Bob McDonald

The host of CBC radio’s science show Quirks and Quarks answers the tough questions.

The Quirks and Quarks’ Question Roadshow is an annual event which happens in a different location each year. Recorded in front of a live audience, scientific experts are consulted on questions sent in by people living in the area.

This time about 90 people submitted, and the questions range from “why can you not put pineapple or kiwi fruit in Jell-O?” to “how are whales able to dive after taking in a huge breath of air?” to “Why is the ocean where we are so dark blue, but lighter blue as you go south to the equator?”

Bob and his producers choose questions that relate to every day life, because, he says, that’s what makes science interesting.

“Just when we think we’ve got the whole universe figured out,” he says, “Sometimes we look at an every day thing, ask a question that maybe a child would ask, and it can get quite complicated.”

What is your current obsession?
Sailing takes up a lot of my time. I have a big sailboat.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
The sense of peace that happens when you’re exposed to exquisite nature: a beautiful sunset or a mountain range… When nature just impresses upon you how beautiful it is and you get that sense of peace.

What super-power do you secretly possess?
Being in more than one place at the same time.

What is your principal defect?

Procrastination. Believe it or not, I fight it all the time. I’m never late, but when I was a kid I got a Farmers’ Almanac. I was in about grade five or six and I saw a Farmers’ Almanac for the first time and that’s when I learned my astrological sign (which is Aquarius.) It was a little paragraph that went along and then said “your greatest fault is pro… crast…”

“I wonder what that means? Oh I’ll look it up tomorrow.”

It was more than a year later that I was in class and looking up something in the P section of the dictionary that I saw it again. [laugh] I burst out laughing. I thought, “wow is this almanac ever good!”

What sound or noise do you love?
Actually the sound of silence which is very rare and becoming more and more difficult to find. Since I live in a big city I’m surrounded by sound all the time.

What sound or noise do you despise?
Anything high pitched.

What job other that your own would you like to attempt?
To fly in space. I always wanted to be an astronaut and I might get a shot at it as a tourist if someone will give me 22 million dollars.

CBC could foot the bill! [laugh]

I suggested it and I was met with the sound of crickets in the room. [laugh]

What job would you not like to do?
Some of the jobs I had when I was younger. I was a janitor for while. I really respect janitors.

Anything that’s boring, or the same thing every day.

I would not want to be the person that puts the rubber inserts into running shoes.

Where (other than Toronto) would you like to live?
I really like the tropics. I also like Victoria, BC, if it was in Canada. …Or Australia. I was down there a while ago.

The more places you go, the more you like.

How would you like to die?
How does it go? “Quietly in my sleep, not screaming like my passengers.”? [laugh]

I would like to die doing something incredible. Not of old age. I’d like to die doing something incredible. What a way to go.

Quirks and Quarks is on CBC Radio One on Mondays at 11pm and Saturdays at 12 noon. You can also listen online at cbc.ca/quirks/

Bob’s Quirks and Quarks blog is an interesting read. You can find it at cbc.ca/technology/­quirks-blog/

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