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AuthorI am Tim Ferriss, host of “The Tim Ferriss Show” and author of “Tools of Titans”. AMA

Dec 8th 2016 by Tim-Ferriss • 38 Questions • 188 Points

My short bio: Dr. Cindy Fast holds a Ph.D. and Master’s degree in Psychology specialising in Learning and Behaviour and Behavioural Neuroscience from UCLA. Cindy has more than ten years of experience conducting behavioural research with a variety of species including rats, mice, pigeons, hermit crabs, and horses.

In September Cindy moved from the US to take on her new role at APOPO. Dr. Fast plans to use her knowledge and expertise to optimize training and performance of the HeroRATs.

My Proof: Dr. Cindy Fast with Jones the HeroRAT.

About APOPO: APOPO is a non-profit that trains rats to save lives. Based in Tanzania, the organisation has pioneered the development of scent detection rats, nicknamed HeroRATs.

APOPO's landmine detection rats have helped sniff out more than 100,000 mines helping to free nearly one million people from the threat of explosives.

APOPO's tuberculosis detection rats have safely sniffed more than 350,000 sputum samples identifying 10,000 additional cases of TB that were missed by clinics.

APOPO website - https://www.apopo.org/en/

Adopt or gift a HeroRAT - https://support.apopo.org/en/adopt

Donate - https://support.apopo.org/en/donate

Dr. Fast will begin answering questions at 12pm EST.

EDIT - It's late night in Tanzania and Dr Fast has had to retire for the evening. Our Fundraising Manager, Robin Toal, will take over from here on out but will need to report back on any particularly tricky questions. Big thanks for all your questions, it's been a blast!

EDIT 2 - It's time to say goodnight (UK here). I'll pop back in the morning and will ask Dr Fast to answer a selection of the questions we didn't get to tonight. Thanks for your questions and if you're looking for a holiday gift you can't go wrong with a HeroRAT adoption.

Q:

Would Headspace be a good place to start?

A:

What's the strangest thing you saw in the back of house areas?


Q:

It can be difficult to maintain relationships with people from a previous workplace. I'd imagine even more so for those in your industry. What previous collaborator, if any, have you spent the most time with after wrapping?

A:

What was your reaction when Mythbusters Inc. told you they were downsizing. Did you feel blown to the wind or did you take it as an opportunity to do a new project?


Q:

Holy shit. This is amazing. Thanks for all your hard work. I haven't checked out the website yet, but just dream reading the short bio, it sounds like you (and APOPO) are doing amazing work.

My questions:

Which countries does your organization operate in? Are there some countries the rats work better than others in?

Also, they look adorable (and HUGE). How are they to work with and train? Do they pick things up faster or slower than other animals you've worked with and do you have a favorite? :)

A:

Headspace would be a great place to start. Or Calm, which some people prefer for the background nature sounds. Several of my guests also use Headspace (or ambitones -- give a Google) to help them get to sleep.

A few other options:

  • Guided audio meditations from Tara Brach or Sam Harris (samharris.org, I believe)

  • Take a TM course (tm.org). It will probably cost $1,000 or more, but this option offers a coach and accountability. For me, this is what kicked off more than 2 years of consistent meditation.

  • If you want to try mantra-based meditation like TM without a course, you can sit and silently repeat one two-syllable word (I’ve used “na-ture” before) for 10 to 20 minutes first thing in the morning. TM purists would call this heresy, but you can still see results. Aim for physical comfort. No crossed legs or yoga-like contortion required. The default is sitting reasonably straight on a chair with your feet on the floor, hands on your thighs or in your lap, and back supported.


Q:

Oh my god I could go on for days about that. One thing that stands out was a special event where they needed 16 Mickeys all set out in various rooms and seeing all of them backstage was really weird.

A:

james gunn


Q:

Both.

A:

Thanks! APOPO currently works in Angola, Mozambique, Cambodia, and Tanzania. We aim to start TB detection in Ethiopia and landmine detection in Zimbabwe next year.

We are focused on solving humanitarian problems in developing countries. TB detection works the same wherever we are in the world but landmine clearance is affected by the different environments. In Cambodia we have discovered that the surface tends to be rockier than in the sub-Saharan countries we have worked previously but the rats quickly overcame these new challenges.

The rats are truly a pleasure to work with (if you're lucky, you'll even get a sweet lick or two) and they are quick and eager learners. It's a bit difficult to compare how quickly they learn compared to other species because I've never trained any other animals to detect landmines or tuberculosis! Overall, I'd say they are pretty similar to a dog or typical labrat. I try to make it a point to not develop favorites, but because Nala was the very first rat I met when I arrived, I think she stole a special place in my heart.


Q:

Hey Tim, big fan! I like your method for quickly and effectively learning new skills. However, I have trouble applying it to my biggest weakness in life: Social skills.

Can you recommend a game plan for me to drastically improve my charisma, quality of social interactions, and my social networking game?

A:

Do you prefer parents playing it straight or interacting with you "in character" so to speak?


Q:

Hey Chris, you seem very down to earth. How has Hollywood not ruined you yet?

A:

Congrats on the engagement, Grant!

Are we gonna see any new cool robots from you in White Rabbit? Looking forward to watching the show!


Q:

Are there many landmines with tuberculosis?

A:

For sure. Here are two things that might seem ridiculous, but they'll check all the boxes, and they work together:

1) Join your local Toastmasters and start talking on stage and polishing. It'll be terrifying at first but fantastic in the long run, and the members tend to be fun.

2) Commit to taking at least two weeks of dance classes for a partner dance. My favorite is Argentine tango (very sexy stuff), but salsa, samba, and others are also great.

Good luck!


Q:

For the most part I appreciated when parents would stay in character. I hated when people would tell their kids "It's just a guy in a suit, don't be scared", which scares the kids even more. What I didn't like was when they would drill me with trivia questions and make me act out the answers. That used to be fun in the old days but toward the end we had to see as many guests as possible and there was always pressure from management to go faster and faster.

A:

never forget where you came from.


Q:

Freeze ray. Jousting simulator robot. And I might have made a flying hoverboard. But you know, you'll just have to see for yourself!

A:

Please don't give them any ideas!


Q:

I can't remember if you've ever answered this elsewhere but what's the best book you've read this year?

A:

What is the weirdest request that a visitor ever asked you to do?


Q:

Hey Chris,

Who is your favorite actor?

A:

Freeze ray? So you main Mei I take it.


Q:

There are special cemeteries and memorials for dogs who do military work and such. Do you hope to see us give the same amount of recognition to specially trained rats?

A:

"Best" is always tough, but I really enjoyed "How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia" by Mohsin Hamid (sp?), which was recommended to me by billionaire Chris Sacca. "The Baron in the Trees" by Italo Calvino is also beautiful. Why not non-fiction? I still read non-fiction, but these days, I'm trying to A) read fiction before bed to help reduce insomnia, and B) appreciate the beauty in life as much as the type-A personality goal setting. I find that when I'm constantly trapped in the future, thinking about plans and next steps (e.g. reading "productive" non-fiction only), I tend to be more anxious. Really good fiction is good medicine for me.


Q:

A guy once asked me to choke him for a picture (I didn't). That's a hard one because guests routinely do stupid weird things. I think the worst of them is when people bring their newborn infants to the parks and ask us to hold them for a picture. I can't see shit in Goofy let alone other costumes and I'm wearing giant gloves or paws or whatever depending on what character I am. Why would you let me hold your baby? Yeesh!

A:

anna faris


Q:

OH MAN I just made the connection. Overwatch wasn't as huge when we filmed this build earlier in the year. If we had done this recently, I might have gone with Mei instead of Doctor Horrible LOL

A:

You’ll be pleased to know that our staff began the tradition of burying the HeroRATs that passed away in the early days. Our staff in different countries have different cultures and they each honour the animals that have passed in their own way. In Tanzania our staff will often sing a song or two whilst in Cambodia our staff they hand build wooden grave markers and take a moment of silence.


Q:

What does your morning routine look like these days?

A:

Did you like Walt Disney World when you started this job? Do you still like it? What's your favourite thing at the parks that isn't around any more?


Q:

What is the most useless skill you have?

A:

You might want to let your netflix overlords know it isn't popping up in the new, recently added, or promotional spots. I only found it with the search.


Q:

Hello Dr. Fast, thank you for doing this AMA.

I've recently been reading more into APOPO and find it really interesting. I was wondering if you could explain more about the process of training the rats for detect mines and TB. I also have a few other questions.

  1. How do African giant-pouched rats compare to the type of rat that can be bought in a pet store, as far as training and intelligence go?

  2. Was any research done using different types of animals for detecting TB and mines? How did APOPO come to using African giant-pouched rats specifically?

  3. What other experiences have led you to working in this field?

  4. How much time do the rats spend out looking for mines or in the lab detecting TB?

  5. How accurate are the rats in detecting mines and TB?

Thanks again!

A:

I try to do 5 things each morning. Realistically, if I hit three out of five, I consider myself having won the morning. And if you win the morning, you win the day.

1 — Make Bed (<3 minutes)

This might seem ridiculous, but bear with me. To quote Naval Admiral William McRaven, head of JSOC (think Special Ops) during the Osama bin Laden raid:

“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

2 — Meditate (10 to 20 minutes)

At least 80% of all guests profiled in Tools of Titans have a daily mindfulness practice of some type. Sometimes I will do “Happy Body” mobility exercises from Olympic weightlifter Jerzy Gregorek in place of meditation. Pattern: Males seem to gravitate to TM (tm.org) and women to vipassana, but it's not 100% correlation, of course. The Headspace app also pops up a lot in my interviews.

3 — Do 5 to 10 Reps of Something (<1 minute)

The 5 to 10 reps here are not a workout. They are intended to “state prime” and wake me up. Getting into my body, even for 30 seconds, has a dramatic effect on my mood and quiets mental chatter. I like pushups and planche leans with mini-parallettes or, ideally, pushups on rings (with turn out at the top), which light you up like a X-mas tree.

4 — Prepare “Titanium Tea” (this name was a joke, but it stuck) (2 to 3 minutes)

I prepare loose-leaf tea in a Rishi glass teapot but you could use a French press. The below combo is excellent for cognition and fat loss, and I use about 1 flat teaspoon of each:

Pu-erh aged black tea Dragon well green tea (or other green tea) Turmeric and ginger shavings (often also Rishi brand)

Add the hot water to your mixture and let it steep for 1 to 2 minutes.

5 — Morning Pages or 5-Minute Journal (5 to 10 minutes)

I use two types of journaling and alternate between them: Morning Pages and The 5-Minute Journal (5MJ). The former I use primarily for getting unstuck or problem solving (what should I do?); the latter I use for prioritizing and gratitude (how should I focus and execute?).

Hope that helps!


Q:

Loved it then and I love it now. I would have to say the "Hidden Mickey" at the Disney / MGM Studios. The actual park used to make a giant mickey mouse when seen from an airplane. Echo Lake (where Gertie's is) made his right ear and the place where that horrible hat was made up the nose. All of the expansions tore it all to shreds though. :( There are a LOT of attractions I miss terribly though. Horizons was such a peaceful ride (and cool as shit) and Journey into Imagination with the original figment had so many amazing tricks in it. I miss Delta Dream Flight and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride a lot too.

A:

rubiks cube

although it's not useless because i use it to help me run lines


Q:

Doing press for a streaming show is very different from broadcast. With broadcast, they're all like "Coming soon..." "Coming real soon..." "Coming next week..."

With streaming, they don't want to talk about it until it's truly, actually LIVE on the site.

A:

Thanks for your questions!

How do African giant-pouched rats compare to the type of rat that can be bought in a pet store, as far as training and intelligence go?

We follow standard learning & behavior procedures to train our rats, much like you might experience when training a dog. We start with clicker training where the rat learns that a click sound leads to a food reward by repeatedly pairing these two events. After that, we then shape the rats behavior by rewarding successive approximations towards the target by making the click when the rat does something close to what we really want. Finally, the rat learns that it will only be rewarded for performing that specific behavior (gently scratching for landmines or hovering over a sample for TB) in the presence of the specific odor we want them to detect (explosives or TB).

Was any research done using different types of animals for detecting TB and mines? How did APOPO come to using African giant-pouched rats specifically?

Mine Detection Dogs have been in use for decades but they are quite expensive and sometimes struggle in the hot and dry environments in Africa that APOPO was initially focused on. Our Founder, Bart Weetjens, had a background in breeding rats and during his research discovered an old article detailing how hamsters were successfully trained to detect TNT. From there, it was just a case of finding a suitable rodent in the region. As it happened, no more than two weeks later our Founder spotted a local man walking a Giant African Pouched rat on a leash which told us that these giant rats could be domesticated.

Some other great reasons why we selected rats was because they are easily trainable, cheap to maintain, easy to transport between locations, excellent sense of smell, highly resistant to disease and they are adapted to the environments we work in.

What other experiences have led you to working in this field?

I grew up surrounded by animals and enjoyed every minute around them. After earning my Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a Neuroscience Concentration, I then went to UCLA where I earned my Master's and Ph.D. While at UCLA, I had the great opportunity to work with pigeons and hermit crabs, in addition to rats. From there, I served as post-doctoral associate in a lab examining the neruobiology of smell in rodents. In the end, I think my whole life has actually led up to this particular work!

How much time do the rats spend out looking for mines or in the lab detecting TB?

Our rats spend less than an hour (about 40 minutes) a day in the field or lab to save lives.

How accurate are the rats in detecting mines and TB?

Our tuberculosis detection rats have increased TB detection rates by 40% in the clinics where we work.

Our mine detection rats have been proven to be at least as accurate as the approved internationally approved mine clearance methods. They are significantly quicker too as they only detect explosives and ignore scrap metal contamination which makes traditional demining with a metal detector so slow.

All of our research is peer reviewed and available online here - https://www.apopo.org/en/contact/press/publications


Q:

I think the biggest takeaway here, for me, is considering 3/5 a win. I have a similar 5-6 items on my morning routine and when I don't hit all of them, it ends up having the opposite of the intended effect and my day suffers from there. Having more realistic expectations is wise since, frankly, hitting even just 3 of those each day puts you ahead of 80% of people. Thanks!

A:

Are the stereotypes about people who play different characters true?


Q:

What is your favorite song to absolutely rock-out too? Favorite song to cry to?

A:

I never heard of it until today on here


Q:

Do the rats enjoy their work?

A:

This is a SUPER critical observation. With routines, you don't want your threshold for "success" to be checking 100% of the boxes. Look for 3/5 wins or 2/5 wins. Otherwise, the human inclination is self-sabotage with "Well, I miss A or B, so I failed today," or "Now today is going to be harder" and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rig the game so you can win. Researcher BJ Fogg and his Persuasion Lab work have interesting observations here.


Q:

If you're talking about the "face" performers the answer is yes and no. Some of the break rooms are like the high school cafeteria where the "cool" princesses (elsa and anna) sit on one side and make eyes at the "old" characters (snow and poppins). It's really childish. Other face performers think they're on Broadway and demand respect and they hate not getting it. But those are extreme cases of a few bitches. For the most part the face performers are as much a character as any of us. Some of them are the sweetest people I've ever met in my life.

A:

To rock out to.... Pantera Vulger Display of Power To cry to... Pantera Vulger Display of Power


Q:

Exactly. It just became available today.

A:

It's hard to speculate about what enjoyment is for a non-human animal, but if I may, I think the answer would be YES! The rats are always eager to work, they greet us and they willingly perform their duties. It is quite a sight to see a young rat in mine detection training "happily" following their trainer through the field after a session, without a harness or any leash! I think if the rats could wag their tales like a dog then they certainly would when they see us and go to work.


Q:

What's your excersise routine looking like right now?

A:

what were your coworkers like? is everyone filled with the disney spirit, or do people hate their jobs there like any other job?


Q:

To what extent would you consider Andy Dwyer to be based off yourself?

A:

Hi Grant,

What was your favorite thing to explode?


Q:

I reside on an island which is being overrun with invasive species. Since you are starting to move the rats into new territories around Asia, I am wondering if you spay/neuter them in case they get loose?

A:

During something like book launch (right now), when I'm running like mad 24/7 for 1-2 weeks, I keep it simple:

1) 2-5 min upon waking of something simple, just to get the nervous system going, like pushup --> downward dog --> pushup --> downward dog, etc.

2) 20-100 reps of two-handed kettlebell swings sometime after work but before dinner. This takes only a few minutes, and I'll generally do this 2-3x weekly.

3) Might not seem like "exercise," but cold-hot contrast, so Russian baths, or hot baths alternated with ice-cold showers. Usually before bed.


Q:

It's really like any other job. I went through phases myself. At first, every time I farted Pixie Dust ® would blow out of my butt but after several years I got kind of bitter. It was all management stuff though. On set I was fine and loved it but backstage stress got to me for a while and I was big on holding Disney accountable. After about 10 years though I calmed down. I loved every single minute while on set (for the most part) and some of my co-workers will be friends for life. You get out of it what you put into it.

A:

Andy Dwyer is the personification of my comedic schtick. I have been making people laugh with that clown for years and years. Way before I ever did Parks and Rec. He not all of me. But I AM all of him, if that makes any sense.


Q:

It's hard to say! Probably Homemade Diamonds. But each explosive is so different. C4 is really quick pop. ANFO is what you use to move big things. Gasoline makes pretty flames.

A:

Great question! Yes, indeed! Our rats are spayed/neutered before they are transported to operational sites outside of Tanzania, although none have ever chose to run away.


Q:

Was there a routine, method or philosophy that you just absolutely could not do?

A:

Any good stories of playing Goofy around the time "A Goofy Movie" came out?

Bonus question: Have you ever met Powerline?


Q:

Could Johnny Karate beat Starlord in a fight?

A:

Hi Grant,

What is your favourite book? I'm trying to find a good book for my son


Q:

Appreciated. Please give the rats a hug from me next time you see them. :-)

A:

Ahhh... waking up at 4:45am consistently like former Navy SEAL Commander Jocko Willink or super athlete Amelia Boone! I'm a night owl, plain and simple. Fortunately, not all the world-class performers out there rise with the Amish. There are plenty of folks, like me, who are barely alive until 11am or later.


Q:

Oh. My. God.

The first time some kid asked me to do the Perfect Cast I had no idea what he was talking about so I faked it. The kid didn't buy it but luckily I had an escort (that's what they called attendants back in the day) tell the kid that I already forgot it (which is bullshit if you watch the movie). They don't prepare you for details like that in training. You're just supposed to figure it out yourself. Never met Powerline unfortunately.

A:

Not alone. But with his band of child ninjas, it would be close.


Q:

How old is he and what are his interests?

A:

Will do!


Q:

Which of your podcast guests surprised you the most? In terms of having a different outlook or insights than you expected they would have.

A:

Hey there worst and best customer experience you ever had?


Q:

Does your son still think you're a firefighter?

A:

Grant, don't know if you'll read this but you're seemingly active. Thanks so much for all you did in my thrusters, I loved it!


Q:

How long does it take to train a rat?

A:

First to mind is BJ Miller, MD. He's a hospice care physician and triple amputee who has helped 1,000+ people to die. In doing so, he's learned a lot about how to live well. His thoughts and advice were really profound and sometimes counter-intuitive. Definitely worth a full listen (or he's in the new book), but here was his answer to my "What would you put on a gigantic billboard?" question: "Don't believe everything you think."


Q:

Ugh. Worst guest experience? It's a tie between having my life threatened at a Grad Night party one time and one time I had to tell a guest that their son was in jail for stealing from one of the stores and she did not take it very well. Best guest experience? I've got too many to mention. One that stands out is when I was working at Mickey's Character Spot at Epcot. There was an older gentleman that came up in the queue but didn't come see me, he just sort of stood in the back and watched me for a while. After about 20 minutes he came up to me and said "Goofy, I had a special friend that would want you to have this." In Goofy you have to look down in order to make it look like Goofy is looking at you so I couldn't see him but I heard him holding back the tears. He was shaking a bit but he gave me a hug anyway. I will never forget that hug. It was one of those hugs that last with you. He was crying in my arms. He had given me this which is a pin they give to family members or friends of POWs and MIAs. It's become one of my most prized possessions.

A:

no he knows i'm an actor. But he thinks it's kind of stupid. haha! I suppose he's right!!!


Q:

OH "my thrusters" = "MythBusters" LOLOLOLOLOLOL

A:

Our rats typically reach accreditation standards within 9 months for TB detection and slightly longer for landmine detection.


Q:

How long does it take you to complete a book?

A:

my life threatened at a Grad Night party one time

This is reddit, you can't just leave it at that. we need details.


Q:

Will you and your wife ever do a movie together where you're both leading? I think you're both talented and would make an exceptional screen-team!

A:

What do you think about the giant robot fight between USA and Japan?


Q:

How are the rats bred? Do you pair them up with an eye toward any specific characteristics, or randomly? Is the breeding population separate from the working population? Any interesting / cute highlights from rat childhood?

As a rat owner myself I love APOPO and think your work is so awesome and cute :)

A:

The entire process is generally around 3 years. Typically, 2 years for research and 1 year for writing. I use Evernote to gather all information (scans, pulling articles to offline, etc.), then Scrivener to put it all together.


Q:

My job that night was to check receipts at the door of the Emporium to make sure kids weren't stealing shit. One kid was walking out with a hat (he was a BIG kid) and when I grabbed it off his head he pushed me up against the wall and said "Touch me again and I'll fucking gut you". I just smiled and said "Be safe tonight".

A:

yes we will!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Q:

It's going to happen. Just saw the guys last week and they're moving along. It's going to happen eventually.

A:

We first introduce the mating pairs to one another in separate cages positioned next to one another. If the two like each other, they will make soft noises and sort of paw at each other through the cage (sort of like they are playing patty-cake). After the rats have shown this behavior, we then release them together in a large cage where they have a clay pot to rest, wooden toys to climb on, and plenty of food to eat. We leave them together for 30 days before removing the male and then closely monitoring the female for signs that she might be pregnant.

Our breeding colony is housed in a quiet building at our main headquarters, separate from the rest of our rats.

I was incredibly fortunate to witness one of our newest HeroRATs being born just last week. For me, that was a particularly special moment.


Q:

glad to know you do your research and not just churn out material!!!!

A:

how do you survive on really hot days?


Q:

What can we expect in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2?

A:

hi grant, what multitool/knife do you always carry?


Q:

ROUS's? I don't believe they exist?

A:

Research, research, research. Sebastian Junger had some wonderful things to say about this on my podcast. He hates lazy writers who use pretty prose to cover up gaps in their homework.


Q:

Practice actually. It was absolute torture the first month (and especially the first parade) but after a few months I got used to it and after a few years I would forget I had the costume on.

A:

bigger and better in every way


Q:

I started with a Leatherman Wave and had that for many years. Then I started carrying the Charge ALX because it had more tools like allen wrenches.

A:

Nice Princess Bride reference! We're big fans of the film, as you'd expect.


Q:

As a follow-up question, what does your book research process look like on a macro level? Starting with a general idea of what might work, what would be the high-level process you go through from idea to starting the first draft?

A:

Any good stories about your magical moments? In 20 years surely you got some good ones...


Q:

You're awesome man.

Got any guilt or just general thoughts for taking this sweet lead role in Passengers considering Keanu Reeves had been trying to get the script made for like 6-7 years?

A:

Hey Grant! I met you a few years ago after I had cancer. I was the dude who worked at reddit and came by to meet you and the rest of the build team. I gave you guys some reddit stickers, and you stuck one on the toolbox in the Mythbusters shop. You were super nice to me and said you hoped my recovery would go well.

Just wanted to let you know I'm almost 3 years in remission. :)

Hope you're doing well, too!


Q:

Is there a possibility of training these rats to detect cancers?

A:

As Cal Fussman would say, "The good shit sticks." I start with a tentative 3-part structure (like in Tools of Titans -- healthy, wealthy, and wise) and I begin slotting in empty documents with placeholder chapter titles. Then I drop in the "shit that sticks" -- i.e. the details that is firm in my memory and that comes to mind. Once that's done, I build around it all and begin to refine.


Q:

I have one moment that stands out above all the rest. I was waiting for someone to ask me this question. It's the reason I left a good job as a VIP Tourguide and moved to the Character Department.

I was working City Hall one day when two guests came in with two little girls. One was in a wheel chair and the other one looked like she had just seen death. Both were cut and bruised and the one in the wheelchair had her arm in a cast. The two women were actually nurses from a hospital and were asking for a refund on the girl's tickets, something we avoided doing at all costs. When I asked why they told me the story. The two girls were with their mom and dad at Epcot and on the way home they got into a horrible car accident. The mother was beheaded right in front of them. The father eventually died too but the two girls didn't know that yet. They were from overseas and had no money and no contact information for anyone they knew. They were bringing the tickets back to get the girls some much needed money to help get them back home. My heart absolutely sunk. If you had seen these girls you'd know why. They were truly traumatized. I refunded their tickets and got permission to be their private tour guide for the rest of the day (which they were not expecting). I walked them to the VIP viewing area for the parade which was as far as I could walk them in the costume we used to wear at City Hall. I had to leave them there while I put on my VIP costume. On the way down I pulled out every kid joke I could think of. I was a REALLY good tour guide (I helped write part of it) and I knew how to make kids smile. Nothing worked. These girls were too far gone for that. I left them at the bridge to go change, walked backstage and bawled my eyes out. I just had never seen something so horrible. I was truly affected and it was a terrible feeling of powerlessness not being able to fix the situation. When I came back I brought them to get ice-cream, take them on rides and stuff but they never smiled, not once. The nurses were loving it and were trying to get them into it but it just wasn't working. We went back to the bridge to watch the parade. It was there that I honestly saw true magic. Real magic, not bullshit. I had called the parade department to let them know what was going on and set up a private meet and greet after the parade. As the parade was coming around Liberty Square I told the girls that I had called Mickey and told them all about them. I told them that Mickey asked to meet them after the parade.

The little girl in the wheelchair smiled.

"Really?" she asked. My heart skipped. "Yes, really! He told me to tell you to look out for him in the parade and to follow the float back to City Hall."

The other girl smiled.

"You mean right now?" she asked.

It had worked. They were talking. Not laughing, but talking. It was the first time I had heard them speak. Every single parade performer came up to them on the bridge and told them to look out for Mickey. Every one of them told them that. When Mickey's float came up Mickey (who was attached to a pole at the top of the float) managed to turn her body sideways, look down at the girls and point towards Main Street. That was all it took. The girls were excited now. They had forgotten about death. They were lost in a magical world and I couldn't believe I was watching it unfold in front of my eyes. We followed that float all the way back to City Hall, singing "Mickey Mania" the whole way. Back then, City Hall used to have a VIP lounge behind the desk that was for privacy during difficult situations or to host celebrities. I took them in and showed them the book where all of the autographs were. They were eating it up.

The girl who was Mickey that day (K.T., I will always love you for this) got down off her float and without even taking her head off walked up to me backstage and said "Let's go." I walked in with Mickey behind me so I got to see the exact moment the girls met their new friend. They got shy but Mikey was in control now. Those girls met the REAL Mickey Mouse that day. Every single parade character stayed dressed to meet those girls. One by one they'd come in and play a bit then leave. We were in that lounge for over an hour. Mickey stayed in costume the entire time (which is hard to do after a parade). When Mickey finally said goodbye I had two excited girls on my hands that couldn't stop smiling. They talked and talked and talked. We had a wonderful day after that but what I remember most is when we walked by the rose garden, the older one said "Oh, my mommy loves roses! I mean..." and she stopped. I held out my hand and walked her to the gate, picked her up and put her on the other side and said "Pick one!" She looked happy as she picked out her favorite rose. She didn't say anything more and she didn't need to. I said goodbye to the wonderful nurses and the wonderful girls then walked backstage behind the train station. This time I didn't cry. It felt so good to be a part of that. I realized that as much as I liked helping guests at City Hall, the true magic of Disney was in the character department. I auditioned, transferred and never looked back. Thanks for letting me relive this. It was a special day for me.

A:

Keanu Reeves is awesome. John Wick is the shit. He's been killing it for so long. And hes a great humanitarian.


Q:

Hey man! Congrats!! BTW I still have that Reddit sticker on my toolbox.

A:

Absolutely! We already have initial discussions in the works to determine the feasibility, what types of samples (for example, urine or breath) would be best-suited, and what cancers might be best for our rats to detect. We are aiming towards cancers that currently do not have reliable or cost-effective screening techniques and for which life-saving treatment exists if only the cancer is actually detected.


Q:

Do you have a process for your research?

A:

Why did you quit ?


Q:

~15 years ago you were living in your van on a beach in Hawaii, jobless, listening to Dre's 2001 everyday.

Do you ever miss anything about those days? Simpler times, being able to go anywhere you want without fear of paparazzi, etc.

A:

Hey Grant!! On a scale from 1-10, how excited are you for Rogue One!?!


Q:

Have any of the trained animals accidentally set a mine off? Do they get a funeral?

A:

I probably have some micro-processes related to digesting it all, but the gathering phase is just a big brain dump. I drop it ALL into a gigantic notebook on Evernote and slowly move the good stuff (based on a weekly review) into a "Research" bucket in the left-hand pane of my Scrivener table of contents.


Q:

I was fired. To make a complicated story short, Donald Duck was, as usual, being a jerk and wouldn't leave my area because I had signed "Luv, Goofy" right over the bill of a Donald Duck hat. He threw a temper tantrum and as I was dragging him across the floor to get him back to his position a little kid ran out from behind the curtain at Pete's Silly Sideshow and we knocked her on her butt. The kid was fine and no one complained but Disney didn't really appreciate me dragging the costume on the carpeted floor so they terminated me.

A:

That was such an amazing time in my life. There are elements I miss. Perhaps most of all, uncertainty.


Q:

1 MILLION. From the first moment I saw the trailer, it was like I was right back in my childhood. Plus, I've known John Knoll since I was at ILM. He's a good guy and he gets it. CAN'T WAIT.

A:

None of our animals have ever been harmed in the line of duty. The beauty of the rats work is that they are actually too light to set off traditional landmines so their well-being is not threatened when they go to work.

Our rats always receive a local funeral. I've answered in more detail above.


Q:

What's your Every Day Carry?

A:

After 20 years, you were fired over that? Was it a full on fight lol?


Q:

How has your past as an overweight, comedic character played influenced your growth as an actor, especially now that you're considered one of the sexiest Hollywood stars?

A:

Do you feel any schadenfreude since Tory Belleci will be doing an AMA on the 16nth instead of seeing the movie?


Q:

How long do these trained rats live for?

How much does it cost to train a rat?

Do you grow attached to these rats?

How many rats have died from landmines and do they have a memorial?

Do you get to take the retired ones home and keep them as pets?

What was the most intelligent rat you ever trained?

Where would soldiers keep these rats when out in the field?

A:

During book launches, I always have a backpack with me, and the most important EDC elements are: Ito-En or Teas' Tea unsweetened green teas, taurine supplementation, l-tyrosine, desiccated liver capsules, sprayable zinc and vitamin C (for immune support, and I take about 1g vit C per hour when meeting 100s of people), and a handful of other things. Not EDC, but I keep a trunk in all the cities I travel most with everything I'd need for a week, like a Rumble Roller, mini parallettes, etc.


Q:

That's a long and painful story. Disney still has no idea the pain and trauma that caused. There were other reasons I think I was not brought back, one of them being terrible legal advise from a lawyer I sought out before my final arbitration. I was also sort of a whistle-blower and I think that played a big role.

A:

no vanity in comedy understanding the element of my job in where I am a prop

i was confident and in good shape when i first came to LA but nobody would cast me in any well written roles. People assumed based on my looks i was an asshole and a one trick pony. I only auditioned to play the douchebag characters. my audition material would be like "Bradley, 24, you hate him immediately"

int. locker room. Bradley looks to our hero, squints his eyes, runs his hands through his thick gelled and frosted tipped hair and says, "Fuck you pussy."

that would be my audition. "Fuck you pussy." welcome to the OC bitch.

They never let me improv or do comedy. It wasn't until I built a shlubby exterior, which stood in stark contrast to my inner confidence that people gave me room to play. ,


Q:

HAHAHA ALL PART OF MY PLAN

A:

How long do these trained rats live for?

Around 7-8 years normally.

How much does it cost to train a rat?

Around $7,000 each which sounds expensive but they are significantly cheaper than the alternative solutions.

Do you grow attached to these rats?

Absolutely! Many of us are animal lovers and every one of our staff will have their favourite HeroRAT. They are fun, sociable, and inquisitive creatures meaning it is hard not to develop bonds with them.

How many rats have died from landmines and do they have a memorial?

Not a single rat has ever been hurt by a landmine. They are too light to trigger mines and operate under strict safety conditions.

Do you get to take the retired ones home and keep them as pets?

Our retired rats are kept with all of their other HeroRAT buddies rather than being separated. We don't tend to adopt them as we want to ensure that their years of hard work are thoroughly rewarded with expert care and mountains of great food.

What was the most intelligent rat you ever trained?

Intelligence can be a bit tricky to quantify. Because I've only been with APOPO a few months, I'm afraid I don't have any examples with our Giant African Pouched Rats. For me, it would probably be a lab rat that I worked with at UCLA. At first, she appeared to be learning more slowly than all of the others - until I watched what she was doing during her training session. Turns out she had learned the most clever solution to what I thought should be a chellenging task. After changing a few things in the cage to prevent her from doing her "little tricks" she quickly caught up to the performance of all of the other rats and even beat them to the finish line (meaning she mastered the task before everyone else). She was quite a special rat to work with.

Where would soldiers keep these rats when out in the field?

APOPO is focused on humanitarian demining in post-conflict areas and as such we employ local civilian staff to clear mines. Typically we will establish a small office and base for the HeroRATs near to where we are clearing mines.


Q:

As someone who always gets sick this is really interesting. Is it just vit C immune support or the other stuff as well? Maybe the zinc?

A:

What's the worst child/adult tantrum you've witnessed?


Q:

Are there any roles you regret taking/ not taking?

A:

I saw a set of pictures showing practical effects in Star Wars prequels.

Are you in this picture? How was working there?


Q:

How did you get involved in this field of work?

A:

I used to always get sick, especially in winter. But for the last 2-3 years, I've perhaps had 1-2 colds. I credit this to doing the above regularly, frequent cold exposure (see 4-Hour Body or Wim Hof in the new book), and meditating 20 min in the mornings.


Q:

I once saw an adult beat the absolute living shit out of a pre-teen boy on set as the Queen of Hearts. We're told never to interact when something like that happens so I had to leave. I've seen tons and tons of guests lose their shit in Guest Relations, particularly when it involved people not getting their way. I wish I had a camera sometimes. I would get so much delicious karma from /r/PublicFreakout

A:

No regrets. Ever. They all led me to here.


Q:

Yep, that's me working on a hangar bay. It was an awesome time in my life. Just wrote a post about it on the MythBusters Facebook page.

A:

Thanks for asking the first question!

I have always loved animals and enjoyed learning more about them. While working on my bachelor's degree, I had a really outstanding professor invite me to join his lab where he was looking at how rats solve various problems to gain a greater understanding about the process of learning. After joining his lab, I never looked back!


Q:

As a teacher, I'm curious. What changes would you make to our current, typical, American public school curriculum?

A:

Is it true that someone gets fired if two of the same characters appear in the same area of the park?


Q:

Anna Faris from Scary Movie(s) or Anna Faris from The House Bunny?

A:

What is your favorite car you have driven and what do you have now?

What would be some potential myths you would have liked to test if you would not have been under the constraints of a family friendly show, or in short what nsfw myth would you have tested?


Q:

Are there any major differences between giant pouched rats and ordinary domestic rats, behavior-wise?

A:

I've looked at this very closely, and I'm on the advisory council and board of a few great non-profits, like DonorsChoose.org and QuestBridge (for getting high-promise but high-need kids into top colleges).

I don't think the curriculum is the biggest problem. I think that those running schools and the school system are unable to fire bad teachers and pay for the good ones. So, that's where I would focus.

Seth Godin has some great thoughts on how to raise and teach children, and he walks the talk. We discuss it at some length in our podcast together.


Q:

It would depend on the situation. I've met my double on set by accident a few times over the years (it happens to the best of us) but it was just that, an accident. The only way someone would get fired (I'm only guessing here) is if they did it on purpose.

A:

Wow. that's a good question. like a kiss marry kill thing?

trick question. I'd marry and kiss them all. And I did!!!


Q:

I used to have a Porsche Cayman. I miss that car. It never met a curve it didn't like at any speed. I miss my Toyota Tacoma truck. It was raised and had a lumber rack. I currently have a Tesla Model S. It's smooth and powerful, although a bit large for my taste.

A:

I've only noticed very slight differences in behavior. Our African Giant Pouched Rats tend to be a bit more social with their human counterparts. That's not to say that domestic or typical lab rats aren't social towards humans by any means. Maybe it's more patience; the giant rats tend to be more relaxed and calculated in their motions. Perhaps it is driven by the underlying differences in life expectancy with domestic rats only living 3-5 years and giant rats living 8 or more years. Of course, there's the major difference of hoarding scrumptious food in their pouched cheeks (where they get their names) which domestic rats don't have the opportunity to try!


Q:

Tim, I have heard many times, "you are the product of the five people you spend the most time with." I don't have a lot of über successful peers or family members. However I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts and reading books of yours, Tony Robbins, Sam Harris and Jocko. Would you consider this a decent substitute for the lack of real life influencers?

PS- thank you for all you do! Love your books and podcast!!

A:

Where do you go in your career from here?


Q:

What would you be probably doing had you not become an actor?

A:

Do you have the autopilot?

Have you hacked the car in any way?


Q:

This may sound dumb. BUT are the rats you work with smarter than the average rat? Bigger so I'm assuming bigger brains? If so wouldn't that make them highly intelligent?

A:

I absolutely think podcasts are a great way to "surround" yourself with people who can help you average up. I use podcasts this way, and I listen to Dan Carlin (Hardcore History), Jocko, Sam, and Tony regularly myself!

If you want to improve yourself physically with good peers, it usually sometimes requires in-person, but that can be figured out. Group exercise at gyms, AcroYoga jam sessions, and even searching or browsing https://www.meetup.com/ can be super helpful.


Q:

That's how this whole AMA started. I made a comment in /r/adviceanimals in response to someone who was frustrated they were 30 and making a career change. I'm 46 now. I have zero job skills other than making people laugh. I never thought I'd ever do anything else so I'm stuck. Maybe working with troubled teens or some other kind of service work. I just want to find something that gives me as much passion as Disney did, which is hard.

A:

If I hadn't become an actor in the way I did. (being discovered by a director, plucked from obscurity, etc) I would have continued to pursue stand up comedy. probably would have tried to become an actor that way.


Q:

I tried an early version of autopilot. Decided I would wait for a later software update. I am happy with how the car works now. No need to hack it LOL

A:

Good question! Yes, our rats are definitely larger than typically rats and also have larger brains. As a neuroscientist, I can tell you that a larger brain doesn't necessarily translate to greater intelligence. Intelligence is vey difficult to define, especially among non-verbal, non-human species. From what I've witnessed, our rats are very similar in learning abilities to other typical rat species. The biggest difference is their lifespan, which means that they have more time to learn more things over the course of their lives.


Q:

What is the funniest thing you've ever seen someone dressed as their character say (Like someone in costume saying something that sounds ridiculous cause they said it in character)?

A:

Would you and Eminem ever do a song together?


Q:

No need to hack it LOL

This is not the Grant I know and love.

A:

I'm a big fan of APOPO so thanks for doing this AMA. My question is what is next for APOPO? Are you going to train the rats to detect new things?


Q:

"I just farted" - Cinderella

A:

He's been after me for years to do a song. wait, no? he doesn't know I exist? Oh. well.... probably not. simply because he wouldn't do it. haha! But I'd buy his cologne if he had one.


Q:

Though it is basically a giant robot, safety first!

A:

Absolutely! We have a very active and growing Research & Development department that is constantly exploring new avenues for our rats to use their amazing sense of smell in solving pressing global humanitarian problems. We have recently started a collaboration with the Endangered Wildlife Trust on a project that is funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Services to train our rats to detect wildlife and hardwoods illegally smuggled out of Africa in shipping containers. We are also exploring possibilities for the rats to detect food-bourne illnesses (such as salmonella), diseases in animals (for example brucella infection or bovine TB) and other human diseases (various cancers and even Alzheimer's). There's A LOT of potential for our sniffer rats to put their noses to good use!


Q:

What is your favorite memory working there?

A:

Was it difficult to control the raptors on the set of JURASSIC WORLD? Did you have any prior training in order to not get hurt by them? It must have been pretty scary. Was it scary? I bet it was.


Q:

Would you consider building a power assisted suit? Mini-electric motors, cables, carbon fibre and aluminum frame covered in level III/IV ballistic plates?

That'd be close enough wouldn't it? Also, a 50lb backpack full of LiPo's (or an ultracapacitor array)

A:

What are the rats landmine detection percentage? If one rat cleared a field would you feel comfortable walking through it yourself? Do you overlap their clearance tracks for a kind of "two rat integrity?"


Q:

(sigh) I can't really figure that out. I've tried to answer that question a hundred times but I can never pinpoint a specific moment that stands out from the rest. I have a few tear jerkers, a few laugh out loud moments, and a few horror stories. One that does stand out was at Give Kids The World which is where all the Make-a-Wish kids stay when they come to Disney (truly a magical spectacular place). A woman came up with her son who was born with a birth defect that meant he had no muscles in his neck. He looked REALLY bad and his head had to be supported by his mom. This was a special circumstance. The kid's wish was to be held by Goofy. That's it. Just to be held. The mother told me that because of his "life problems" everyone is afraid to even touch him. She laid him very carefully in my arms (sitting on the ground) and let go. We rocked back and forth on that floor for what seemed forever. It was one of the times where I forgot I had the costume on and I just cried and cried. He was such a special kid. I'll never forget that.

A:

haha! Yes. It's amazing i made it out alive. The sequel shoots in a fewmonths. I already have nervous diahrea, diarreah, diarreeah, how the fuck do you spell that? anyways. Yeah. I"m probably gonna die on the sequel.


Q:

You... may be on to something there.

A:

What are the rats landmine detection percentage?

All of our mine detection rats are required to pass blind tests at a 100% clip to become approved for detection purposes. There is no cutting corners when dealing with a life and death situation like landmines and if a rat cannot consistently pass the tests then they are not used in the field.

If one rat cleared a field would you feel comfortable walking through it yourself?

Absolutely. We return the land to local communities to farm, build houses, and to develop their communities, and we have no concerns whatsoever walking over minefields cleared by the HeroRATs. In over a decade of mine clearance, covering 26,000,000 m2, there has not been a single mine or device found in any minefield that APOPO's rats have cleared.


Q:

Could you speak to people while in costume? Can you do a good goofy voice impersonation?

A:

Hey Chris, big fan here! What do you miss most about working on Parks and Rec? What was the hardest part about working on Passengers?


Q:

Hi Grant!

Long time MythBusters fan and have caught you speak at a couple cons!

My question is, do you enjoy playing any video games in your down time?

A:

So what does rat do when it finds a mine under sand or something? How can you tell it has found something?


Q:

We are NOT ALLOWED TO EVER TALK IN COSTUME IN FRONT OF GUESTS. EVER. Backstage however, anything goes. I used to love telling dirty jokes to unsuspecting new hires. I do have a good Goofy laugh but it took me years to perfect.

A:

I miss the cast and crew. I miss my friends. I miss the commute. I miss the fact it was a steady gig, all comedy, and took me 7 minutes to get to work.

The hardest part of working on Passengers would be the schedule. There were only two of us primarily through the whole shoot and we worked incredibly long hours. I was homesick a lot of the time. It was a grind.


Q:

Not much down time these days. I'm an old school FPS guy, using mouse and keyboard. Just started playing Overwatch. Currently, JunkRat is my favorite character to play. (But I'm trying to learn all the others too.)

A:

We originally trained our rats to pause for a few seconds above the mine but if you’ve ever handled a rat you’ll know they don’t enjoy staying still! We now train them to lightly scratch above the surface of the earth. You can watch a video of exactly how it works here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UE94Sxp6mY8


Q:

What is the weirdest story of one of your coworkers getting fired? What did they get fired for?

A:

Im a huge PJ fan and loved that andy was also, was that your idea or the writers idea? are you a big fan?


Q:

Well hey, at least it's not Mei

A:

Does each rat have its name? How can you tell them apart?


Q:

Well, the worst I personally saw was in the 90's when Fantasyland Character Festival was still around which was the old queue for 20K Leagues Under the Sea. One of our greeters (that's what they called them then, they're attendants now) was a trans woman (that wasn't fooling anyone) and the police came and picked her up backstage. Evidently she was the father of a missing child and she was hiding out at Disney. Fucked up huh? There was also the infamous Michael Chartrand case who was the Tigger that felt up one of the guests. That was a really embarrassing blemish for Disney. It was on the front page of the Orlando Sentinel which is plopped down on everyone's doorstep at Disney (in the premium resorts anyway). He got his job back (there was a totally bizarre court case. His lawyer actually dressed up as Tigger to give the closing arguments) but he was fired a few years later for allegedly doing the same thing to one of the photographers.

A:

love Pearl Jam! Growing up in Washington i have a very real connection to that music. I was at an impressionable time when it hit. So it will always have a place in my heart.


Q:

Mei takes too long. I like to move around a lot.

A:

Every single rat has a name with most of them being named by our local trainers at our HQ in Tanzania. We have a few soccer players (Ramsey, Ozil, Drogba, Adebayor, Lukaku, Kompany, Mourinho, Wenger etc), some Star Wars rats (Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia), and some celebrities too (Jon Stewart, Taylor Swift, Malala).

Our rats either have their own home environment or share cage with another rat which are labelled. Each of the rats have their own unique markings, behaviours, and relationships with our staff and we don't normally have any problem telling them apart.


Q:

Do you smile in the costume when you're taking photos with other people?

A:

If you could have played any character from a film ever, who would you pick?


Q:

You should try Lucio then!

A:

Oh man- can you post a photo of Jon Stewart the rat? Mr. Stewart (the human) is a huge animal lover and would probably love to hear he has a HeroRat named after him!


Q:

Almost every time.

A:

Jim Preston Passengers Opens December 21st!!

Thanks guys thats my time.


Q:

Lucio is so annoying hard to hit.

A:

We'll report back with a picture as soon as we can!


Q:

If Goofy and Pluto are both dogs then how come Pluto has to live in a dog house while Goofy plays golf with Mickey?

A:

I'm going to make a change.org petition to make you fat again. Will you sign it?


Q:

Hi Grant,

How did you get started in hobby electronics and do you still find time to build personal projects and the like? If not, do you miss it?

A:

Do the rats get hurt when they find a land mine?


Q:

Goofy is better at golf.

A:

my wife would! haha!


Q:

When I started in hobby electronics, you had to subscribe to magazines for new project ideas, Radio Shack still had millions of electronics parts, and there was no internet. It was not as easy then as it is now, since there's a huge online maker community.

I have a personal shop where I make things for myself and friends. Recently, I made a Ghostbusters reboot pack scaled down for my friend's 6-year-old daughter.

A:

Not a single rat has ever been harmed during our detection work. They are simply too light to set off landmines and operate under strict safety procedures to keep everyone safe.

You can watch a video of it here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UE94Sxp6mY8


Q:

What was the pay like? Must not have been too bad!

A:

Hi Chris. Would you be willing to play my wife in a biopic I'm shooting for myself? You would have to wear a wig and have sex with me.


Q:

Shop tour?

A:

Then it's a win/win for everyone :)


Q:

Well, I had 25 years of seniority but only made about 15 bucks an hour. Because Florida is a right-to-work state the Union is pretty much impotent there. It's not like California, they get paid WAY more.

A:

yes


Q:

I have a Ricoh Theta S 360 camera. I'll post some pictures later on my FB page!

A:

We try our best to treat our rats like the heroes we believe they are.


Q:

What is your favorite Disney movie?

A:

Hey Chris! I've been a big fan of yours since Parks and Rec! Just a quick question, who did you have more fun acting as: Andy Dwyer or Peter Quill? Thanks for taking the time out to do this!


Q:

Whose idea was it for this new show? You 3, or were you all approached with the idea?

A:

Aside from the trained rats, how are they viewed around Tanzania and elsewhere? Are they seen as pests the way they're viewed in cities in the West?


Q:

Tough call. I'm really partial to the Little Mermaid because of Ursula but I think all in all it has to be Ratatouille. That movie has some of my all time favorite quotes, especially Anton Ego's (sp?) speech at the end of the film. I also loved Dumbo (as racist as it was) but that's because Timothy Q Mouse is probably my favorite character of all.

A:

More fun? Andy Dwyer. We got to do whole scenes, over and over. It was more stage play. Lots of improv. Guardians of the Galaxy is so fun to watch, don't get me wrong, but making it can be excruciatingly slow and painstaking. When you have so many elements working at once, you might spend all day shooting a piece of the movie that will last 10 seconds.


Q:

Our executive producer from MythBusters John Luscombe approached us with a project idea for Netflix. We worked together with Martyn Ives (another MB alum) and Ryan Senter to develop White Rabbit Project.

A:

In general, I think Tanzanians also view the wild rat counterparts of our rats as pests. Interestingly, though, many local Tanzanians I've spoke with are very aware of the work our HeroRATs are doing and think it's amazing that the rats can do work that they themselves can't (have you ever tried to sniff out a landmine? LOL). Many of our rat trainers throughout the world shared this initial response, but once they started working with them, they realized just how delightful they are to be around. Each rat has its own personality and character and I think that makes them especially endearing to the people around them. Fortunately, our HeroRATs can serve as ambassadors for rats everywhere!


Q:

Is that dog in the picture a good boy?

A:

Hey Chris, you've inspired me to lose weight because funny guys can be sexy shirtless too.

So my question is: how has getting into shape changed your life? Also is having maintain your physique harder than losing the weight?


Q:

Hi Grant,

Congrats on your engagement! You seem to have a brilliant electrical and mechanical mind but something we do not see much of is your programming mind. Do you enjoy programming and if so which languages?

A:

What does an average day look like for you?


Q:

That's my dog Max (named after Goofy's son). He's a very good boy. :)

A:

Funny guys can be sexy shirtless. But realness is more important. Exercising for health, overall physical and spiritual well being I highly recommend. Doing it to look good naked is cool, but hardly worth the sacrifice. Work on being funny before sexy. lots of women think funny is sexy anyway.


Q:

Thanks! I usually leave programming to the end, since I find it pretty straightforward. I like it because it's pretty clean and easy to modify. Moving a hole on a piece of aluminum or re-soldering a circuit board is an extra level of pain in the ass. I can program most variations of BASIC in my sleep, and I'm reasonably good with C but I need to get better.

A:

I start the day at the landmine training field at 6:30am. We train the rats there until around 9am so the rats don't have to work in the excessive heat or sun of Sub-Saharan Africa. From there, I stop by our TB lab to check in on operations and oversee training of our young rats that have just joined the team. After lunch, I return to our main office where I monitor progress on our ongoing lines of research. Spattered throughout is answering emails, writing grant proposals to fund our work, and other general manager-type duties. One highlight for me is the time I spend in our breeding colony checking on our new arrivals.


Q:

What, exactly, is goofy?

A:

Good morning from another PNW native (Tigard, OR)!

What was the most challenging aspect of working on Passengers?

Also, what's your favorite thing about the PNW?

Have a good one! -Alyssa


Q:

DragonCon again next year?

A:

It's interesting to hear what is possible with these HeroRat's. In particular peoples relationships with these animals seems to be one of the more noticed aspects of these animals. Do you notice any of the rats more or less willing to perform as task for different people?


Q:

He's an anthropomorphic dog. Yes, we get that question a lot.

A:

hello!

Favorite thing about the PNW is the hard earned summers. Going to the river and floating down with some beers. I love when Mt. Rainier is out. I love the way everything and everyone slows down to feel the sun on their face when it first breaks in summer. Usually you've been through 100 days or more in a row of rain and mistiness.


Q:

Possible! Unless I go back to Burning Man.

A:

Thanks for your question! Our rats are highly sociable animals who enjoy spending time with their human colleagues but they don’t form close bonds with specific individuals. They tend to love all their human buddies equally.

This is actually a major advantage as it means we can relocate our rats to where they’re needed without having to supply a specific trainer as well.


Q:

What is the worst thing that you ever saw happen to a guest at Disney?


Q:

What sort of things were you able to do on this new show that weren't possible on MythBusters? And/Or, how will White Rabbit Project be different from MythBusters?

A:

Could you (would you) make it possible for rat training to be an at-home activity for regular people with some time to spare?

I'm retiring soon and this seems like a rewarding retirement hobby. Ordinary people train dogs for the blind in heir homes. I'd like to train rats to detect TB.

I took a couple behavior mod classes in college. The rats are readily available. I would need neutered TB samples, videos or written instruction on how to do the rat training -- and a way to find out where the trained rats are needed. Perhaps trained rats would go to a central clearing house so the quality of their training could be confirmed -- and the clearing house would distribute them?


Q:

Wow, I have so many... I've answered some of this in the comments above but one thing that stands out was an emergency park dump one Forth of July in '95. There was a weird power glitch and all of the attractions went down at the same time and had to be evacuated. When they do the Fire Code estimates of how many people can be in the park at one time it is assumed that people will be in the rides. The Fourth of July is one of the park's busiest days of the year. Everyone dumped into the common areas of the park and it became dangerously crowded. One guest freaked out and pulled out something sharp and started stabbing guests to get out. I had to bring a stabbed guest back to her hotel to get her ID so she could go to the hospital. I'd never been so thankful to get off the desk in City Hall. That was a nightmare.

A:

haha! That was during Everwood which we shot in Utah. I don't remember that shirt. I'm not BYU Alumni. I think that picture was taken at a fan signing event or something. That shirt must have been a gift or something. I honestly don't remember.


Q:

We are able to delve deeper into our stories. Also, we get to be "inside" of the re-creations. For example, I walk through a prison and ride in a helicopter as I talk about Pascal Payet, the guy who broke out of prison with a helicopter.

A:

Thanks for your generous offer of support! I see a few challenges with your proposal but that's not to say they couldn't be overcome. We currently breed and train all of our rats at our HQ in Tanzania and it can be difficult to source African Pouched Rats in many countries.

If you have a genuine interest in pursuing this we have an open call for applications for new projects on our website.

https://www.apopo.org/en/contact/stay-in-touch/careers


Q:

In what ways have the parks changed during the 25 years you've worked there? Have you ever broken character while working as Goofy?

A:

Loved parks and rec, actually know Aubrey Plaza from summer camp(she was good friends with one of my sister's) Do you have a favorite moment of working with Aubrey?


Q:

i'm always amazed by your builds in mythbusters simple or complex. i always enjoy your work. so my question is at what age did you start building robots? what inspired you to build one? are you still creating battle bots?

A:

How does the rat learn to tell the difference between a mine and, say, a mine-shaped rock?


Q:

The parks have grown since I started (actually, there were only three when I started) but the real change has been in the management. They lost something when Michael Eisner took over. For example, the park used to close at 6PM on Christmas eve so that the cast could be with their families. They used to close the park and have Christmas parties just for us. We were allowed to ride the rides in our costumes and do things we wouldn't normally do for the day guests. They don't do that anymore. They're open until 2AM and open up early the next day. There's an atmosphere that's just gone now. The new management (I mean after 9/11 specifically) is very concerned about the bottom line (read: money). That's not just me being bitter, that's shown in everything they do. For example, there are very few (and I mean a handful) character managers that were actually characters. That used to be unheard of. As far as breaking character, only a few times when the circumstances warranted it. They were far in between. :)

A:

I had the best time working with Aubrey. My favorite moments with her were when she would let her guard down, (it didn't happen that often) and I got to see what a sweet and caring person she is. It's not dissimilar to the April character.


Q:

Started building when I was very young. LEGO is a tremendous tool. As I got older and more experienced, my access to tools got better, and the robots became more complex. Retired from BattleBots. Currently.

A:

Good question! Our rats are nocturnal which means they spend most of their time in the dark. As a result, they don't have very good eyesight and rely more heavily on their sense of smell. They use this incredible olfactory abilities to sniff out the landmines, rather than looking for them. This means they really don't have much trouble telling the difference between an explosive device and say a rock. This is especially helpful because most landmines are buried below the earth's surface where they can't be seen.


Q:

How did you manage the Goofy chuckles?

A:

Since you and Jennifer Lawrence have a pretty similar sense of humour, there must've been some pretty hilarious moments on set of Passengers. What is one of the funniest (or embarrassing) moments when filming the movie?


Q:

Hi Grant!! Years ago,I remember you had trouble in Myspace probing you're real Grant,which I was touched.Now social media grew huge size,Do you have same passion to connect watchers?

A:

I was reading above that these giant rats live for around 8 years. Are these rats retired at a certain age? Are there any giant rat adoption policies in place, or do they end up with a handler after their years of service?


Q:

I loved every single time someone would try to do it. Only once was I impressed (I mean totally).

A:

We were sitting in our chairs waiting for the next shot and a big set light bulb exploded nearby and she screamed. high pitched. very feminine.

then she immediately looked over at me and said, "Jesus Chris! You scream like a woman! Did everyone just hear Chris?"

and for the rest of the shoot i couldn't convince anyone it wasn't me. I just had to own it.

: )


Q:

Yes, of course! Through Reddit, Twitter and Facebook, I can reach out immediately and directly to fans.

A:

We allow our rats to determine their own retirement timeline. They are normally enthusiastic and keen to start work when we arrive in the morning but when that is no longer apparent they are allowed to peacefully retire to a life of delicious food, play time with their rat buddies, regular health checks, and they are free from being woken up in the morning for work!

We don't tend to let others adopt the HeroRATs simply because we want to ensure they are treated like the heroes they are and receive the expert care they need.


Q:

Are the Disney Corporation really as cold-heartedly capitalist as the adult me has been lead to believe?

A:

How is Jennifer Lawrence?

What's your best memory of working with your mates in your movies and tv shows?

Top 5 movies and shows?

You're a very lovable actor and you've lost alot of weight! I'm trying to shave weight off too because of your change in GotG! Thank you!


Q:

Hi Grant, will we ever se Geoff Peterson ever again? I miss that lovable guy.

A:

Do the trained rats interact with each other? Is it different from two pet rats interacting? Do they both know they're trained?


Q:

Yes and no. Disney has lost their focus and the old Disney Cast Members that held those old company values have all retired but Disney is a great company to work for regardless. I can give you an example of how corporate Disney has taken over what I like to call Traditional Disney. The place where all of the characters used to break was called the Zoo. Everyone knew the characters as The Zoo Crew. If you wanted a character you either called the head room or the Zoo. It was a Disney tradition and everyone got a kick out of it. Then this guy named David (who was the Entertainment Vice President) came in and didn't think that sounded too professional so he changed the name to the Base. Eventually all the Zoo signs came down and were replaced. The Zoo disappeared and it got sterile really quick. We used to have nice big couches to relax on and David had them all thrown out and replaced by metal chairs. A part of the character department died that day. Anyway, they're way too concerned with "numbers" now. We used to just stroll the parks and play with people but in the end we were all held accountable to see as many guests as we possibly could during our sets. They HOUND you to go faster and faster. They figure 23 seconds (a number I pulled out of my butt mind you but I know it's under 30) is plenty of time to see a family of 4. I turned into an autograph machine towards the end but I always stayed true to my character. A lot of performers don't do that anymore. It's sad.

A:

Jen is awesome. She's funny and cool. She's refreshingly tough. She's an amazing actor. It feels good to be around her.

Best memory? So hard to say. I've been at this for 17 years. It's a dream job. No question. There have been so many unforgettable moments. I love what I do for a living.

top 5? Also very difficult. Friday NIght lights Breaking Bad The Wire Game of Thrones Dual Survival


Q:

Geoff is safely in storage. All he needs is a battery charge and he'll be ready to go!

A:

Yes, our rats get to interact with one another, especially during their free-time in the play pen, but even in their home cages they can see, hear, and smell one another. Not much different from pet rats. You can clearly see which rats seem to have an affinity for one another, which ones just tolerate each other, and which ones would rather not have to "talk" (we try to move these ones apart as soon as we identify this behavior). I'm not sure how you would be able to determine if they somehow knew that they were both trained to perform a task. I don't really notice any hints of this, whatever it might be.


Q:

Ever bang someone in the costume?

A:

What Marvel superhero would Jennifer Lawrence absolutely destroy in?


Q:

Hello grant. First congratulations on getting engaged. Second why is the netflix show called white rabbit? Also I will watch it soon. I'm in at work at the moment but is it available for us in Canada yet?

A:

Is APOPO training or working with any other animals?


Q:

No, and contrary to popular belief there aren't many furries in the character department. I know there are a few (I knew one of them) but it's not something that's out in the open for sure.

A:

PUnisher!!!!!


Q:
  1. Thanks! I was nervous, but we had a blast.
  2. White Rabbit is a literary reference to Alice In Wonderland. You follow him down the rabbit hole to the unknown. That's pretty much what we do on the show.
  3. WRP should be available to watch globally right now! Enjoy!!
A:

Not at this time, though part of our most recent project involves training our rats to detect illegally poached and smuggled animals. Quite frankly, we just haven't found anything that our rats can't do!


Q:

Who is your favorite Seahawk besides Russell Wilson?

Oh and if you want to be more beloved by your home state, join Russ in supporting the return of the SuperSonics to Seattle. ;) (just a tip).

A:

I don't have netflix...can I borrow your username and password to watch this show?


Q:

Where is your camp located in Tanzania? Is it possible to visit it for a day or something, to learn about the project? I am currently volunteering in Tanzania and it sounds very interesting, thats why I ask :)

A:

Blitz the mascot!!!!

Just kidding. I like them all. Jimmy Graham is an awesome dude. I've gotten to know Jermain Kearse a little bit. Richard Sherman. Kam Chancellor. I've met a lot of the guys. it's hard to pick. they are an extraordinary group of gentlemen. And I suppose I am biased, being from the PNW. But that group of guys are all class. And it starts from the top down. So a lot of credit goes to Pete and Russell.


Q:

No. But you can join FREE for a month!

A:

Our HQ is on the campus of the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro. It's a beautiful part of the country.

We should be able to accommodate a visit but we recommend you email us first to ensure someone is there to show you around.


Q:

Hi Grant!

My question is, how often did things go wrong on Mythbusters? What was the biggest build failure and how was it fixed?

A:

This is really cool work, but, because I can't resist a pun, and despite the fact that you are probablydefinitely way smarter than me, when was the last time someone told you to think fast?


Q:

With MythBusters, we tried to fail often and early. Everything starts with a mockup or a small scale experiment. In ten years, we had very few mishaps happen, which is a very good ratio indeed.

A:

I actually love these Fast puns (which are probably as frequent as you can imagine) because Fast is my married name! Far more fun and exciting than Cardwell (my maiden name), though I doubt I would feel that way if I grew up with the puns.


Q:

Hey Grant do Jamie and Adam really not get along?

A:

Hello Dr. Fast, I haven't had a chance to read all the post so maybe you've already answered this but, how many rats are in your program? 8-)


Q:

That's a common misconception. They don't "hang out" outside of work. But they respect each others' opinions and ideas and work together quite well.

A:

We have around 250 giant rats in various stages of breeding, training, operations, retirement, and research.


Q:

What if one of them got really drunk and was thrown in jail. Would they ever call the other as their "one phone call"?

A:

What do the rats get as a reward for finding a land mine?

What do you feed them?

Do you breed them?


Q:

No. However (and this goes for all of us) if we were ever abducted Taken-style, it would probably be Jamie. "I... uh... have a particular set of skills."

A:

Our rats get banana, peanuts or a peanut-paste for reward when they have correctly identified a known landmine or TB+ sample. Aside from these rewards, they are fed a variety of fresh, locally available fruits and veggies including avacados, watermelon, corn, tomatoes, etc., and even small dried fish the size of sardines.

All of our rats are bred at our main headquarters in Tanzania.


Q:

What if one of them got really drunk and was thrown in jail. Would they ever call the other as their "one phone call"?

A:

How do you train and reward the rats to do this kind of work?


Q:

EDIT: He packed ONLY a chainsaw and a generator.

A:

I hope you don't mind a bit of cut and paste from a similar question above. If you have any follow ups I'd be happy to answer them.

We follow standard learning & behavior procedures to train our rats, much like you might experience when training a dog. We start with clicker training where the rat learns that a click sound leads to a food reward by repeatedly pairing these two events. After that, we then shape the rats behavior by rewarding successive approximations towards the target by making the click when the rat does something close to what we really want. Finally, the rat learns that it will only be rewarded for performing that specific behavior (gently scratching for landmines or hovering over a sample for TB) in the presence of the specific odor we want them to detect (explosives or TB).


Q:

What format do you play most, and what's your favorite deck?

A:

I'm going to be honest here and say these rats terrify me. How do they get so big?


Q:

Red Goblin deck. Overrun them. Or Red/Green or White/Black. Never Blue.

A:

So sorry to hear this, I'm reasonably sure that if you met one in-person your fears would diminish! Our rats are an entirely different species (cricetomys ansorgei) than the common rat (rattus). This makes it sort of like asking how did the kangaroo get so big compared to the opossum. Our rats are still rather small in perspective to other mammals, for example, they're smaller than most cats.


Q:

Hi Grant, what is your favorite science fiction movie? Alternatively, do you have a favorite star trek episode? Can't wait to see you on White Rabbit!

A:

Have you had any particular favorite rats that stand out in your memory? Or rat-and-handler teams?


Q:

Hard to say. My top three are: Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, Empire Strikes Back, and The Matrix. Fave Star Trek episode: Inner Light (TNG) with a close second Darmok.

A:

I've only been with the team for a little under 2 months now, so not much time to develop favorites. As I previously mentioned, Nala was the very first rat I met when I arrived so she's special to me.


Q:

Temba! His arms open wide.

A:

NICE


Q:

Hi Grant, what was the worst injury you ever had on Mythbusters?

A:

Thankfully nothing super bad. Which is pretty good considering we routinely worked with all sorts of explosive, large machinery, prototype robots, firearms, and flames. I think I sprained my ankle dropping down through a roof in my underwear on the safety mat that was supposed to protect me. (The underwear was because of trying to fool a thermal security sensor.)


Q:

Will you take part in this new Mythbusters project of finding new mythbusters?

A:

No, that is a new thing, and I likely won't be participating.


Q:

Grant! My favorite mythbuster! I can tell a lot from a person from one question. What's your all time favorite movie? The one you can basically quote every line from.

A:

I can quote three: Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Speed. (*Speed is because when I used to work at THX, we did laserdisc quality assurance, so I watched it like 25 times.)


Q:

Hi Grant, huge fan.

On a scale of 1-10, how hot do you think Kari Byron is?

A:

Austin Powers voice She's 98.6 degrees, baby!


Q:

Hey Grant! If season 1 of White Rabbit project does well, can we expect to see a white rabbit project season 2?

A:

We can only hope! This sort of thing needs to gain momentum to signal to Netflix that people want to see more. So tell your friends!