A few weeks back, I was a guest on Glenn Beck‘s radio show. Something interesting happened before we went on the air. He noticed the book I was carrying — Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines, by the Berkeley physicist Richard A. Muller — and asked me about it. I endorsed it rather enthusiastically. He said it sounded like a book he’d like to read, so I went ahead and gave him my copy (and, yes, Dr. Muller, I ordered another one for myself).
A few days later, one of Beck’s producers e-mailed me to say that Beck too liked the book, and did I have any more recommendations? So I sent him a list, cobbled together from here, here, and from this blog. Then Beck read those books too.
This was the only time I’d ever done an interview and even had someone ask about the book I happened to have with me at the time, much less want to read it, and then read some others. I was pretty impressed. Beck has an awful lot of fans, but he has a lot of detractors too — and my sense is that those detractors have miscast him as a know-nothing villain.
As I was leaving that radio interview, we started talking about safety gear — football helmets, specifically, and how better helmets may lead to worse head injuries, since the extra layers of safety seem to produce more aggressive behavior. That’s when he mentioned his new car, a “death-proof” Mercedes, and he wondered if its amazing safety features were encouraging him to drive more recklessly. (It should be noted that he doesn’t have this new experimental Mercedes, which is apparently even closer to being truly death-proof.)
So I asked him if I could ride home with him one night in his car and talk about these issues. He agreed:
The podcast conversation focused on Beck’s car, but he is a pretty expansive guy, so we talked about quite a few other things as well — Beck’s own fears, rational and otherwise, and the one thing that keeps him up at night.