Radio and relativity

Last night I did a live radio show in Tasmania, about as far as it’s possible to get (on Earth) from Massachusetts. My book has been Random House Australia’s top selling non fiction title for a month now, since it went on sale Down Under.

I’ve done most of my interviews on ABC radio, the Australian Broadcasting Company. They have stations scattered over the huge expanse of Australia, and they reach over the water too. After doing Australian shows I’ve gotten email from listeners in India, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands.

Last night’s show took calls from listeners, which was kind of neat. I talked to people in Hobart, Tasmania (the bottom of Tasmania, which is under the Australian continent) as if they were right across town.

The only thing that gave the distance away to me – and I doubt if the radio audience noticed – was the 2/10 second lag between each of us speaking. You see, light (and radio waves) travels about 186,000 miles per second. The Australian caller’s words went across Tasmania on land lines, then up a radio link to a satellite, which passed the signal to another satellite and another until an earth station here in New England picked the signal out of space and put it back into a land line to me. That signal traveled 15,000 miles to get here, and my answer traveled the same distance to get back.

It makes for small but perceptible pauses in conversation. Otherwise, talking to an Australian is about the same as talking to the Guys from The Floyd, or a Ludlovian or a Montagoonian, back home. Read the book if you don’t know what those are.

It’s kind of neat, realizing that your conversation is taking place over such a vast distance that you can actually HEAR the speed of light/speed of radio waves.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, Look Me in the Eye continues to be a bestseller, and we keep adding media appearances and speaking engagements. I’ll be at Northshire Books in Manchester, Vermont tomorrow evening, and I’ll be staying at the Equinox.

When my son was little, I used to take him to the Equinox. I showed him the door where Gorko, a Flying Lizard, entered and exited our world from the Great Service Road. Outside behind the Equinox there is a pipe that goes deep underground. Cubby and I would listen at the pipe, alert for sounds of Dragons far below.

We also ate Sunday brunch there. They have a good brunch.

Next Thursday, I’ll be at the Suffield Library, in Suffield, CT. Cubby and I never went there when he was small. We never made it past the Conrail train yard, ten miles north. He’s seventeen now, but he still remembers driving a freight train when he was five.

The bear was nowhere to be seen this morning. I presume he’s found a better home, across the street in Amherst Woods. One of the bloggers who wrote me last night actually LIVES in Amherst Woods, to my surprise. We’ll have to see if she reports any bear sightings today.


Wendy said…
John Elder-I finished your book last night and cried during the part that talked about you and your father's reconciliation right before he died. Your book is fabulous and I am so happy to see that your later adult life with Martha and cubby, your mom and brother is such a happy one. You definitely deserve it after what "hell" you went through as a child and adolescent. Congrats on the success of your book!
Tyhitia Green said…
Congratulations, John! On the success of your book---and on spreading the word about Asperger's. I think your big will leave a huge mark in this area. Again, congrats! :*)
ORION said…
I often wonder about the dragons in the pipes-
Live radio is a real trip-
I found myself rambling on and on - too funny.
What time did you end up doing your interviews for Australia ? 3 in the morning?
Trish Ryan said…
How fun to be doing the long-distance shows!

My husband is reading LOOK ME IN THE EYE now and loving it, which is the highest possible praise, as he's not a reader at all. He's rushing to finish it before tonight's Red Sox game to avoid having to decide between the two!
SelinaRussell said…
ORION: I live just north of Tasmania in Melbourne. At the moment I'm also logged into a chess site where it is 2.10 PM Wednesday PST, I'm 7.10AM Thursday. And Johns interview for my local ABC was at 2 PM. So a latish night for John, but primetime in OZ.
DivaLea said…
I finished Look Me in the Eye last week. My daughter is reading it now, because she wants to read about all the shenanigans, the guitars, and the snake.

I almost quit reading after the story about you crying in the sandbox. I have cried in the sandbox so many times in my life. I can even remember the last time I did, which was in 2002. I can think about your sandbox story right now and start to tear up, it touched me so deeply.

I'm glad I didn't give up before I finished your book. It helped me understand so much about myself, my daughter and my husband. (My son was already diagnosed as PDD-NOS seven years ago, because he is less subtle than the rest of us.)

THANK YOU the weight of 50,000 books and the time to sell them for sharing your story.
Does that make you a Tasmanian Devil? And did you ask if any of the holes you dug for Varmint to test reached all the way to the other side of the world?

John Robison said…
Kim, the hole through the world idea has two fatal flaws:

First, it gets hotter and hotter the deeper you go. The center is molten, and would not hold shape, and so would not support the continued existance of a hole.

Second, if such a hole were caused to exist (perhaps sustained by some magnetic field) you would not fall through to the othe rside. Gravity would cause you to fall to the center where you'd come to rest after bouncing a bit.

Roasting hot.

Orion . . . 7 or 8 at night for me is morning radio, the next day, for the Austrailians.

Divalea and Trish, I'm glad you like the story.
Anonymous said…
that is the coolest about hearing the speed of radio waves. fluffy would love that.
John Robison said…
Well, Kyra, then you should tell him. I think it's cool too.
DivaLea said…
You're welcome, John Elder Robison.
Essential Amy said…
I just finished your book last night and I really enjoyed it. I could relate to a lot of what you wrote about. I am giving it to my non book reading husband to read because he is interested in every single thing you wrote about, I know he would relate well. I also thought of my son while reading it and it gave me great comfort. After my husband finishes it, I am sending it in to my son's school for his teachers to read.

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