Skip to main content

Glen Murphy – Four Way Interview

Glenn Murphy received his masters in science communication from London’s Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine. He wrote his first book whilst managing the Explainer team at the Science Museum in London. In 2007 he moved to the United States. He now lives and works in North Carolina, with his wife Heather and an increasingly large and ill-tempered cat.
Why science?
It is without a doubt the best method we have for making useful sense of the world around us. And it delivers a sense of wonder unmatched by anything else you could ever hope to study. Once I’d figured that out as a teenager, there was no going back.
Why this book?
With the first two books, Why Is Snot Green? and How Loud Can You Burp?, I was responding to the random questions of visitors and e-mailers to the Science Museum in London. In doing so, I explored a wide range of scientific disciplines and theories, and achieved great success with the format. But I often felt that I was cutting my answers short, and wanted more freedom to explore each field in more detail, whilst keeping the same, light tone and voice.
So – after a brief digression with my third book, Stuff That Scares Your Pants Off – I returned to the whole question-and-answer book format with a whole new series of books in mind. (See Space, black holes and stuff and Evolution, nature and stuff) Each one would cover one area or field of science, fearlessly dipping into quite complex, higher-education level subjects without losing the target audience of kids and younger teenagers. My hope is that these books will give “half-interested” kids a glimpse of the excitement that could await them studying science at university level. Or at the very least, give them an appreciation for science that will hopefully stay with them as fully-educated adults. A lofty goal, perhaps. But one I’m wholly committed to as a “third-culture” science communicator and go-between.
What’s next?
I’m working on the next two books in the Science:Sorted series, focused – respectively – on human physiology and the historical evolution of technology. Expect more questions and answers, plus more fun, games, activities, and titles ending with the word “stuff”. I’m also working on a new book for under-5s with my sister, Lorna, who is a children’s illustrator based in the UK. It will be our first book together, and I’m very excited about it.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
Apart from the above? Well, I’m pretty fired up about recent developments in paleontology and evolutionary biology. We just discovered an entirely new hominid species – thousands of miles away from where anyone was looking for one, in Siberia. And not so long ago, an entirely new phylum was found living on the lips of lobsters. That we’re still making discoveries of this magnitude – in an age when we often think we’ve seen it all – makes me very excited for the future of biology, and of scientific inquiry in general.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The AI Delusion - Gary Smith *****

This is a very important little book ('little' isn't derogatory - it's just quite short and in a small format) - it gets to the heart of the problem with applying artificial intelligence techniques to large amounts of data and thinking that somehow this will result in wisdom.

Gary Smith as an economics professor who teaches statistics, understands numbers and, despite being a self-confessed computer addict, is well aware of the limitations of computer algorithms and big data. What he makes clear here is that we forget at our peril that computers do not understand the data that they process, and as a result are very susceptible to GIGO - garbage in, garbage out. Yet we are increasingly dependent on computer-made decisions coming out of black box algorithms which mine vast quantities of data to find correlations and use these to make predictions. What's wrong with this? We don't know how the algorithms are making their predictions - and the algorithms don't kn…

Infinity in the Palm of your Hand - Marcus Chown *****

A new Marcus Chown book is always a treat - and this is like a box of chocolates: a collection of bite-sized delights as Chown presents us with 50 science facts that are strange and wonderful.

The title is a quote from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence: 'To see a World in a Grain of Sand, / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, / And Eternity in an hour.' It would seem particularly appropriate if this book were read on a mobile phone (so it would be literally in the palm), which could well be true for ebook users, as the short essays make excellent reading for a commute, or at bedtime. I found them distinctly moreish - making it difficult to put the book down as I read just one more. And perhaps another. Oh, and that next one looks really interesting...

Each of the 50 pieces has a title and a short introductory heading, which mostly give a feel for the topic. The very first of these, however, briefly baffled me: 'You are a third mus…

How to Invent Everything - Ryan North ****

Occasionally you read a book and think 'I wish I'd thought of that.' This was my immediate reaction to Ryan North's How to Invent Everything. The central conceit manages to be both funny and inspiring as a framework for writing an 'everything you ever wanted to know about everything (and particularly science)' book.

What How to Invent Everything claims to be is a manual for users of a time machine (from some point in the future). Specifically it's a manual for dealing with the situation of the time machine going wrong and stranding the user in the past. At first it appears that it's going to tell you how to fix the broken time machine - but then admits this is impossible. Since you're stuck in the past, you might as well make the best of your surroundings, so the aim of the rest of the book is to give you the knowledge you need to build your own civilisation from scratch.

We start with a fun flow chart for working out just how far back in time you are…