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Paul Sen - Four Way Interview

Paul Sen first encountered thermodynamics while studying engineering at the University of Cambridge. He became a documentary filmmaker who brought a love of storytelling to the worlds of science and technology. Paul’s award-winning TV company Furnace, where he is creative director, has made many BBC science series such as Everything and Nothing, Order and Disorder, The Secrets of Quantum Physics, and films such as Gravity and Me: The Force That Shapes Our Lives and Oak Tree: Nature’s Greatest Survivor. This won the prestigious Royal Television Society Award for best science and natural history program and the Grierson Award for best science documentary in 2016. His first book is Einstein's Fridge.

Why science?

I love the characters and the stories behind scientific discoveries. To find out what drives people to puzzle out how our universe works is to celebrate the best of us as a species. I am also fascinated by the relationship between science and society—why do certain scientific problems become urgent and important at a given time and place? Answering this helps us understand how science works and how it will develop in the future.

Why this book?

I have long felt that thermodynamics is the Cinderella of the sciences. Unlike quantum theory and relativity, there are few books describing how its laws were discovered and how people realised its universal applicability. Yet thermodynamics is vitally important, underpinning everything from the behaviour of living cells to that of black holes. It explains why we must eat and breathe, how the lights come on, and provides a clue as to how the universe will end.  Einstein described thermodynamics as 'the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced will never be overthrown.' I hope my book helps more people become aware of this fundamental branch of science.

What's Next?

I'm very excited to be working again with Professor Jim Al-Khalili on a two-part TV show about the latest breakthroughs in fundamental physics. The films will appear initially on a subscription channel called Magellan TV.

What's exciting you at the moment?

I've been improving my knowledge of Bengali, a language I learned as a child. It's wonderful, finally, to read poetry by great writers like Rabindranath Tagore and Sunil Gangopodhyay in the original!


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