Radiolab Live

Tonight was made of epic geekery and win. While my co-workers talked about going to a bar post our big meeting, I went to squee and listen to smart people talk about interesting stuff.

I took the BART over to Berkeley with A to see Radiolab Live (If you haven’t heard their podcasts yet – I highly recommend them!) It was absolutely incredible. The discussion tonight was about dark and light. They discussed the evolution of eyeballs, the pure darkness of space as seen from an astronauts point of view, and the different viewpoints of blind people in how they choose to see the world.

I learned so much! They explained the various parts of the development of the eyeball in such a way that made sense, starting with the mutation of molecules that caught light particles to what you and I use to view the world.

They had interviewed and recorded the viewpoints of two different blind people. The first had begun to develop cataracts when he was 13 (and still sighted) and didn’t go fully blind until he was 35. At one point, at a party, someone made a comment regarding how beautiful his wife looked and how lucky he was that the only image he had of her was from the beginning of their relationship many years prior. He realized that he could either live in this nostaligic rememberance of a woman with no way to know how she looked as she aged, or he could try and live in the present. In order to do this, he decided to extinguish all use of imagery and vision in his mind. He has no idea of what a room looks like or what anything looks like for that matter. He does not think in pictures or images. Instead, even in his mind, he lives in a world of pure touch, sound, and smell. His mind is as sightless as he is physically. Then, they interviewed a second guy. He had lost his sight when he had an accident with a 44 gallon cask of acid. It burned his face, ate through his eyes, and even scarred/damaged his vocal cords. This is a man who believes that sight is the best way we have of forming relationships and interacting with one another. He believed that it was hard to create a connection with someone you can’t actually visually see. In order to combat this, he used the power of his imagination. He creates who film reels in his head to define the world around him. He might have never actually seen his wife with his own eyes, but through descriptions of others he now has a very clear image in his mind of what he believes her to look like. Now the best part about both of these interviews was when they set up a phone conversation between the two of them so that they could debate their differing beliefs regarding vision.

Then the story about the astronaut. I never really thought about how if you’re out of the ship and something blocks the light from, oh…say your arm, then it honestly looks like there’s nothing there. I mean, it’s obviously still there, but you simply cannot see it. His story, when they interviewed him, was about working on things on the ship and seeing several days go by in the course of 8 hours. He and his partner got locked out of the airlock. They both worked to try and get the airlock door open for 7 hours before they decided to try and decompress one of the nearby rooms and use that one instead. Mind you by the time they got around to this, they had hardly and C02 scrubbers left in their suit systems. They had to unbuckle their umbilical cords and maneuver the room by feel since their masks completely fogged up.

Throughout the entire show, their conversations were being beautifully illustrated by the Pilobolus. ( It wasn’t just the topics either. The way that Jad and Rob play off each other is absolutely adorkable and actually makes me want to run up and hug both of them.

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