Skip to main content

Mick O’Hare – Four Way Interview

Mick O’Hare is the editor of numerous popular science books taken from his column The Last Word, found inside New Scientist magazine. He is also production editor at the publication. His degree was in geology but he retains a healthy disregard for rocks. He I as as passionate about science as he is about rugby league, malt whisky and Formula 1, which is saying something. His latest title is Will We Ever Speak Dolphin?
Why science?
Because it’s the story of the rational. It can, ultimately, explain everything, although what constitutes everything and its limits are constantly shifting. Nonetheless it’s the only process we possess that can give us answers to our questions based on evidence rather than irrationality. And as such it should be embraced by every free-thinking person. It can also tell us why snot is green and what earwax is for. Which keeps me in work.
Why this book?
We just can’t stop. All the previous books in the series have proved popular and there was a clamour for more. And, without wanting to offer a gratuitous plug, we’ve figured out what makes a great question and what brings in the best responses. So in my opinion the books get better and better. Last of all, I also got free reign this time to include a chapter on two of my favourite things: James Bond and martinis, although I have to admit I prefer mine with gin, not vodka.
What’s next?
Other than handling the press calls when the book comes out, it’s back to the coal face. New Scientist is a weekly magazine and there’s always something to do. And I fancy expanding the chapter I mentioned on martinis into a book on the entire science of cocktails.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
What should be exciting me is watching governments make decisions based on scientific evidence rather than gut feeling and off-the-cuff thinking. But in the inevitable absence of that I guess it’s figuring out how Weetabix sticks to the bowl, how they might get the gold out of the back of the coach at the end of the Italian Job, and – most of all – next year’s Rugby League World Cup to be held in Britain.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Beyond Weird - Philip Ball *****

It would be easy to think 'Surely we don't need another book on quantum physics.' There are loads of them. Anyone should be happy with The Quantum Age on applications and the basics, Cracking Quantum Physics for an illustrated introduction or In Search of Schrödinger's Cat for classic history of science coverage. Don't be fooled, though - because in Beyond Weird, Philip Ball has done something rare in my experience until Quantum Sense and Nonsense came along. It makes an attempt not to describe quantum physics, but to explain why it is the way it is.

Historically this has rarely happened. It's true that physicists have come up with various interpretations of quantum physics, but these are designed as technical mechanisms to bridge the gap between theory and the world as we see it, rather than explanations that would make sense to the ordinary reader.

Ball does not ignore the interpretations, though he clearly isn't happy with any of them. He seems to come clo…

Jim Baggott - Four Way Interview

Jim Baggott is a freelance science writer. He trained as a scientist, completing a doctorate in physical chemistry at Oxford in the early 80s, before embarking on post-doctoral research studies at Oxford and at Stanford University in California. He gave up a tenured lectureship at the University of Reading after five years in order to gain experience in the commercial world. He worked for Shell International Petroleum for 11 years before leaving to establish his own business consultancy and training practice. He writes about science, science history and philosophy in what spare time he can find. His books include Atomic: The First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb (2009), Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the ‘God Particle’ (2012), Mass: The Quest to Understand Matter from Greek Atoms to Quantum Fields (2017), and, most recently, Quantum Space: Loop Quantum Gravity and the Search for the Structure of Space, Time, and the Universe (2018). For more info see: www…

Quantum Space: Jim Baggott *****

There's no doubt that Jim Baggott is one of the best popular science writers currently active. He specialises in taking really difficult topics and giving a more in-depth look at them than most of his peers. The majority of the time he achieves with a fluid writing style that remains easily readable, though inevitably there are some aspects that are difficult for the readers to get their heads around - and this is certainly true of his latest title Quantum Space, which takes on loop quantum gravity.

As Baggott points out, you could easily think that string theory was the only game in town when it comes to the ultimate challenge in physics, finding a way to unify the currently incompatible general theory of relativity and quantum theory. Between them, these two behemoths of twentieth century physics underlie the vast bulk of physics very well - but they simply can't be put together. String theory (and its big brother M-theory, which as Baggott points out, is not actually a the…