. it was fake. >> host: robin is in will lets, california. robin, you've got to turn down the volume on your tv and just listen through your phone. you know what? we're going to put you on hold, robin. we will come back to you.
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but you've got to turn down the tv and just listen through the phone. harold is in dallas. >> caller: hi, peter, hi, mary. >> guest: hi. >> caller: i had heard or read that in "gulp" you said that fletcherism had been debunked. is that correct? >> guest: yes. >> caller: okay -- >> guest: is that -- okay. >> caller: and number two, is there anything in "gulp" about i think it's the nutty ca lombic phase that never seems to go away? >> guest: yes, there's quite a bit about that. >> host: so what is fletcherrizing? >> guest: horse fletcher was a man -- horace fletcher, he was an efficiency expert, and he believes in getting the most possible value from getting whatever it is. he believed if you chewed, and we're talking very, very, very
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thorough. we're not talking 30 chews per mouthful, up to 700 in the case of a garden shallot, 700 chews. so a very time consuming, very thorough chewing would enable you not only to extract more benefit, but to eat less and, therefore, save money. and he had a plan to energize the economy by having people chew their food more thoroughly and then eat less. and he actually got involved in a relief commission, world war i belgian relief commission. he was trying to instead of sending them food, get them to chew more thoroughly, and then they can get by with half the amount of food by chewing more thoroughly. and one of the ways this -- this was actually debunked before horace fletcher. of it was debunked back in the 1800s by a man named william beaumont who met somebody with a hole opening into the stomach, and you could put food in and pull it back out at intervals and see what was going on. and he would tie, at one point
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he tied some cabbage to the string. he would tie chunks of food, lower it in, pull it back out, and there'd be nothing there. and this was food that hadn't even been chewed at all. so the stomach does a very thorough job of of reducing solid chunks to liquid. you don't have to do that in the mouth. the mouth does some preliminary digesting, there's enzymes that break down starches and release sugars, and there's stuff going on in the mouth, but you don't -- the body takes care of it quite well. the stoppage breaks things down -- stomach breaks things down quite well. but it kind of comes out, even today there's people who are very big believers in juicing because there's more nutrients available. you know, the blender would be taking all of the mouth's role. but if you want to author rely -- thoroughly chew, there's no harm except dinner conversation would become more of a problem.
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eating dinner with a fletcherrizer was a very tedious and dull proposition. [laughter] france cough ca cough ca, the very sober with the cheekbones staring straight ahead? now i see him chewing endlessly and, apparently, the historian, margaret bar net, i believe it was, who wrote about fletcherism and said that there was -- somehow found a quote from kafka's father saying he would hold up the newspaper so as not to have to look at the grim toiling of his son chewing his breakfast endlessly. >> host: have you ever made yourself squeamish? on some of the topics that you cover? >> guest: the very first time i, the very first chapter of "stiff" was, this was a body, an autopsy had been done already. it wasn't an autopsy, but the body they were using had been given an autopsy. so that's a very shocking and
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somewhat disturbing sight because the whole body cavity has been gutted in the very real sense of the word. there's a viscera bag, the organs are in a bag, and there's just this open cavity. and it's, you know, red and raw and in your face. and that was the first place i went for "stiff." and i had -- it wasn't so much squeamish, but almost like the image would pop into my head unbidden for days afterwards. and i remember thinking this might not have been the best idea, this book. but that was one of the most sort of confrontational images that i, you know, just as in it's very, yeah, well, visceral would be the word with. but that was, that stayed with me a little bit, and it was a little disturbing. but not squeamish. you know what makes me -- you know what grosses me out?
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nothing in any of the books so much as have you ever had gum bow and it's not supposed to too this, but that -- oak rah snot is how i've heard it. that strand from the bowl up to the spoon and you're like what's wrong, and you keep thinking if i pull my spoon away quickly it won't happen, and that's the end, i have to put the bowl of gumbo aside. >> host: how did former president james garfield make it into "gulp"? >> guest: yeah, former -- he's the poster boy for something called reck till feeding or rectallal mennation. garfield, there was an assassination attempt. things were not right side. he had trouble keeping food down. in other words, he couldn't feet forward, so he was being fed backwards. and that's something, you can feed people rectally.
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you're not absorbing a lot of nutrients. you could keep someone alive for a while, but it's not the same as eating, obviously. and so garfield's physician was a big advocate to the point where he wrote a book called rectal feeding about a hundred pages on the topic which he believed was more interesting than any romance -- [laughter] i think that was the quote. more interesting than any romance. >> host: and you have the recipe for his -- >> guest: the assistant surgeon general's rectal beef extract. >> host: yes, and you can read it. [laughter] >> guest: i've always thought there should be a little, a mary roach cookbook because every book there's a few little recipes. like "bonk" there are not one, but two artificial semen recipes including, you know, where they have the ingredient -- you know, the yield where it says, you
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know, yield a dozen cupcakes, this would be like, yield: one ejacatlanta. >> host: you can read that recipe in "gulp" for yourself. robin in california, we appreciate your holding. >> caller: ing okay, thank you very much, and mary roach, thank you very much. today is the, my best friend's birthday, and i've been watching you since i woke up this morning. and we have read you, we have a reading group. >> guest: uh-huh. >> caller: she's catholic, she looks -- she could be your sister. >> guest: yeah. >> caller: and she's out of town, but i felt like i was sitting here with her watching you. and i wanted to say i gave her "spook," so i can't refer to the book, you know, to read. >> guest: yeah. >> caller: also she read or she wanted to read "stiff" for our reading group, and that was rejected because nobody wanted to read about dead bodies.
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>> guest: oh. [laughter] >> caller: however -- >> guest: what is wrong with people, honestly? >> caller: i know. there's something terribly wrong. but, yeah, some of them were like we don't want to read about that. however, we give books to each other birthdays and christmas, and i was, i got her "gulp." though she's out of town, i'll have to give it to her later. but watching you and, you know, it was like being with her. but when i read "spook," i live in mendocino county, and i came across dr. wilson van dusen. >> guest: oh, yeah. >> caller: an obscure psychiatric -- >> guest: yes. >> caller: well, i was intimate ly well acamed with him because my -- acquainted because my best friend was his daughter. >> guest: oh, okay. >> caller: and i couldn't believe, where did you find this guy? >> guest: he's about the guy who talked about the voices in the
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head? >> host: oh, i apologize. i hung up on that caller. >> guest: you hung up on her? >> host: i pushed another button. >> guest: robin, call back. he's so rude. well, wilson van deuce condition, he's the one -- if i'm remembering right, it's a while since i wrote "spook," he was talking about the voices that people would hear in schizophrenia, and he was wondering whether the voices were actually real and that -- maybe i'm remembering this wrong, but that people with schizophrenia, maybe it was affecting the brain in a way that enabled them to hear things the rest of us couldn't hear. where the heck -- i don't know where i found wilson van abusen. wilson. i forget where i came across him. but it was a fascinating, a very thoughtful, out-of-the-box interpretation of the voices that one hears with psychosis.
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>> host: karen, jesup, maryland. good afternoon, you're on booktv on c-span2. >> caller: thank you so much. i have just thoroughly enjoyed this interview from both sides, and i have read everything of mary roach's other than "packing for mars." you mentioned earlier that you were a little reluctant to talk about the science underlying miracles. and i am an ex-conservator of objects, and there is a small but very interesting literature about the scientific underpinnings at least of some miraculous events. for instance, sculptures that move or cry or cry blood. and i'm interested in why you would be reluctant to write about that when you say of "spook" i came away from the science saying i choose to believe? >> guest: because i write with a kind of a free wheeling,
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flippant, irreverent all over the map casualness that i have found with "spook" that people oftentimes take offense at just the very notion of being silly or having fun or doing something humorous on the topic. and i don't want to offend anybody or make them feel i have made fun of their religion in any way or their beliefs, and i just don't feel comfortable. that's all. >> host: steve posts on our facebook page, um, likes the quality of the writing and the offbeat subject matter, likes your sense of humor. can you talk a little bit about your sense of humor and how you determine what is acceptable and appropriate versus what may potentially be seen as crossing the line? >> guest: that's a great question. and the way that that happens that i don't -- when i'm
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writing, i don't rein myself in. i leave that for my wonderful editor, joe, who i've been with all along -- >> host: at norton? >> guest: at w.w. norton. she's a very good ear for what is immature, silly, not funny, offensive, and she -- there's very little material, you know, the one we talked about earlier as an example. she doesn't, there's surprisingly little material that she crosses out and writes, no. but i, because i don't think of myself as a very good judge of that, and i think the fact that i feel free to just let it rip and that she's my safe tenet, she's the -- safety net, she's standing in for normal human beings -- [laughter] like reading it and going i don't know about this. so that's kind of how it works with the humor. >> host: well, do you know john ronson, the author? >> guest: i do. i do.
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>> host: did you read the review that he wrote of "gulp"? >> guest: i heard about it, and i read the nice parts, but i didn't read -- yeah, anyway. >> host: are you someone who doesn't, do you not read reviews? >> guest: i don't read reviews in general. i do if there's a nice review in the times, i'll read that or book world or, you know, washington post, whatever. some of the, some of the major ones especially if i know the reviewer. john ronson i actually know not personally, but he blurbed "spook," and he was the one who was going to, supposed to do the interview with me in the u.k. for "spook," but he had a last minute conflict and bailed. so that's how i know john ronson up to that i didn't to. i love john ronson's book. "the men who stare at goats" is one of my favorite books, so it was especially sad to have him not, not be enthusiastic about "gulp." >> host: he writes about you,
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she is beloved and justifiably so which is why i feel churlish and weirdly guilty for not enjoying "gulp" more. talks about juvenile medical student humor and says it's a bit too much like a highfalutin ripley's believe it or not. a lot of digestive system trivia but not much heart. >> guest: well, that's fair enough. you know, it's, it's a topic, you know, the elementary canal as opposed to "stiff" or "spook" which deal with sex and death. those are kind of large topics. guts, the heart is a little harder to pull into it, in my defense. but, yeah. it's not, it's not -- >> host: are you affected by critiques? >> guest: oh, yeah. more sure. what he said -- not the ones where i can see where they're coming there and i understand
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that. what stays with me are not something like that. that doesn't really trouble me, but somebody saying like the first reviews of "stiff" was in self magazine, i think it was, and the woman described me as, my writing as perky. perky. perky, i'm many things, but i'm not perky. that was particularly -- because it seemed off. it just didn't seem, it just didn't seem right. i'm trying to think of other, other comments people made. >> host: well, all of your books have been on "the new york times" bestseller list, correct? >> guest: yeah. yeah. >> host: do you have a favorite? >> guest: no. i don't think -- it's that proverbial thing of asking someone who's your favorite child. no, i don't. and i think, actually, some of
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the, you know, your least popular book, in my case "spook," you end up having this special affection for because you kind of feel bad for it. it's the runt of the litter, you know, that doesn't -- you don't get the same -- when i do hear from somebody who's read "spook and" and enjoyed it, i'm always like thank you, i don't get a lot of mail about "spook." it's particularly gratifying to hear from somebody who took the time to write to you about the book that people kind of don't know it exists. >> host: donna in delaware, hi. donna? >> caller: yes, i'm here. >> host: please go ahead, ma'am. >> caller: oh, i -- well, i was, during the cold war i was reading soviet press articles, and i read that there were soviet cosmonauts, i believe the air force officer was a woman and had sex in space, and they had a child. i don't know whether it was from that particular contact or not, but anyway, that was in the soviet press. and she, she actually was a
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colonel at one point in time. but it, it was very interesting. but we'll have to remember a lot of things the soviets said weren't necessarily true, like -- >> guest: right. >> caller: -- like they created heroin. it was not true. but anyway, i thought that was quite interesting. so they did have cosmonauts, they did have sex in space supposedly. >> guest: right. i think i'm familiar with the couple you're describing. there was, there were two cosmonauts that had both flown in space that did have a child, but i never heard of that, that it was conceived in a mission or that they had sex in space. i only heard, the part that i heard was that they were a couple, they had both been in space, and they have a child together. so there is a child of two astronauts, but that it wasn't conceived in space, in zero gravity. so i don't know of any humans of
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who have done the deed in zero gravity. >> host: in "gulp," and lily ellison puts a comment on our facebook page about this, what is the response to the last chapter on the topic of fecal traction plants? just very quickly want to read a little bit of this. the first fecal transplant was performed in 1958 --
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uh-huh. >> host: what is this? >> guest: yes. um, yeah. the fecal transplant or bacteria therapy as it's more euphemistically known is very effective at treating, there's an infection with a bacteria, and when antibiotics have failed multiple times, the process, the process is essentially it's you want to get the bacteria from a healthy colon into the patient. and the best way to do that is to take the contents of the colon, the feces as it were, and that material is processed very minimally, a blender was involved the day i was there. basically, say eleven and the donor's -- saline and the donor's stool sample and put in the blender, and then carried across town in a cooler to the
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patient who's waiting, and the same thing, the same instrument that's used in a colonoscopy has a plunger, attachment. so then the material -- so you're reseeding the colon with healthy bacteria. and you just think of it as immigration. bacteria, a whole community going in and taking over in someone else's colon. and it's very dramatic. within a day or two the person be's problems -- because it's normally chronic diarrhea. there's something like between 15 and 30,000 depending on who you talk to die from chronic infections. so the transplant is cheap, it is, you know, poop is free. and it's very effective. there are no side effects. assuming that the person, the donor doesn't have any problems, any medical conditions.
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so it is a fairly miraculous process. but it does -- it's not just the ick factor. when i interviewed the doctor, i said why is it so long for this to take acceptance? are people just repulsed by the notion of taking fecal material from one person, a stranger, no less -- sometimes a family member. he said, well, it's that, but it's also more than that the way medicine happens and the way the process by which a new technique is accepted. and normally there's a pharmaceutical company or a device maker who is spending the money to push it through the various levels that you go through in order to, for the process to become something on the hospital's menu. and here's the code that we bill for, and here's the amount that we bill, etc. so with this there isn't, that structure isn't there, and no one's pushing for it. so the doctor, the guy that i
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visited in minneapolis, he said i just bill for a colonoscopy because that's, essentially, the most similar thing. that's kind of what he's doing. but there's the little container of stuff. so and, anyway, the story has gone on since "gulp," but it's interesting, it's an interesting story and kind of an amazing -- and the technique is being tested now for other, i believe, inflammatory bowel is being -- but it's still in the early phases. >> host: t.s. glassman tweets in, how many projects are you working on at a time? something always on the back burner or one at a time? >> guest: i am usually just working on one, but i'll be writing one chapter, researching another, doing the preliminary setup for another one. and then if things go well, i'm
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starting the kind of -- the idea for another book would be percolating, and i might be looking into that when i'm in final stages of one book. but i, i'm kind of a one burner at a time gal. i don't do well with four burners going. i get confused. [laughter] >> host: randy, round lake, illinois. please go ahead with your question or comment for author mary roach. >> caller: hello. it's been a very interesting conversation. my question is about cadavers or body parts, especially body parts for transplantation. in this capitalist system we live in, why can't people -- maybe they do, maybe they demand financial benefit for their families for this so-called use of their body or body parts? and if not, you know, maybe they could make a stipulation, well, why can't they say that if i'm donating my body parts for
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transplantation, why can't everything associated with this transplant be free of charge to the recipient? >> guest: right. yes. i wrote an op-ed some years back for "the new york times" on that topic exactly. given that there is a shortage for organs, i mean, there's a waiting list. i don't have the numbers in my head anymore, but it's a tragic situation, the number of people dying on the waiting list for organs. and as an incentive, why can't there be some way for people to receive some financial benefit or, like you said, for the families, you know, to somehow compensate or encourage donation. you know, the concern, i guess, anytime you have money entering into the equation is there'll be somebody, there'll be some sort of black market, or people will feel pressured or, you know, that whole business that happens overseas with people selling their kidneys, being given some
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small amount of money, some desperate person selling a kidney for, you know, a walkman or something like that. so there's that concern that they'll be somehow -- but the, you know, in this case, in the case of the person who's dead or they're legally dead and they're not undergoing surgery for profit, you know, it seems like there should be perhaps a way to create an incentive for families and individuals in some way maybe not monetary, maybe like you said something else, that the medical care or something. and i think that some things should be openly discussed. i also think the model for, that exists in the european union my understanding is it's an opt-out system for organ donation. in other words, if you don't have a mark on your driver's license, if you don't specifically say i do not want my organs used for
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transplantation, then the default is they will be used. and i think that makes a lot of sense as long as everybody understands that's the system and they'd have a way to opt out to, it would just make a lot more organs available. and i just, you know, that's the one topic -- i don't really get on my high horse very much. i'm kind of a goofball and of a goober, but organ donation is, you know, it's essentially just surgery. it's not mutilation. it's not this awful thing that your loved one is enduring. first of all, your loved one is dead, legally dead. whether or not they're being oxygenated or, you know, they don't necessarily look dead. but it's an opening up of the body cavity and removing organs. it's surgery, and we are fine with surgery when someone's alive, so why is it this disturbing thing? i think it get into the idea of, you know, the heart is still beating, so, therefore, if i say you can take that heart, that i killed my loved ones. it's a very emotional issue, but
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i like to encourage people to talk about it and think about it and explore why it is that they feel how they feel about it. >> host: a couple of tweets. first, todd williamson. as a librarian, your books are an easy giveaway for patrons looking for something to read. keep up the good work. marshall tweets in: do you have advice for writers? can you discuss your writing process? >> guest: sure. advice for writers, um, one thing i would say to writers is to trust your instincts, particularly when you're trying to figure out what would i, what would i write a book about. there's a tendency, i think, or in myself i used to second guess myself a lot and say, oh, that's not a book, that's just a magazine piece. or who would want to read that, or that seems stupid. and also people -- another thing that people do with writing is
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they tend to hand it out to a lot of their colleagues to read. more so in fiction than nonfiction. but i think if i had done that with "stiff," someone would have said, you know, mary, this whole kind of cadaver humor thing seems really inappropriate and like a bad idea. i would take this and out and take that out. and i'd then think, i don't know, are they right, am i right? so i don't -- i'm pretty insecure as a writer. i don't really trust myself well enough to if somebody came and said this is not working, you should take that out, i've come to trust my editor. i know her to be a good voice and a good pair of eyes on my work, but i think sometimes people -- they solicit so much advice and begin to second guess themselves. and you don't want to be, you always want to be the person somebody's trying to be like. you don't want to be like
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someone else. you don't want to -- because i used to sometimes get an agent would contact me and say let's do like, you know, the physics of "star trek," let's do a book like that. why don't you do the biology or marcus welby. i pulled that out of my butt, but that's not the way to do it. you want to be the physics. you want to be the guy who wrote the physics of "star trek," you don't want to be the guy who wrote something like that. this'll be like mary roach's "stiff." i would just encourage people to be their own unique, wonderful, quirky selves. >> host: naples, florida, please go ahead. we have a few minutes left in our program. >> caller: congratulations on your program. >> guest: thanks. >> caller: i think it's a combination of a great interviewer and a great author. and a very challenging subject. i read a book, so my experience
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is as a physician and a medical student, where the professor brought in a painting of the anatomy lesson, a 400-year-old painting, and we learned a great deal about structure and function from the painting. we respected the painting and see who we could learn. so we said, oh, come on, doctor, give us a clue. he said, all right, when you eat soup, you use your -- [inaudible] muscles, of course. [laughter] and when you pour, you use your pouring muscles. so here was a professor showing us how these muscles were working as if we were opening and closing the door. so he looked at the back of our hand and realized these muscles really were -- [inaudible] the flexors and were
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transsupposed. so we said we've got it, doctor. our conclusion is this poor man when he went to eat soup dropped the soup in his lap, and he was so impressed with our having mastered his lesson of structure and function, he said, you're right, you're on your way to becoming great physicians and surgeons or radiologists, etc. [laughter] and i wanted to find more paintings to learn more about medicine to make my studies more colorful. and i wasn't successful, but i found as you were doing with regard to the heros and heroines of the bible, he had one-third of his masterpieces of his 600 masterpieces, 200 were devoted to the heroes and hair wynns of the bible -- heroines of the bible. curators of the museums throughout the world, and they sent me some of the best
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reproductions. and -- >> host: well, leonard, i apologize, we're almost out of time. thank you for sharing that story. any response for that caller, mary roach? >> guest: leonard, are you saying that rem brant, he had the muscles backward? >> host: he's gone. >> guest: oh, he's gone. you did it again. >> host: that's a euphemism. >> guest: anyway, i'm familiar with the painting, but i don't have the knowledge to fact check it. but that's fascinating to hear. >> host: and finally, nate -- this is a tweet -- is there a national clearinghouse for information about donating a body to science? >> guest: um, there should be. we added a page to the back of "stiff," basically how to donate your body because it all depends -- i'd start with calling the closest medical school to you. that's usually the anatomy department has a willed body
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program usually, and that's who you would contact about donating to a medical school. they usually have a radius of, i don't know, a few hundred miles. they'll come and pick up the body. and so it's done that way. i often get questions like people say i want to donate to the body farm which is an interesting wish the people have, but you have to live in tennessee. otherwise you'd have to ship unembalmed remains across state lines which is problematic. so you have to live in the area of tennessee. or if you wanted to be an automotive crash test safety testing, you know, move to the detroit area. you kind of have to situate yourself where the research is happening unless it's just more straightforward dissection and education. >> host: and for the last three hours we have been talking with author and journal u.s. mary roche -- journalist marry roach. five nonfiction books beginning with "stiff." "spook" came out in 2005. "bonk" came out in 2008. "packing for mars: the curious
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science of life," in 2010 and finally just this past year, "gulp: adventures on thal meantly canal." mary roach, thank you for being on booktv. thank you all for joining us, enjoy the rest of your day. .. to discuss why powerful nations and civilizations break down


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