Skip to main content

Jules Howard - Four Way Interview

Jules Howard is a zoologist, writer, blogger and broadcaster. He writes on a host of topics relating to zoology and wildlife conservation, writing regularly for BBC Wildlife Magazine and the Guardian, and on radio and TV including BBC Breakfast, Sunday Brunch and BBC 5 Live. Jules also runs a social enterprise that has brought 100,000 young people closer to the natural world. His second book, Death on Earth followed the successful Sex on Earth (Bloomsbury, 2014).

Why Science? 

What better way is there to solve nature's mysteries? For me personally, I'm particularly drawn to science because I really like pressing, however slightly, on the boundary between what is unknown and known. It's a real privilege to ask questions that no one in the universe, maybe, has ever before questioned. It's a greater privilege still to try and answer them. Having fun along the way (which I try to do) is an additional bonus.

Why this book? 

What can I say? I like challenging taboos. And, when it comes to death, it's about time someone did! All life on Earth today owes death. Without death, evolution and natural selection stalls. Without death, Earth's nutrients and ecosystems would falter and fade. Without death... could we even be human? It's time for a celebration of death. This is it. This is a true story of a zoologist who studied death and improved his life unimaginably in the process.

What's next?

My first book was about sex. My second book covers death. Next, I'll be shining light onto the fortunes of our own ape lineage. Was it inevitable that our ancestors would move from the trees and into the grasslands and become human? How lucky are we to be alive? Could we ever have been here without the death of the dinosaurs?  How much of our own history do we owe to mass extinctions? I have an interesting (and top secret!) way to un-weave the story. More soon...

What's exciting you at the moment?

I'm excited about death! Honestly, really and truly - I'm genuinely excited to be releasing a book about death! The most life-affirming thing in the world is to spend years working on a project about the science of zoological death; it puts this bit (the ALIVE bit) into perspective. It's a wonderful privilege to be alive, and concious of that fact, unlike perhaps every other animal on Earth. Enjoy your days everyone. They're numbered.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Cosmology for the Curious - Delia Perlov and Alex Vilenkin ***

In the recently published The Little Book of Black Holes we saw what I thought was pretty much impossible - a good, next level, general audience science title, spanning the gap between a typical popular science book and an introductory textbook, but very much in the style of popular science. Cosmology for the Curious does something similar, but coming from the other direction. This is an introductory textbook, intended for first year physics students, with familiar textbook features like questions to answer at the end of each chapter. Yet by incorporating some history and context, plus taking a more relaxed style in the writing, it's certainly more approachable than a typical textbook.

The first main section, The Big Bang and the Observable Universe not only covers basic big bang cosmology but fills in the basics of special and general relativity, Hubble's law, dark matter, dark energy and more. We then move onto the more speculative (this is cosmology, after all) aspects, brin…

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil deGrasse Tyson *****

When I reviewed James Binney’s Astrophysics: A Very Short Introduction earlier this year, I observed that the very word ‘astrophysics’ in a book’s title is liable to deter many readers from buying it. As a former astrophysicist myself, I’ve never really understood why it’s considered such a scary word, but that’s the way it is. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn, from Wikipedia, that this new book by Neil deGrasse Tyson ‘topped The New York Times non-fiction bestseller list for four weeks in the middle of 2017’.

Like James Binney, Tyson is a professional astrophysicist with a string of research papers to his name – but he’s also one of America’s top science popularisers, and that’s the hat he’s wearing in this book. While Binney addresses an already-physics-literate audience, Tyson sets his sights on a much wider readership. It’s actually very brave – and honest – of him to give physics such prominent billing; the book could easily have been given a more reader-friendly title such …

Once upon and Algorithm - Martin Erwig ***

I've been itching to start reading this book for some time, as the premise was so intriguing - to inform the reader about computer science and algorithms using stories as analogies to understand the process.

This is exactly what Martin Erwig does, starting (as the cover suggests) with Hansel and Gretel, and then bringing in Sherlock Holmes (and particularly The Hound of the Baskervilles), Indiana Jones, the song 'Over the Rainbow' (more on that in a moment), Groundhog Day, Back to the Future and Harry Potter.

The idea is to show how some aspect of the story - in the case of Hansel and Gretel, laying a trail of stones/breadcrumbs, then attempting to follow them home - can be seen as a kind of algorithm or computation and gradually adding in computing standards, such as searching, queues and lists, loops, recursion and more.

This really would have been a brilliant book if Erwig had got himself a co-author who knew how to write for the public, but sadly the style is mostly heavy…