When writing speculative pieces with Chopra, Tanzi said he wears “a very different hat” than he does when researching. Anything that’s not backed up with data, he’s careful not to state as fact, but he feels like there should be room in the scientific community for some speculation.
“For a Harvard professor and neuroscientist, it’s way out there,” Tanzi said. “But I’ve always been fascinated by how new scientific ideas come about. We’re letting our creative side manifest. We’re not making claims, we’re saying, ‘What if.’ ”
Most of “Super Brain,” Tanzi said, is backed up by supporting scientific research. He said the book is largely about controlling your brain, rather than letting it control you — learning how to overcome emotions that impede you, for example.
These ideas struck TV producer Bob Marty as great subject matter for a PBS special.
“The moment I heard about Rudy and his credentials and background, his combination of performance abilities and his awesome research and academic background, I said, ‘It’s perfect,’ ” Marty said.
Chopra and Tanzi wrote the script, and when it came time to filming the special, Chopra encouraged his writing partner to host it.
“I’ve done so many PBS specials. I thought people would be exhausted,” Chopra said. “I thought Rudy would be a fresh start.”
Tanzi had lent his expertise to TV specials before, but had never anchored something like this. The producers tried to play to his strengths, letting him tell stories, explain scientific phenomena, and, of course, play the piano.
“I feel like we dragged him out of the lab and put him in front of a television camera,” said Marty. “He said yes to a lot of things he didn’t know what he was saying yes to until he got into the thick of it. . . . I don’t want to feed his ego too much, but he was the fastest study of anyone I’ve worked with.”
Despite being thrown into the host’s chair, Tanzi was just excited to share his knowledge about the brain with the world.
“You can learn how to really play it,” he said. “The brain is like a piano.”
Andrew Doerfler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.