[APPLAUSE] MARY ROACH: Hello– hello I like the oriental carpet Last time I went around doing a round of talks, someone had cut and paste into my speaking contract something from one of the Food Network chefs that required an oriental carpet of certain dimensions and flowers And they had to be all of one particular blue, not another I didn’t know this and I kept showing up and people would be like hi, our oriental carpet is a little too small And I was like, what is wrong with people? And then I found out that my [INAUDIBLE], this had happened It was horrifying So I would show up and go like, it wasn’t me It’s not me Anyway Hello Hi It’s lovely to be here I’ve been at the Google, the mothership down in Silicon Valley, but I’ve never been here And it’s very nice So the book that I’m running around town promoting these days is called “Grunt– The Curious Science of Humans at War,” which has kind of thrown people a little bit because it seems like sort of a dark and somber and serious topic And it can be But the angle that I cover is– I’m not writing about weapons and bombs and strategy I kind of leave that to the Discovery Channel and Wired.com and lots of other places that do quite well covering that, because the human body, that’s kind of my bag It is a bag, of sorts So I am covering sort of the human experience of being in combat So we’re talking about lethal heat and extreme noise and fear and panic and maggots and flies and diarrhea and all these things you don’t necessarily associate with military deployment Obviously the combat is what comes to most people’s minds And I got interested in this book, I was it India And I was reporting a story for Smithsonian on the hottest chili– arguably the hottest chili pepper in the world There are people who disagree But it’s called the Bhut jolokia And I was up in Nagaland, the extreme northeast of India, reporting this story And while I was reporting on the pepper, someone said, you know, the Indian Defense Ministry weaponized this pepper And I’m like, I need to know about this And the science arm, one of the science branches of the Indian Defense Ministry is in the neighboring state of Assam So I went over there and talked to folks about the pepper As it turns out, they never deployed the pepper powder because it was prone to mildew And so that sort of set aside, while I was there, I was saying well what else do you guys do And they were testing a leech repellent that day, or had been testing And I said, what’s that entailed And he described going down to the river during monsoon season, going down to the river, rolling up their trousers, trying on these leech repellents And I thought, god, military science it’s kind of Mary Roachable It’s kind of not what you would think And I had expected to spend more time with the Indian Defense Ministry, but they had finished up with the leech repellent project and they were not particular interested in my poking around there So I came back to the US and pursued it there, and assumed that it would be very, very difficult to get access But in fact the Office of the Secretary of Defense of the United States has a public affairs office that deals with books And you can send them a very brief, kind of larval in my case proposal saying this is what I’m interested in doing And they will sort of give you kind of a generalized nod of support Now initially I had thought that it would be a very formal support with embossed letters and gold trim and something that I could present But in fact it’s just an email They could very easily have taken out the not when they said yes, we’re fine with this Because as one of the people there put it, Mary Roach writing about this science is really not– this is not a big concern for us We’re concerned about “Zero Dark Thirty.” And we have other– I’m just sort of this trifling piffle Go and do your little science, diarrhea whatever thing you’re going to do So people were fairly helpful It’s also a side of the military’s work

that doesn’t get a lot of coverage And some of the work that goes on is pretty cool And it’s nice for those people to get a little bit of the spotlight So that’s what the book is about And I started out the end of the book So it was kind of strange process The first place I went was the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System in Dover And that’s where the military’s main mortuary and morgue are And when I went there, I kind of knew that this would probably be the end of the book, because it’s a little dark It’s a way to kind of wrap up, in a way, the various wanderings of the book The science that I was reporting on there was pretty amazing It’s called feedback from the field And any time a body comes in to the morgue in Dover, it’s given an autopsy All bodies are autopsied And what’s different about these bodies is that all of the lifesaving equipment is left in place, whether it was a needle decompression for a collapsed lung or a tourniquet And there’s some new technology in tourniquets, or an airway device to create a second airway All of that’s left in place And it’s part of the autopsy And then every month there’s something called a combat mortality teleconference in which all the people at the morgue and also some of the research facilities, and then the actual folks overseas who had provided the medical care, the emergency medical care, all of those people are in this teleconference And they go case by case They take seven or eight cases and they have slides And they discuss it with the aim of identifying things that have been possibly going wrong, equipment that isn’t working the way the manufacturer thought or it wasn’t placed properly, just getting at the question, is there anything that could have been done differently, any way we might have saved this person’s life So that was a really interesting and of course very sobering afternoon And one of the things they’d recently figured out– this was just kind of an amazing thing you don’t really think about The number one pastime on these big bases in Afghanistan is body building And some of the soldiers, their pectorals are so buff that the needles they were using for a needle decompression, which is if you’ve been shot and the air that you’re inhaling is ending up outside the lung, it can become difficult to inhale and you can die It’s, I think, the second most common cause of fatality in combat Anyway, so they realized the needles weren’t making their way through the muscle to the space that they needed to decompress that pressure They were not sure why this was– what’s going on? Why were these people dying? And so it was kind of great that they were able to figure this out, get the information out there quickly through a teleconference rather than waiting for somebody to publish a paper, which is usually the traditional route to making that information available And because it’s a Mary Roach book, people are like whoa, how’s she going to make that funny? How’s this book going to work? So I ended up– there’s a couple of historical chapters that dealt with the– they both had to do the OSS, which was the precursor to the CIA And the OSS had some interesting projects in World War II, including something called Who Me?, which was a foul smell in a tube The idea would be to distribute it to resistance groups in occupied countries And so motivated citizens could go up behind a German officer and discreetly squeeze, fire this tube and spray this And it was interesting because the language was all describing it as a weapon They had specs, like it has to be lastingly penetrative It has to withstand rain, dry cleaning solvents There was a range that it had to cover And it had to do this at– it had to stink for at least two hours at 70 degrees Fahrenheit at a certain level And the whole thing was sort of documented And they’d hired out this chemistry company to figure it out And there were all these memos that went back and forth about what is a stink It’s all in the context actually, because something like butyric acid could smell If you’re in a deli it would smell like Parmesan cheese

But if you’re not in a deli, it smells like dirty feet I think it is, unless it’s vomit– anyway, vomit So they were looking for something that would be universally repellent So there was all these conversations back and forth Oh yeah, the other example in this memo about what is a stink was trimethylamine, which is a fishy smell which could be pleasant or unpleasant according to circumstances And trimethylamine is, in the tampon world, used for testing the powers of deodorant of the product that you have Anyway, enough said [LAUGHTER] Anyway, the tubes, there were all manner of problems with backfire The weapon was backfiring The tubes, the little lead tube, the crimping wouldn’t hold There was one guy who, at the OSS, actually set up a mannequin with a uniform And he took a box of the tubes and he tried to spray them There’s this very testy memo saying that most of them had sprayed back at him And anyway, it was just sort of a delightful chapter in military espionage and goings on So the Who Me? Was– the tradition of bad smells as nonlethal weapons has carried on at the Monell Chemical Senses Center where I spent some time there in the late ’90s The Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate commissioned sensory chemists, as in smell and taste, at Monell to come up with a universally horrible smell And this woman Pam Dalton went around gathering data, all over the world She had, in her suitcase, she had little bottles labeled burnt hair, sewage, US government standard bathroom malodor, garbage, sewage She was doing a project in South Africa and she thought, well I can get some more cross-cultural data here And she had this 15 hour flight And in her carry on she had all of her smells And she describes getting up from her seat after three hours to go to the bathroom, standing up so her nose is about the height of the overhead luggage and going oh my god, those are my smells She forgot about the change in pressure and they were leaking And so she said to her seatmate, you cannot open this overhead bin for the entire 15 hours Everything you have at your feet, that’s all we can have And then she did this When we land, I don’t know what I’m going to do So they land She waits for the doors to be open on the plane before she opens the overhead so that people will go huh, I guess that’s just how it smells here or something And in the end, the winner among burnt hair, which was kind of a stand in for burning body, which was thought that would be universally abhorred But in fact when you interviewed some– there were all these different cultural groups that had to say, is this pleasant, unpleasant, wearable Is it a wearable scent, an edible scent? And for every one of these horrible scents, there would be some group that was like yeah, I’d wear that I’d wear that as perfume I’d eat that, because it’s all out of context The one that just upset and horrified everyone was US government standard bathroom malodor, which you can still get And that is something that was devised to– they were trying to come up with a deodorizer for latrines in World War II Some of the open pit latrines, really nasty smell, intense So they tried to mimic that smell so they could test deodorizing compounds So this is a really vile smell I have smelled US government standard bathroom malodor, and it is pretty bad So that was where they started And then they’re very clever At Monell they really know their smells What they did for this nonlethal weapon is they added a kind of floral, fruity, sweet top note to it Because when you’re presented with an unknown smell, you take a tentative little whiff And if that top node is nice, then you do what’s called the keeper inhale So people go oh, this is nice And then they’d get this, this like wall of smell And it tends to stay Something about it– Pam Dalton is the chemist She was like, it keeps rebinding to the receptors and you get it stuck in your nose And I have, in my closet, a sample of stench soup

that is in a bottle, sealed, with paraffin, double bagged in a box And I haven’t had the courage to open it It’s kind of like this mystery box that’s just sat there for over a year And I don’t really know– I thought maybe I would bring it to the Republican National Convention I don’t know What I’m going to do with it But I will open it somewhere I thought maybe, oh I’ll bring it along I could bring it to Google And then I thought, it could get into the ventilation and you guys could be on the street for days So I have to be a little bit careful with my stench soup So anyway, that’s stench soup But for the most part, some of the humor is kind of the historical elements And the other thing is just I’m such an outsider to the military culture, and it really is a culture, a foreign culture And I’ve not spent any time in it My family is not military My dad was 65 when I was born, so he enlisted He came over on the “Lusitania.” In World War I he enlisted in the military Born in England, he was– I found his papers at Fort Moultrie But my dad got a hernia in basic training That’s the illustrious Roach military saga So it’s not a personal history by any means And I don’t know a lot of people in the military, so it’s fascinating to me to be kind of in this world, sort of thrashing around And I would find myself– I mean, sometimes the humor came just from that, that kind of I’m really out of my element here I was in Djibouti, which is a North African nation above Somalia, across from Yemen, which obviously gives you a sense of what goes on there A lot of counterinsurgency, special operations stuff goes on there And I was on the base The special operations, those folks are in a restricted zone that you need clearance to go into So I went over there with Captain Mark Riddle, who is a diarrhea researcher He’s an MD and he was testing a much faster, one dose regimen for diarrhea, traveler’s diarrhea, a particular kind of E coli that’s fairly common and is pretty nasty He was over there testing that And the rates of diarrhea just among the average deployed soldier in 2003 to ’04, 77% of soldiers and personnel had come down with diarrhea, 40% bad enough that they sought medical care, and 32% had it bad enough that there was a time when they didn’t make it to a bathroom in time And if you can imagine a special operations mission, these are fairly critical, high risk, kind of take out Osama bin Laden style things And if you are hit with this sudden extreme urgency, you can’t just go, could someone else cover me, because I’ve got [MOANS], not feeling well So it’s kind of a matter of national security And that was my take on it So I thought OK, I need to just talk to some of the special operations guys They’re easy to pick out because they have beards and no one else there– everyone else is clean shaven They need to fit in with the local population in these villages And they the public affairs guy is like Mary, I sent out an email for you, and I’ve already humiliated myself So it became known as the diarrhea email Will somebody please share their stories of diarrhea with our visiting writer And nobody– well, some people did, but no one from special operations Oh, I will So he said, you know, Captain Riddle said, “You’re going to have to talk to them over dinner They only come out to eat.” And Seamus, the public affairs guys goes, “And to steal our women.” Anyway, so my only opportunity to talk to these individuals, who are a little intimidating to someone like me, was in the dining facility So it created this kind of wonderfully awkward scenario of crossing the room to approach this very sort of stony and omnipotent seeming person eating by himself, who just kind of looked up at us and said, I’m done And Seamus said oh, could I ask just what line of work are you in And he said I’m leaving And he got up to go And I had to jump in and sort of just say, “My name is Mary Roach I’m working on a book And I wanted to talk to you about diarrhea I know that it sounds like a silly topic.” And he looked up and said, “It’s not You’re welcome to sit down.” So it was a very interesting conversation and a very unusual reporting challenge Anyway, the thing about the book is

one of the reasons I went ahead with this book is because the topics are things that anybody in the military deals with a really extreme version of, whether it’s overheating or back pain from heavy loads or sleep deprivation or hearing loss from loud noise The science of these topics would be applicable to anybody who has a body and ears and a back The culture of the military is interesting, but also just the science of– you know, the science of sweat and heat stroke– I mean, it’s a big problem because the situation that creates heat stroke is this competition for bodily fluid, specifically blood Because your sweat is plasma It’s the clear portion of your blood And when you start to overheat– your body is a machine that wants to be in a set temperature range And if you stray from that, it does what it can to bring it back And the first thing it does is generate sweat So all the blood is shunted to your skin, and the plasma comes out through the sweat glands, and then kind of vaporizes and takes away the heat from your body And that’s great And it’s very, very efficient However if you are exerting yourself, if you’re carrying a heavy pack and you’re running, especially if you haven’t hydrated yourself well, you have this competition for a limited amount of resources And at a certain point, somes got to go to the muscles, and it’s got to go to the blood to cool you And your body will start to shut down other things You might not get enough blood to your head That’s why people pass out when they’re very, very hot Or your gut can start to shut down And that leads to a sort of a chain of events that can result in delirium, coma, and then you’re dead The military was trying the– medical school, USU, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences was working on trying to figure out– because there’s a lot of individual difference in how well you acclimate to heat and how badly you suffer from it So the idea was, well, could we find a blood marker or is there some sort of genetic difference between people? Can we identify who is really at risk and keep them out of this scenario? Which is a great plan, and it was interesting because they have the cook box there, which is a box that they can adjust the heat and humidity and sort of create a really god awful hot day in the Middle East with a treadmill and a backpack I lasted seven minutes out of the hour and a half It’s pretty brutal And my pack only had 30 pounds, which is about what the body armor itself would weigh So it’s unbelievable how fit, how these people are, and what they endure Something that seems like would be a good answer, it’s a little tough because what happens, you take people out of– it’s like OK, this guy, obviously, we’ve been able to identify these people are not going to fare well in extreme heat So let’s hold them back And then so the people who are fit end up doing more than their fair share They’re the only ones you can call in to do a really hard job And so they push themselves and then collapse So it’s just really hard There’s an environmental medicine unit at Natick labs that has a mannequin that sweats, that they figure out these sweat prediction equations where give me how many miles, how hot is it, how much are they carrying, what’s the body armor And then you plug it all into a formula and it tells you this is how much water per person to carry So they’re trying to get it dialed down to a science But ultimately, when you get into the real world of a mission, there’s always five or six things nobody counted on It’s just really hard to hand someone a formula that’s going to solve all their problems And the soldiers are like, these scientists, these rules that these guys in air conditioned offices come up with So there’s kind of a tension between the soldiers and the scientists But they’re all trying to do their job And the one thing I wanted to do for the book, I initially had planned to embed This was when there was still stuff going on in Afghanistan And I was going to embed I initially had an idea I wanted to embedded with the 4th Marine

Corps Dental Battalion, just because that whole concept of a Marine Corps Dental Battalion just really appealed to me As I said, I had a notion of these guys parachuting in with little picks, smocks Of course that’s not the case And they’re like yeah, well we’re not going anywhere Thanks for your interest So the Marine Corps Dental Battalion was off the list, sadly But I still like to talk about the 4th Marine Corps Dental Battalion just because there’s a dental battalion, a Marine Corps Dental Battalion Similarly at one point I thought it would be– because my editor of course was like, special operations, can you go out with a special operations team? I’m like, I kind of think that’s classified stuff, but I’ll try So I called the Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office And I thought OK, I’ll cover– what about, because they have their own weather command, their own weather people Because if you’re flying in somewhere, weather is important And it’s a critical element But I could just imagine, it’s a just a very elite group And if you made it into special operations, and then you got to brag about that I got into special operations– special operations weather command So I thought that would be interesting, that these folks would have an interesting take on the whole thing And I explained that to the public affairs guy And he said yeah, that’s just not going to happen It’s classified And I actually said to him, “But I’m only going to ask questions about weather So I won’t pay any attention to anybody else, what they’re doing.” No– no So there were some walls that were thrown up, understandably, in my efforts to report this book But I made my way onto a ballistic missile submarine, the “USS Tennessee,” which was a fascinating place to be They had been a serious issue with sleep deprivation Most of the guys at that time had been averaging around four hours sleep It’s kind of not what you want on a vessel that is powered by a nuclear reactor and carries 20 some Trident missiles So they were trying out a different watch, because a submarine is isolated from the normal queues of day and night The thought was, well maybe we can muck with circadian rhythm and create a different length of day, thereby making things more productive But in fact you had a situation where they might have been a little less sleep deprived, but it was like flying to Paris every day is how someone put it That circadian rhythm was just off Their body rhythm was off with the clock So they were trying something, moving it back onto a circadian friendly time schedule So that’s what was going on the “USS Tennessee.” It took me a year and a half to get on there Not because anybody was saying no, just because its very hard to find somebody who had the authority to say yes So you get a lot of, well it seems OK to me, but I’m not the one who can say yes So you kind of get bounced around The Djibouti trip, I think there were probably 60 or so emails flying around over the span of three weeks to just try to go with the diarrhea research to Camp Lemonnier And the Navy public affairs person was like, seems fine to me I don’t even know, is it CENTCOM? Is it AFRICOM? Is it Joint Horn of Africa? Is it the Pentagon? I have no idea who to ask I don’t know who can sign off on this And finally it came down to that guy Seamus on the ground in Camp Lemonnier who had seen all these emails pinging around, and finally said– because I asked him, “How did you make this happen?” He said, “Well you know, at a certain point I thought, this is not like diarrhea You can’t just hydrate and wait for it to go away Somebody has to do something So I went into the base commander’s office and I said, ‘Do you care if this woman comes here to talk about diarrhea with people?’ And he’s like, ‘I don’t care.'” So they said yes, that’s fine So weeks of formally petitioning the wrong person over and over and over And in the end it was just the guy on the ground Sorry, I have a little bit of a lost– I’ve been talking a lot lately So I should probably sort of wind it down and take questions from anybody who has questions Or if you wanted me to talk about any of the other subjects in the book, I talked also about genital injuries, which is something we’ve been seeing lately for two reasons There’s been that the bombs have gotten bigger, and also the emergency medical care and medical evacuations

have gotten better and faster, so bigger injuries and more people surviving them It used to be if there was a bomb big enough to damage the pelvic region rather than just blow off your foot, you didn’t survive And now these guys are surviving So there’s interesting reconstructive work, some of it coming out of cooperation with the transgendered community, which build penises all the time What do you need to know? Anyway, so there’s that and lots of other fun topics But I’d be happy to talk about any questions people have or about any of my other books AUDIENCE: So you do a lot of research How much actually makes it into the book and how many of these gems are just left on the floor? MARY ROACH: Oh well, I write everything down Because when I go somewhere, I don’t really know what the chapter is about quite, because I haven’t met these people I don’t really know what’s going to happen So I’m just writing everything down I would say 0.01% of what I write down I actually use It’s insane It’s so much just stuff that– And I’ll go back and look at a notebook, I have no idea what I was even writing down So no gems The gems, no The gems go in the book In fact when I go on a reporting trip, I go back to my room and I go through my notebook And I have a system where if it looks like a promising something somebody said or something that was interesting, I’ll circle it And if it’s really good, I’ll circle it and put three stars And I go one, two, or three stars So I have this rating system And I pull that stuff out into a transcript And then I print that out And then I go through and circle stuff in there And I move the really good stuff to the top, kind of just like this is the good shit This is going to go in somehow And that actually influences how I shape the chapter Like if there’s a scene that is really great, that seems like it would be really fun to read, I’ll figure out, now what’s the order of these two or three scenes So I identify the scenes and quotes But most of it, yeah Most of it just– And when I was on the submarine at one point, I was interviewing someone and something was said over the intercom that was classified And the ship’s commanding officer said, “I’m really sorry, you’d going to have to delete that.” And I said, “It’s an MP3 file I can’t go in I mean, you guys probably could You can’t go in and just delete a word.” And he said, “Well, you’re either going to have to delete the whole file, or I guess I could transcribe it.” I’m like, yeah So this guy is so busy He’s got so much on his plate And this annoying journalist who’s there for four days, out at sea, I kept going by his little state room He’s hunched over his computer And it was the most beautifully transcribed, every word written out, spelled perfectly You know, Mary Roach, colon It was like a screenplay Whereas when I type it, you could barely figure it out I abbreviate every word Anyway, so that’s kind of my haphazard procedure Yeah? AUDIENCE: Hi I was very interested to hear– you talk about the autopsies at the beginning of your remarks, particularly in the nonmilitary world, a lot of doctors are concerned that they’re not doing enough autopsies They’re not learning enough from their mistakes or their problems Do you know anything about how the information might flow? Do the military doctors write papers or data summaries from what they learn in their autopsy work? MARY ROACH: I think they do write papers They do that conference just to get the information back to the medics and the emergency room people But I think they do go on and write papers based on what they’re learning from autopsy Autopsies, like hospital autopsies, that’s an interesting realm I know the medical examiner in the Bay Area– of course I do We go have lunch She’s like “Oh, I’ve a decomp today You want to come over?” I’m like “Hey, not so much before lunch, no.” She said that there is sometimes– she didn’t give me any specifics, but there might be pressure on the medical examiner not to find negligence That was upsetting to me, like that the whole idea with an autopsy is to get at the truth of what happened Probably that’s not a regular occurrence, but that was sort of disconcerting So I think there’s some politics behind prevalence of autopsy It tends to be done when the cause isn’t obvious, when it seems suicide or homicide is suspected But people die in hospitals and the family wants to know You can get a private– you can call 1-800-AUTOPSY

and they drive up in a van You can contract someone to do an autopsy So that would be an interesting realm to explore I don’t know that much about it or whether I have even answered your question AUDIENCE: Thank you MARY ROACH: Hi AUDIENCE: I am a huge fan of your books there– MARY ROACH: Oh thanks AUDIENCE: –highly entertaining and very educational And I have not read “Grunt” yet, though I’m very excited to do so And a lot of the things you’ve spoken about are the physical– the smell, the bodies Do you touch or have you touched on the mental side of things and technology and innovation in that space? MARY ROACH: I was going to after the 4th Marine Corps Dental Battalion turned me down I had planned and got permission to embed with the Chaplain Corps, because I wanted to cover PTSD– or not PTSD, but just specifically emotional issues and how a variety of them, like dealing with a death in a unit or whatever comes up And the chaplain, the chaplain’s assistant who has a weapon and covers for the chaplain, they go out on missions with a unit Which I hadn’t realized, I thought they stayed back on base and had an office that people would come too But they’ll actually go out on a route clearance mission or whatever it is so they can offer this empathy I wasn’t interested in the religious element so much as their ability to empathize because they’ve kind of been through similar hardships And that fascinated me And I was really disappointed I was approved by the US, but then ISAF, which is the coalition umbrella organization, said no because it’s the drawdown and we have hardly any journalists And I think it was more like hey, you didn’t ask us Who says you could go? Somehow he saw an email and was like hey, you didn’t talk to me I don’t know Do you know what they say ISAF stands for– I suck at fighting That’s my little dig at ISAF for turning me down No, I don’t even know ISAF, international– I don’t even know– what does ISAF even stand for? International– it’s those guys, the overseers It’s the coalition But anyway, because I didn’t really have a narrative– I didn’t find another way in that would afford kind of– I like to have sort of a scene and a setting thing I think I had a chapter in “Packing for Mars” that had to do with sort of unique psychological components of being in space And I had planned to do that but didn’t end up And there’s a lot of coverage of that as well that other people I think have done a nice job with AUDIENCE: Thank you Looking forward to reading it MARY ROACH: Thank you Hi AUDIENCE: After spending so much time in your research, did you find your opinions related to the military, its command structure, its politics, the soldiers, their lifestyle or their worldview, did you find your opinions changing on that at all? What was kind of the before and after of that? MARY ROACH: Well the before was that I had this view of the military as a sort of monolithic entity Which the more time you spend in that realm, the more you see how fractured it is There’s not just the different branches of the military, but there’s the policy people in the Pentagon and then there’s the scientists and the medical people and the civilians who work And so it became really hard to have any single opinion I ended up having a tremendous amount of respect for the researchers who do this work, which is going toward trying to make this god awful experience somewhat more tolerable and survivable Those guys, those people– a lot of them were women actually in the book– were great And so that’s the main world I inhabited So I don’t really have– I mean, my views on the larger entity of war and military policy, et cetera, have not changed But that did change AUDIENCE: Thanks AUDIENCE: I was interested to hear you talking about the circadian rhythm stuff on the submarines, especially because since I read– I think “Bonk” and “Stiff” were the first two books I read I’ve been wondering if you were ever going to do a book specifically about sleep MARY ROACH: Yeah, people have suggested– did I cut you off, or was that your– AUDIENCE: Yeah, what do you think? MARY ROACH: Well, two things are going on My editor at WW Norton just edited a book called “Dreamland,” I think, on sleep, the science of sleep But more than that, because it’s dreaming and sleep, it’s an internal state, trying to imagine what would be the scene and the setting– it would be like chapter after chapter of a guy on a bed with electrodes

asleep So it’s kind of hard to– And you know how when you tell your spouse or partner your dream, and they’re like instantly like, shut up, it’s so boring Please don’t tell me your dream So trying to describe– I mean, not that it would be entirely about dreaming But it felt a little confining in terms of the color and the scenes and kind of the narratives that would bring the research to life, for that reason But it is– and I have given it thought, yeah AUDIENCE: Cool, thank you AUDIENCE: Hi, thank you for coming My wife is very jealous that she wasn’t able to come You’re one of her favorite authors Have there been any themes for books that you’ve started pursuing and then abandoned because they didn’t actually bear enough fruit? And if so, what were they? MARY ROACH: Yeah, there was one idea I had for a book that morphed into “Packing for Mars.” But originally this guy I knew from way back when had gotten a job in Galveston at the bed rest facility connected to NASA where they’re studying muscle wasting and bone loss from being in weightlessness because your body kind of just takes apart your muscles We don’t need these, we’re going to take them apart So there’s lot of bone loss and muscle wasting The analog for that, the simulation is to have people lie in bed slightly head down and not get up for three months They’re paid $17,000 or something And I thought wow, the whole human Guinea pig world seemed kind of interesting and bizarre But I talked to my agent He’s like, “It seems like it would be a little repetitive Is there enough variety?” I mean, a lot of people are testing drugs, pharmaceuticals That is an interesting world, but that has been covered a fair amount So again, it was a situation where I didn’t know that there was enough variety or my agent didn’t think that there would be quite enough variety to the landscape to make it a go So I folded that into “Packing for Mars.” AUDIENCE: You do a lot of traveling for your research And it seems some places kind of recur from book to book And I was wondering, on any given trip, how many different projects are you working on at a time? MARY ROACH: On any given trip, often just one chapter AUDIENCE: Wow MARY ROACH: Yeah Well the India trip, I was traveling with a friend who was doing some charitable work for an organization called Books and Water that tries to put in wells in villages and portable libraries So I was traveling with her And then I she was going to be in Nagaland And I was Nagaland, I’ve never heard of it So I looked it up, heard about the chili pepper contest, and pitched that So I was doing two things there But usually when I travel somewhere, I’m only doing one chunk of research AUDIENCE: And here I was envisioning some huge master plan MARY ROACH: Yeah, you know what, I’d love that It never works out that way And sometimes it will be like, I’ve got to go to London for this And then six weeks later there’s another thing And I can’t combine them because it’s all their schedule, not mine So I’m constantly sort of being buffeted here and there by researcher’s schedules Things get pushed back and delayed So I never go on a vacation myself because I’m like, my cadaver project might come through next month Oh, it’s been delayed So I am constantly– And I don’t do a lot of talks outside of book tour for that reason as well, because I may need to up and go quickly I wish Anyone else? All right then [APPLAUSE] Thanks a lot

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