Skip to main content

Michael Brooks – Four Way Interview

Michael Brooks, who holds a PhD in quantum physics, is an author, journalist and broadcaster. He is a consultant at New Scientist, and the author of 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense and The Big Questions: Physics.
Why science?
Science is simply the best way we have of understanding the world. It’s not perfect – far from it – but it has made an enormous difference: the world is a better place for its existence. You only have to look at what vaccine science has achieved to see why science is such a force for good.
Why this book?
It was a great chance to sit down and think about what really matters: why do physicists do what they do, what questions they are trying to answer and what we have learned so far. It turns out that we’ve learned an awful lot over the centuries. I also loved harnessing the idea that such huge issues – Big Questions – can actually be boiled down to questions that children could ask (and they do, in my experience!)
What’s next?
I’m working on a book provisionally titled Standing on the shoulders of anarchists. It’s about how science really works. People think that scientists are cool, rational and logical – always making progress, and objectively assessing each others’ work in a tidy, well-disciplined way. The reality is very different. This book explores the intrigues, the moments of dubious behaviour, the wacky inspirations behind some of our greatest breakthroughs – dreams, drug-taking, hallucinations – the triumph of personality over evidence… All of this lies behind work that has won Nobel Prizes. In a way the book is highlighting science’s rock ‘n’ roll side: science is anything but boring.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
Lots of things! It’s great to see the Large Hadron Collider up and running now, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of that in particular. But I’m pretty much always excited. Almost every week science seems to spit out a surprising result or discovery that makes you stop and question everything you were thinking the week before!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Dialogues - Clifford Johnson ***

The authors of science books are always trying to find new ways to get the message across to their audiences. In Dialogues, Clifford Johnson combines a very modern technique - the graphic novel or comic strip - with an approach that goes back to Ancient Greece - using a dialogue to add life to what might seem a dry message.

We have seen the comic strip approach trying to put across quite detailed science before in Mysteries of the Quantum Universe. As with that book, Dialogues manages to cover a fair amount of actual physics, but I still feel that the medium just wastes vast acres of page to say very little at all. This is brought home here because quite a lot of the sections of Dialogues start with several pages with no text on at all, just setting up the scenario.

As for using a discussion between two people to put a message across, Johnson makes the point that, for instance, Galileo's very readable masterpiece Two New Sciences is in the form of a dialogue (more accurately a discu…

Liam Drew - Four Way Interview

Liam Drew is a writer and former neurobiologist. he has a PhD in sensory biology from University College, London and spent 12 years researching schizophrenia, pain and the birth of new neurons in the adult mammalian brain. His writing has appeared in Nature, New Scientist, Slate and the Guardian. He lives in Kent with his wife and two daughters. His new book is I, Mammal.

Why science?

As hackneyed as it is to say, I think I owe my fascination with science to a great teacher – in my case, Ian West, my A-level biology teacher.  Before sixth form, I had a real passion for the elegance and logic of maths, from which a basic competence at science at school arose.  But I feel like I mainly enjoyed school science in the way a schoolkid enjoys being good at stuff, rather than it being a passion.

Ian was a revelation to me.  He was a stern and divisive character, but I loved the way he taught.  He began every lesson by providing us with a series of observations and fact, then, gradually, between …

A Galaxy of Her Own - Libby Jackson ****

This is an interesting book, even if it probably tries to be too many things to too many people. I wondered from the cover design whether it was a children's book, but the publisher's website (and the back of the book) resolutely refuse to categorise it as such. The back copy doesn't help by saying that it will 'inspire trailblazers and pioneers of all ages.' As I belong to the set 'all ages' I thought I'd give it a go.

Inside are featured the 'stories of fifty inspirational women who have been fundamental to the story of humans in space.' So, in some ways, A Galaxy of Her Own presents the other side of the coin to Angela Saini's excellent Inferior. But, inevitably, given the format, it can hardly provide the same level of discourse.

Despite that 'all ages' comment and the lack of children's book labelling we get a bit of a hint when we get to a bookplate page in the form of a Galaxy Pioneers security pass (with the rather worrying…