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Bob McDonald looks back at 30 years of hosting Quirks & Quarks | CBC Radio


Quirks and Quarks1:03:17Oct 29: Celebrating Bob McDonald’s 30 years as host of Quirks & Quarks

The hair has turned gray and the voice has mellowed, however after three many years, I nonetheless take pleasure in internet hosting our weekly nationwide science radio program. It’s the “quirkiest” and longest job of my life.

Strolling into the Quirks & Quarks workplace in 1992 was an intimidating expertise. I used to be following within the footsteps of hosts David Suzuki, Jay Ingram and David Mobray — all very properly revered science journalists. 

The present had already been on the air for 16 years and was a well-oiled machine that was lacking a gear. It was the primary time that I used to be filling another person’s sneakers. I by no means thought on the time that I might nonetheless be standing in these sneakers three many years later.

My earlier job had been internet hosting CBC’s youngsters’s tv program Wonderstruck, and the transition to a radio program geared toward adults was a steep studying curve. 

WATCH: Bob McDonald in an excerpt from the CBC-TV science present for teenagers, Wonderstruck (1991)

Bob McDonald: Wonderstruck, 1991

On his option to helming Quirks and Quarks, McDonald hosted a CBC-TV youngsters’s science present known as Wonderstruck. Here is a clip from 1991 that options an incredible piece of recent tech.

In youngsters’ TV we had been free to take any subject and make it enjoyable and comprehensible for younger folks. However Quirks & Quarks is guided by the breaking science information of the week: Publications in scientific journals, information from universities and analysis labs, a large assortment of subjects in each area of science.

Abruptly I used to be confronted with the intimidating activity of studying about topics far exterior my experience comparable to mad cow illness, in any other case often called bovine spongiform encephalopathy: a scary, degenerative deadly mind illness whose look was a giant information story in 1992.

Bob McDonald within the CBC studio throughout his first season as host of Quirks & Quarks. His first episode aired on Oct. 24, 1992. (Submitted by Bob McDonald)

It took a day simply to learn to pronounce these phrases, not to mention perceive how the illness ate away on the brains of cows and the (fortunately few) human victims it in the end affected.

‘Let me see if I’ve received this proper’

Due to our efforts to maintain up with rising tales, to today I haven’t got any concept of what subjects I will likely be coping with from week to week. However very early on I realized the key to internet hosting the present: it is all about listening.

All journalism is storytelling. Whatever the subject, all tales have the identical parts: a setting, characters, some form of motion, and both a conclusion or progress to the following step.

You need not know every little thing there’s to find out about a topic comparable to genetics to do an interview (though a fundamental understanding helps). You simply give attention to that exact visitor’s story.

In the event that they grow to be slowed down within the particulars, I throw in what has grow to be considerably of a trademark phrase: “Let me see if I’ve received this proper…” the place I attempt to summarize what they’ve simply mentioned, as merely as potential, normally with an analogy thrown in to assist make it comprehensible to the viewers.

A collage of pictures of Bob McDonald at different ages.
Bob McDonald by means of the years. (CBC)

Throughout a convention at considered one of our Canadian universities, a scientist who had been on the present confided in me when he mentioned: “In our lab, now we have a problem if we’re on Quirks & Quarks to get by means of an interview with out you saying ‘Let me see if I’ve received this proper.’ As a result of in case you say, that it means now we have failed to speak clearly.” 

I did not understand I had set a bar.

Documenting historical past, one interview at a time

And what tales now we have coated over the previous 30 years. 1992 noticed the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the place world leaders gathered to interact with the problems of local weather change and lack of biodiversity.

Since then there have been 26 UN local weather summits (or COP conferences), however world carbon emissions are nonetheless on the rise. We’ve seen predictions made by scientists of ice loss, extra highly effective storms, elevated droughts and wildfires all come true. Local weather change is not a factor of the long run.

The primary exoplanet was found throughout my first season. Now the variety of planets discovered orbiting different stars has handed 5,000. And talking of planets, now we have despatched robots to each planet in our photo voltaic system together with Pluto, which was controversially demoted to “dwarf planet” standing.

WATCH: Bob McDonald solutions science questions from viewers

Bob McDonald solutions your science questions

Bob McDonald, the host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, sits down with Peter Mansbridge to reply science questions submitted by viewers

Expertise has modified immensely in 30 years. The Worldwide Area Station didn’t exist in 1992. Our places of work had been simply starting to have computer systems, and there was this new factor known as the web.

We’ve coated the large tales such because the cloning of Dolly the sheep, the mapping of the human genome, the invention of the Higgs Boson. We have regarded on the uncommon intercourse lives of bugs, and unique behaviour of particles within the quantum world. 

Astronomers realized that the universe just isn’t solely increasing, it’s dashing up, attributable to a mysterious phenomenon dubbed darkish power.

In addition they proceed to analyze the truth that a lot of the universe seems to be made up of invisible darkish matter.

These two parts, darkish power and darkish matter, end up to comprise 95 per cent of the matter and power within the universe — and we nonetheless do not know what they’re.

Favorite interview?

As our motto says, “We cowl each facet of science, from the quirks of the increasing universe to the quarks inside a single atom … and every little thing in between.”

Individuals typically ask what my favorite interview has been. It is tough to reply, as a result of over the previous 30 years I’ve spoken to greater than 7,000 company, so how do I choose only one?

Is it the well-known astronomer Carl Sagan who I admired tremendously, or the newest Nobel Prize winner? It could possibly be any considered one of our Canadian astronauts, or somebody doing vital analysis on COVID-19.

The most important pinch-me second got here when Canadian Nobel Laureate Dr. John Polanyi invited a number of different Nobel Laureates to Toronto for a convention.

John Polanyi, Nobel Prize laureate

For his profound contributions to science, Canadian scientist John Polanyi receives the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Our producers managed to intercept the group, inviting them to debate the way forward for science of their fields.

There I used to be, sitting throughout the studio desk from six males (sadly, there have been no girls) in tuxedos, every the winner of the Nobel Prize in Science. I nonetheless keep in mind the sensation of awe and pleasure that I felt to be in that room.

Thanks and appreciation

After three many years of internet hosting Quirks, I nonetheless take pleasure in going to work each week. The subject material is at all times new, fascinating and it retains me abreast of the place we’re in our understanding of the basic course of that governs the universe, and subsequently our lives.

I wish to thank all of the scientists who’ve been beneficiant with their time and shared their tales with us. We will not do the present with out you. 

It has been an incredible journey of discovery.– Bob McDonald

I’m additionally deeply indebted to the producers who do the heavy lifting on the present. They discover the tales, chase down the scientists, do pre-interviews to focus the story, collect the analysis, and work on the scripts and questions with me.

By the point you hear my voice on the radio, you might be actually listening to the work of a bunch of very proficient and educated folks. I stand on the tip of an iceberg that’s the large mental capital often called the CBC. It’s a supreme privilege to be a part of that neighborhood.

Lastly, thanks to the viewers for supporting our program for greater than 45 years on the air. Our rankings have persistently made us considered one of CBC Radio’s hottest applications. And may we ever slip up and make a mistake, you might be proper on us to level it out.

It has been an incredible journey of discovery. And contemplating how a lot there’s but to study concerning the universe, I am honoured to have the possibility to proceed to convey these tales to you.


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