Skip to main content

Angela Saini – Four Way Interview

Angela Saini is an award-winning independent journalist based in London, and the author of Geek Nation, a journey through India, to find out whether the country is set to become the world’s next scientific superpower. She has written for New Scientist, Science, Wired and The Economist, and she’s a regular reporter on BBC radio science shows, including Digital Planet. Her first book is Geek Nation.
Why Science?
I’ve always loved reading about big scientific ideas in fields like quantum physics and genetics, but when I think about it, I’m not so much a science-lover as an engineering-lover. I used to build model rockets when I was at school, I’ve always been a bit of a tinkerer (I do all the DIY at home!), and of course I studied Engineering at university. I like to see science applied in the real world, in architecture, electronics and other inventions, and observing the kind of repercussions these things have on our lives.
Why this book?
Since I’m a (British) Indian geek myself and I’ve lived in India twice, in hindsight it feels inevitable that I would end up writing something like Geek Nation. The book stemmed from a trip I made to Mumbai in 2009 while I was writing a piece about lie detectors for Wired UK magazine. It seemed to me as though the country had turned a scientific corner since the last time I was there, in 2004. There was so much exciting research happening, the government was making a huge commitment to ramp up science spending, and the tech boom was finally giving way to real innovations.
What’s next?
I’m going to the United States in March to give a talk at Google about Geek Nation, and then in April I’m doing a mega five-city book tour of India, courtesy of my Indian publishers, Hachette. I’m keen to find out what actual Indian geeks think about the book! But in the longer-term I’m looking forward to discovering whether India really does live up to its scientific promise.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
Just recently I was introduced to the wonderful sounds of the Intercontinental Music Lab, a collective of musicians based all over the world, who use science as their inspiration. To my delight they’ve kindly agreed to let me use their song, Dr Robotnik, as the soundtrack to Geek Nation. So readers in India will soon be seeing a trailer in bookshops with this awesome tune!
Photo by Blue Turtle Photography, reproduced with permission of copyright holder

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to Drive a Nuclear Reactor - Colin Tucker ****

How To Drive A Nuclear Reactor does exactly what it says on the tin. The book is a general overview of nuclear reactors. From the basic principles that make them work through to what buttons to press in what order (and of course how and why they can go wrong).Nuclear power could be a good step on the path to a greener energy future, but there is a lot of understandable fear. This book can give some idea of what an incredible feat of both science and engineering one of these machines is and, hopefully, make anyone reading it feel far more comfortable about them.The book presents information about everything, almost down to the literal nuts and bolts, giving you a near complete understanding of how a nuclear works. From putting in the fuel to getting out the power and down from the control panel to the construction material. Everything you could ever want to know is here. By the end you'll likely feel ready to walk into a control room and get started (do not try doing this, nuclear …

Being Mortal - Atul Gawande ****

I heard recently that the local geriatric ward puts a photograph of the patient in his or her prime by each bed. The aim is to help staff to treat their patients as individuals, but it makes me uneasy. Do these people only matter because of what they were, not what they are? Because once they stood proud and handsome in their uniform, or looked lovely on their wedding day?

Professor Atul Gawande has the problem surgically excised and laid out for inspection in one of his unflinching but compassionate case studies:

‘What bothered Shelley was how little curiosity the staff members seemed to have about what Lou cared about in his life and what he had been forced to forfeit... They might have called the service they provided assisted living, but no-one seemed to think it was their job to actually assist him with living – to figure out how to sustain the connection and joys that most mattered to him.’

Gawande is an eminent surgeon. As a young resident he displayed little overt emotion when hi…

Twenty Worlds - Niall Deacon *****

This is a truly entertaining and informative book, but the reason I’m giving it the full five stars has as much to do with the refreshing novelty of the author’s style as anything else. There’s novelty in the subject-matter too – the wide variety of recently discovered exoplanets orbiting other stars – but even so this is the third book on the topic that I’ve read. The first two were a lot less fun to read, and (without naming and shaming the authors) it’s worth a brief diversion to explain why.The first author was a university professor with a vast knowledge of the subject, who seemed determined to convey the entirety of that knowledge without stopping to think whether it was interesting or necessary for a general audience. The second author – another academic – took a different but equally tedious approach, with a plodding chronological account that focused as much on the dull routine of the scientists involved as on their work.Niall Deacon doesn’t make either of those mistakes. He’…