Skip to main content

Brian Clegg – Four Way Interview

Brian Clegg is the editor of the Popular Science website and has written books on subjects including light, infinity, quantum entanglement, inflight science and time machines. His latest titles are The Universe Inside You, exploring science using the human body and Gravity on the force that shaped the universe.
Why science?
Science fascinated me as a child and I’ve never lost that sense of wonder. For me it’s a no-brainer of a question: I’d almost rather ask ‘why not science?’ This is a subject everyone should be fascinated by – for goodness sake, it’s how our world, our universe (and us) works – and presented right, I believe science can excite anyone.
Why these books?
They’re very different. The Universe Inside You is a follow up to Inflight Science. Like that book I wanted to use something familiar as a starting point to thinking about the science of the world around us. With Inflight Science that starting point was a plane flight, and with Universe Inside it’s our bodies – arguably the most remarkable things in the universe. So, yes it’s about our bodies but it is also much more, using the body as a starting point and laboratory to explore the universe. You can see a bit more about it in the video below.
Gravity is, if you like, a more traditional book – looking back through history to explore humanity’s gradual understanding of gravity. It’s something we take for granted, yet it’s responsible for so much of the formation of the universe – not to mention keeping us stuck on the surface of the planet. For me the most fascinating bits are Einstein’s general relativity, which I think I’ve explored more thoroughly than is usually the case in popular science, but still kept it approachable, and anti-gravity, which is great fun as a topic.
What’s next?
I have a couple of books in the pipeline. I’m doing one of the little pocket illustrated books in the Introducing series, which has been brilliant to do, working with an excellent illustrator (I even make it into the illustrations). And I’m well into my next book for St Martin’s Press, which will be exploring telepathy, telekinesis and the like and seeing if there is any possible scientific explanation or if it’s all bunk.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
Writing as always, and pathetic though it may seem I’m still thrilled with my new iMac which has really transformed my day-to-day experience sitting in front of a computer screen. I’m also really enjoying converting the Popular Science site into its new, more accessible format.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The God Game (SF) - Danny Tobey *****

Wow. I'm not sure I've ever read a book that was quite such an adrenaline rush - certainly it has been a long time since I've read a science fiction title which has kept me wanting to get back to it and read more so fiercely. 

In some ways, what we have here is a cyber-SF equivalent of Stephen King's It. A bunch of misfit American high school students face a remarkably powerful evil adversary - though in this case, at the beginning, their foe appears to be able to transform their worlds for the better.

Rather than a supernatural evil, the students take on a rogue AI computer game that thinks it is a god - and has the powers to back its belief. Playing the game is a mix of a virtual reality adventure like Pokemon Go and a real world treasure hunt. Players can get rewards for carrying out tasks - delivering a parcel, for example, which can be used to buy favours, abilities in the game and real objects. But once you are in the game, it doesn't want to let you go and is …

Where are the chemistry popular science books?

by Brian Clegg
There has never been more emphasis on the importance of public engagement. We need both to encourage a deeper interest in science and to counter anti-scientific views that seem to go hand-in-hand with some types of politics. Getting the public interested in science both helps recruit new scientists of the future and spreads an understanding of why an area of scientific research deserves funding. Yet it is possible that chemistry lags behind the other sciences in outreach. As a science writer, and editor of this website, I believe that chemistry is under-represented in popular science. I'd like to establish if this is the case, if so why it is happening - and what can be done to change things. 


An easy straw poll is provided by the topic tags on the site. At the time of writing, there are 22 books under 'chemistry' as opposed to 97 maths, 126 biology and 182 physics. The distribution is inevitably influenced by editorial bias - but as the editor, I can confirm …

The Art of Statistics - David Spiegelhalter *****

Statistics have a huge impact on us - we are bombarded with them in the news, they are essential to medical trials, fundamental science, some court cases and far more. Yet statistics is also a subject than many struggle to deal with (especially when the coupled subject of probability rears its head). Most of us just aren't equipped to understand what we're being told, or to question it when the statistics are dodgy. What David Spiegelhalter does here is provide a very thorough introductory grounding in statistics without making use of mathematical formulae*. And it's remarkable.

What will probably surprise some who have some training in statistics, particularly if (like mine) it's on the old side, is that probability doesn't come into the book until page 205. Spiegelhalter argues that as probability is the hardest aspect for us to get an intuitive feel for, this makes a lot of sense - and I think he's right. That doesn't mean that he doesn't cover all …