The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation provides the eclectic radio show Quirks & Quarks. In it, the hosts serve up hot scientific topics using everyday language so that a general audience can appreciate the significance of recently unravelled marvels. Using the same approach, Jim Lebans presents his book, ‘ The Quirks and Quarks Guide to Space â€“ 42 Questions (and Answers) About Life, the Universe, and Everything‘. And so, with some irreverence and tongue slightly in cheek, Lebans lays in print details of space for the mere mortals amongst us.
For those in the know, 42 is the answer that Douglas Adams provided for the ultimate question. Lebans knowingly uses this to limit his book to 42 chapters. Each chapter has a title in the form of a question such as “How do you loosen the asteroid belt?”. The chapter’s contents then address the question in quite accurate, scientific detail but with great use of analogies and similes. Such as, for star formation, he states that “Iron is to stars what kryptonite is to Superman and what garlic is to vampires. It can stop them dead and ultimately destroy them”. Or, “Going to the black hole in the centre of the galaxy will be like visiting New York after a lifetime in Wyoming”. Now these may sound facetious but they’re necessary and successful in meeting Lebans’ apparent objective of getting hard science into the average person’s mind. And, the use of a chapter per question keeps things simple and easily re-locatable.
So where’s the value you ask? This book is for those who have next to no scientific training but have an interest. School teachers can use the chapters to build their comprehension before teaching their class. Non-scientists can find out the value and urgency of space exploration (e.g. Chapter 23 â€“ How long until we have to leave the Earth?). And, those people without a glint of technical comprehension but a slimmer of interest would be learning about space and smiling at the same time. What more would you want?
So before you think that science has left the ground without you onboard, check out Jim Lebans’ book, ‘ The Quirks and Quarks Guide to Space â€“ 42 Questions (and Answers) About Life, the Universe, and Everything‘. You’ll be learning and chuckling at the same time.
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2 Replies to “The Quirks and Quarks Guide to Space”
For anyone interested, you can find a complete archive of the show at the CBC web site by clicking on “past shows”. They also podcast every new episode on saturdays shortly after they are first aired.
This book is fantastic! I bought it after reading one of the articles in Sky News magazine. It’s informative and interesting and brilliant without being too wordy or condescending. Read this book!
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