Sunday 26 May 2019

Radio: This column does not exist - and neither do you


Jonathan McCrea
Jonathan McCrea
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

This column does not exist. These words don't exist. In fact, this entire newspaper doesn't exist. And come to think of it, neither do I. Or you.

Not in the accepted physical sense, anyway. As posited on Futureproof (Newstalk, Sat noon) by Donald Hoffman - cognitive psychologist at the University of California - we're essentially living inside the Matrix.

We exist, then, but as disembodied consciousness, interacting with each other… only there's no space and time. It's all an illusion. You only think you see a table, but you've imagined it.

Personally, I found Hoffman's theory bordering on stupid. It's a cool little philosophical question, á la Bishop Berkeley: how can you prove that objective reality exists? As science, though, it's ridiculous. There are more holes here than in a (non-existent) block of Swiss cheese. The theory only works through solipsism, ie your mind is the total of everything, and you're imagining everyone else.

All that said: his chat with Jonathan McCrea (a fellow sceptic, I felt) was never less than involving. That's what's great about Futureproof: you won't always agree with guests' forays into the wilder reaches of scientific possibility, but it's always, always interesting.

I also have little time for either jogging or memoirs, so was surprised by how engaging I found writer Bella Mackie's conversation with Ray D'Arcy (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 3pm). In short, she took up running after years of panic attacks; it basically saved her life and she's written a book about the experience. Doesn't sound that promising, but D'Arcy is good on this sort of thing, and Mackie was lively and funny.

Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am) had a hugely uplifting story: researchers at the INFANT Centre in Cork University Hospital have made a big breakthrough in preventing the potentially cataclysmic condition hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (in layman's terms, lack of oxygen to the brain during birth).

Lead researcher Professor Deirdre Murray explained how, for obvious reasons, it's very difficult to test newborn babies for neurological damage. But her team has identified certain "blood biomarkers" that could work as a sort of early warning system.

It's a truly inspirational story; the listener is left filled with something close to awe at the ingenuity and brilliance of these scientists. Talk about changing the world.

Finally, the end of an era - an epoch, an eon - with Larry Gogan's departure from his 2FM show (Sat-Sun 4pm). He's been spinning the discs on RTÉ radio's younger sibling for 40 years, and moves to their online station Gold from the end of January.

A legend of Irish broadcasting, a gentleman to his fingertips and a bona fide cultural icon: not a bad old career at all.

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