Good Reading : October 2015
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING OCTOBER 2015 14 ME MY SHELF I them not as they are now. SoI’dliketogowitha giant telescope around the galaxy and look back at the most beautiful planet in the galaxy, Earth, and see history unfold. One thing has bugged me for years: did an apple really drop on Isaac Newton’s head? Legend says ‘maybe’; I reckon not, but I can finally know for sure by travelling a few hundred light years away and looking back at Earth. What is the most common question that people ask you and what’s the answer? Do you believe in aliens? To which I reply, ‘How could you not?’ We now know that every star in the night sky has on average one planet around it. That every fifth Sun-like star has a world the size of Earth, in all those tens of billions of potentially habitable worlds, how could ours be the only one that is inhabited? I’m much less confident about intelligent life being out there. Some days I’m not entirely convinced it’s even arisen here on Earth.The follow-up question is usually about whether I believe that UFOs have visited us. I give a totally different answer: NO! What do you enjoy most about working in your field? Getting to chat with fantastically smart and curious colleagues, as well as being able to indulge my own cur iosity about the world around me. Ser iously, it’s the best job. What book would you recommend for adults who want to learn a bit more about astronomy? I’ll cheat and pick two, but really they have the same underlying vision. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays. These are fantastic introductions to black holes and the extremes of nature at the Big Bang, something I’ve obsessively been trying to understand since! More generally, they made me realise that this insanely complex and wonderful world can be understood by just a handful of simple equations. Ultimately there may even be just one. How could I say no to studying that? What books would you recommend to younger readers to inspire them to take an interest in the stars? ‘A Space Odyssey’ ser ies by Arthur C Clarke. If you can only read one, read the first, 2001: A Space Odyssey. It covers everything from evolution to aliens to space travel. The latter is particularly scientifically accurate, as Clarke had an astronomy background. I give a totally different answer: NO!