Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Science Tackles The Afterlife

I'm reading a very strange book by Mary Roach called Spook: Science Tackles The Afterlife. Ms. Roach is also the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (I tried to read that one a while back, but my stomach just couldn't take it.) One might be tempted to feel sorry for Mary Roach because of her - shall we say, 'unfortunate'? - last name, but she dispels any need for lingering sympathy pretty quickly.

The woman is not only far, far too intelligent for her own good, she's without a doubt one of the wittiest, most clever writers I've ever read. Such a talent for puns, for double-entendres, for tongue-in-cheek delivery of one-liners! I'm blown away how anyone can take the dry logic of science, apply it to a subject as controversial as the existence of the afterlife, and make her observations both thought-provoking and funny. Chapter titles run the gamut from: You Again (a visit to the reincarnation nation) to Hard To Swallow (the giddy, revolting heydey of ectoplasm). And revolting it was, let me tell you - I now know a great deal more about the parlor tricks of the early spiritualists than I ever really cared to!

People magazine describes her as 'funny and smart... since she's a scientist at heart, she also lasers through the smoke and mirrors'. Oops. No guest blogging here, I suppose! Obviously a skeptic, she is nothing if not thorough - virtually every chapter requires a visit to a different part of the world and an interview with an 'expert' or two in various fields of paranormal research. Scientific efforts to weight a soul, controlled experiments with renowned mediums such as Alison DuBois and John Edward, research into whether 'ghost sightings' are caused by electromagnetic fields and/or ultrasound, the validity of electronic voice phenomena, possible explanations for near-death experiences; you name it, Mary Roach looks into it and serves up her information with wit and side dish of sass. Some of the arcane facts she discovers in her research are, quite simply, hilarious.

It's not a book for everyone, but I'm loving it. :) Anybody else like to read things that are a little 'out of the ordinary'?


Dawna said...

Terri, this may be a tad OT, but if you are a TV watcher (I'm usualy not), there is a new show on BBC America called Afterlife that explores the issues you've mentioned here. If you have the channel, you may want to check it out. As to the reading of "out there" books, Spook sounds like one my DH and I would enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation!

Terri said...

Thanks, Dawna! I haven't seen that show but it sounds very interesting... I'll have to look for it!