Good Reading : November 2008
me my shelf i karl kruszelnicki Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s media career began in 1981, when he started presenting a show on (what was then) Double J FM to pay his way through medical school. Since then, his media career has exploded from radio to include TV, books, newspapers, magazines, scripting, professional speaking and the internet. His ABC-based science homepage gets about 700 000 pages downloaded each week (www.abc.net.au/science/k2). He has written 26 books, beginning with Great Moments in Science in 1984. ? What are you reading right now? Crappy science fiction by Poul Anderson. I used to read science fiction books every day from when I was 16 to when I was 32, when I had to stop because I was studying medicine. The body of knowledge required when you do medicine is so great that you don’t have time to do anything else. So I stopped reading science fiction for years. Then [recently] I was doing a gig at Maroubra Library. And I thought, ‘I want to join this library. And I want to do it right now. And I want to get out some Poul Anderson books.’ ? Are they crappy but enjoyable? Very crappy and very enjoyable. This is about a world where magic is real. It’s just another technology that everyone uses. They have genies, werewolves, love potions, spells to make it rain, all that sort of stuff. Like fantasy, but a world where magic is as real a force as electricity. ? What do you like about science fiction? Science fiction explores interesting and bizarre concepts. Often the writing isn’t the best but it’s fun. You breathe it in, like oxygen, then breathe it out and then read another one. Science fiction is better than detective stories in most cases. Because, well you know how with detective stories you’re given enough clues to keep you interested but not enough to solve it? Well in science fiction they do that really well. That’s why I love science fiction. It’s how detective stories could be written. ? Who is your favourite author? I don’t do a lot of book reading. Rather, I read journals. I read about $10 000 worth of scientific and other journals a year. It works out to be a pile about a metre thick every month. I read titles like New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science. I also read a few ratbag magazines like New Dawn and Nexus, where they claim the world is going to end because scientists are doing this big experiment on the border of Switzerland and France. I like to find out what sort of rubbish people believe. ? Is there a famous book you never finished? I tried reading Plato’s Republic and I couldn’t finish that. I also tried reading The Lord of the Rings and I found it totally obscure. Horrendous. There’s this guy from this clan and this 8 goodreading i NOVEMBER 2008 guy from this other clan and ended up with this other clan. There were all these names flooding at me I had no idea who anybody was. So I gave up after about five pages. Then I lent it to this friend who said, ‘Oh this is the best book I’ve ever read, thank you.’ Then I lent it to someone else who said, ‘Oh this is the best book I’ve ever read, thank you.’ ? Do you have a favourite biography? My favourite biographies are about Nobel Laureate and physicist Richard Feynman. They say there’s two sorts of geniuses. There’s the regular geniuses and there’s the magicians. The regular geniuses, you can sort of see what they did. You can follow through their work … Then there’s the wizards and you’ve no idea how they came to what they did. On one occasion, [Feynman] was in a cafeteria in a queue behind a student who was throwing a plate up and catching it. Feynman was looking at this and thought, ‘Hang on. There’s a relationship between how fast the plate is wobbling and how fast it’s spinning.’ And then he kept playing with it and invented quantum electrodynamics [which contributed to his winning the Nobel Prize in 1965]. Simply by watching a kid throwing a plate up in the air. ? When do you read? I pick up my little science fiction book whenever I feel like it and I think ‘I’ve done enough work.’ Well I’m not a lazy person but I like to have a little break. I was up till midnight last night. I can spend half an hour reading for fun and I don’t care. That’s the beautiful thing about the book. It’s a non-volatile medium that doesn’t just vanish as soon as you lose battery power. It’s always there. It’s wonderful. I love books. I think the book is perfect in the same way the wheel is perfect. You’re not going to make a wheel any better by making it triangular or square: round is the best! In the same way, a book is perfect for what it is. Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s latest book, Science is Golden, is published by HarperCollins, rrp $27.99.
December January 2009