Mary Roach on Disgust, Death, and Danger | Conversations with Tyler
In a captivating conversation with Tyler Cowen, Mary Roach, a celebrated author known for her curiosity-driven books, explores a wide array of topics.
From the intricacies of eating to the concept of disgust, the complexities of death, and the realities of danger, Roach’s unique perspective and fearless curiosity are evident.
Roach expresses skepticism about cryonics, the process of freezing the body after death in hopes of future resurrection.
She questions the feasibility of the process and raises intriguing legal issues related to inheritance for those who believe they will be revived.
I don’t have a lot of hesitation or self-censoring when it comes to asking questions. I’m just balls out with my curiosity. – Mary Roach
Roach suggests that many people may have near-death experiences but do not remember them due to the effects of anesthesia.
This discussion underscores her ability to find intrigue in even the most mundane aspects of human biology.
The Perils of Bedpans
Roach humorously discusses the dangers of bedpans, particularly for heart patients.
The unnatural position of lying flat while using a bedpan can lead to excessive strain, potentially inducing a fatal arrhythmia.
Biases Towards Death
Roach discusses the biases we have towards the dead and death.
She notes that because dead people resemble living people, there’s a tendency to project our emotions onto them and treat them as though they’re still alive, which can be problematic for those who conduct research on cadavers.
Roach discusses her Catholic upbringing and how it may have influenced her work, albeit not consciously.
She mentions her fascination with religious relics and the concept of incorruptibility, a concept prevalent in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology.
I would say to the cadaver, is this embarrassing for you? Are you okay with this? Are they treating you respectfully? Do you wish you had some clothes on? – Mary Roach
Practicalities for Soldiers
Roach discusses her book on soldiers, explaining the practical considerations that go into designing their clothing and accessories.
For instance, she mentions how zippers can be problematic for snipers who spend a lot of time lying down, leading to the design of a side-closure sniper top.
Roach discusses the therapeutic use of maggots in wound treatment.
This practice, discovered during World War I when soldiers with maggot-infested wounds were found to have healthy tissue growth and reduced infection, continues today, with Medicare even having a reimbursement code for it.
Roach shares her thoughts on mindful eating, suggesting that slowing down and savoring the food can enhance the eating experience.
She explains that we have two sets of nostrils, one at the back of our mouth, which allows us to smell on the exhale, enhancing the flavor of the food.