By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Celebrated Canadian broadcaster and writer Jay Ingram is touring and promoting his latest book The Science of Why: Answers to Questions About the World Around Us at select stops. This book came out November 1st, and his visit to Victoria, BC at Bolen Books arrived thirty days later, on December 1st, where he spoke to a crowd of children and adults who grew up watching either CBC’s Quirks & Quarks (1979-1992) or Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet (19952-2011). Repeats of the latter program show he will never be missed.
For this writer, to see him speak in person reveals why his presence is delightful. He began the approximately hour-long presentation with a brief discussion about Alzheimer’s — in connection to his book, The End of Memory — and he imparted advice which everyone should take heart. People who walked for at least half an hour each day are less prone to getting this dementia than those who are not. For some people, this fact is well-known. For others, to learn how to improve one’s health as he or she gets older can be discovered anytime.
The Science of Why is one of those books where one can find some of the answers online, but to have a table side book to flip through is better. However, should this book be read before bed? Hard to say. The brain may go on overdrive processing the factoids presented. Ingram presents a summary of various case studies to answer various questions posed. For example, in the look into the nitty-gritty of why asparagus makes urine smell funny — one humorously written chapter — plenty of giggles from the audience was overheard as he spoke about it.
Another section from this unit explains why yawns are contagious. Thankfully, nobody was doing that during his presentation (especially myself, since it’d be embarrassing by sitting near the front). While some readers can easily hit google with random questions to get answered, I enjoyed this collection of questions about the world around us that I assume both Ingram and the book publisher thought of putting together in a charming format. His answers is a fun response to those queries that I think an inquisitive 7-year old would ask, especially if they are asking why do farts smell bad?
The section I naturally gravitated to is the supernatural. No, the question of whether ghosts exist is not debated. Instead, explorations into what déjà vu is looked at. I appreciate the depth gone into this subject. Déjà vécu (having lived through an event before), senti (having felt a particular emotion) and two others which I never heard about before are briefly listed. To fully finish the discourse included mention of jamais vu (never seen). This particular entry is motivating me to dive deeper into this particular subject. The names of scientists and scholars are mentioned throughout The Science of Why and hopefully, I can Google up their research.
Other units include a query into whether people can dream in colour or not, and I’m inclined to agree a lot of it is influenced by the media that we consume every day. I really appreciated a brief look into cryptozoology — does Bigfoot exist? There are empirical studies, and instead of bogging the reader down with data, Ingram approaches the answers in an easy to digest form.
To see him talk about his favourite sections of this book is the most engaging. The joy is in how the art by Tony Hanyk compliments the charm of Ingram’s thoughts. This book is by no means meant to be sophisticated. It instead opens up the reader’s mind to question the world around us more and just think about it. Well, not too hard. He encourages the reader to nod and go hmm.
To see where Jay Ingram will speak next, please visit his website’s event calendar or follow him on Twitter. His appearance in Victoria, BC was a presentation of Bolen Books and Simon & Schuster Canada.