Quirks and Quarks coming to TEDx Penticton

Science educator Bob McDonald will be presenting at Penticton's fourth TEDx conference.

Science educator Bob McDonald

Science educator Bob McDonald

When science educator Bob McDonald climbs on stage for Penticton’s fourth TEDx conference, he’s bringing a special prop.

A nice big garbage can. And no, he’s not planning to talk about recycling, except maybe in a cosmic sense. The garbage can, he said, is to help him demonstrate how black holes and gravity bend and curve, affecting the universe and our perceptions.

“When you take a large object like the Earth or a star, it bends space so that something else that is close to that, like a moon, or a satellite or a person on the surface, we are following the bend of space,” said McDonald, host of CBC Radio’s long running science show, Quirks and Quarks. “Satellites going around the earth, or the international space station are actually going in a straight line, but they are following the curvature of space, which is how Einstein saw it.”

It seems appropriate one of Einstein’s theories was confirmed last year, just before the 2016 centennial of his General Theory of Relativity.

“If you have two really massive objects like black holes going around each other, they will curve space so much they will make waves in it, and that is what we detected last year,” said McDonald. “That is what my talk is about gravity, gravitational waves and why they are important.”

McDonald has a gift for conveying the excitement of scientific investigation and discovery. He’s had time to perfect his technique over 25 years of hosting Quirks, taking over from Jay Ingram, who followed the show’s original host, David Suzuki.

“Every week is different. Scientists from around the world tell me their stories and it is always new,” said McDonald. “It doesn’t matter whether it is out at the edge of the universe, or in a jungle in Borneo, or looking into the atom, it is all new and it is all great.

“I am really privileged to talk to some of the smartest people in the world, doing what they do to try to understand how the world works. It is very exciting from that point of view and I like telling people about it.”

Generating an interest in science is important, with issues like climate change, pollution, overpopulation and the availability of food and water facing the planet.

“Science can point to some sensible solutions to that, but in order to go to those solutions, we need a better understanding. That’s why scientific literacy is important.”

Over the 40 years of broadcast, Quirks has maintained consistent ratings, according to McDonald, with about half a million people tuning in every week.

He thinks it is because Quirks offers a change from the news diet of violence, politics and sports.

“Those stories, they don’t change all that much, the characters change but the story pretty well remains the same,” said McDonald. “I think there is that endless fascination with trying to figure out how the world works.”

And figuring out how the world works is part of celebrating the centennial of Einstein’s theory.  Though many have tried to disprove Einstein’s predictions over the last century, time after time he has been proven right.

“It would be nice to prove him wrong in some things, like he said you can’t go faster than the speed of light,” said McDonald. “I hope we prove him wrong in that so we can really start going somewhere. But he did predict gravitational waves and it took until last year to find them.”

Even Einstein himself didn’t believe they would be detected. McDonald explained it took a remarkably accurate instrument to find them. But now that we have, McDonald said, it again shows the fundamental work Einstein did on physics and understanding the universe and how gravitation works was right.

“Beyond that, gravity waves can be a new window on the universe,” said McDonald. Humans first studied the skies using light; our eyes, then through telescopes. The came radio astronomy, like the work being done at the White Lake observatory.

“We started seeing different things that you don’t see with light. Some of the most interesting objects are radio. They are exploding stars, or pulsars or neutron stars, all kinds of weird stuff,” said McDonald.

“Gravity waves could be another window. We’re not there yet, but we could develop gravity wave telescopes that can let us look further into space and farther back in time than before and who knows what we will see there.”

McDonald said he’s looking forward to sharing the story of gravity at the Penticton TEDx later this month.

“I find the TEDx talks are really great because it’s an opportunity to hear people from a wide variety of subjects and kind of get updated about what’s going on,” said McDonald.  “Whether you are in the audience or one of the other presenters, one of the fun parts of it is hearing what everybody else has to say.”

TEDx Penticton takes place on Nov. 25, from 7 to 10 p.m. in Cleland Theatre. Ticket information and a full list of presenters at tedxpenticton.ca. The Penticton Western News is proud to be a presenting sponsor of this event.

 

 

 

Just Posted

It's believed the Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Sunday night. (Aileen Mascasaet Maningas)
UDPATE: Two churches on band land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Okanagan Connector to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation recently announced $1 million in funding for the upgrades

People at the beach in front of Discovery Bay Resort on Tuesday, July 14. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Heat wave forecast for Okanagan-Shuswap

Tempertures are forecast to hit record breaking highs this week

James Miller, the managing editor at the Penticton Herald, celebrates his win with his dog Milo after finding out he was elected as city councillor in Saturday night’s by-election. (Submitted)
Penticton’s newly elected city councillor explains how he can be both editor and politician

James Miller picked up a third of the votes in Saturday’s by-election

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Tony Costa/ Facebook
UPDATE: Out-of-control fire burning above Peachland

The blaze sparked on Sunday and is believed to be lightning caused

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Most Read