Book 129: The Science of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Michael Hanlon

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The Science of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Michael Hanlon

Finished reading on April 7, 2014

Rating: 9/10

Teleportation, time-travel, manipulating genes and alien species – those are some of the topics in this book, that would be interesting to a popular science fan, even if they’re not a fan of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It is a well-written account of some of the most intriguing questions in science, starting with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, without which Arthur Dent wouldn’t have any bigger problems than his house being demolished, and not his whole home planet blown up for example.

We also have such topics as the beginning of the  time, the Universe and everything, and the end of it all – what do scientists know about it, what are our options, etc. Maybe we can escape into a parallel universe by creating one inside a home-made black hole?

Or what about animals that would like to be eaten?

All in all it’s a nice little book, that will keep you occupied for a while not requiring too much brain-work, but it is fascinating enough to keep you glued to the book once you’re past the introduction and the first chapter.

I liked it quite a lot, although it took me about half a year to get past the first chapter. I started reading it again on a dreary Monday, when the sky was obviously feeling very sick and pouring it’s guts down, and there’s no better time really for reading about science in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, than when you really miss your laptop and would really want to watch the movie with Martin Freeman playing Arthur Dent, but you just can’t, and have to be fine with science. It turned out okay though, as Hanlon’s writing is as fun as Adams’:

“Some physicists get quite snooty about time machines, referring to them instead as ´closed, time-like curves ´(CTCs). But despite this snobbishness – which is fast disappearing as the discipline makes its bid for sexiness – it seems at least probable that time travel may mot be banned by the laws of physics. All you need to do is find a way round the speed of light.”

But it ends with the ultimate questions, about which Hanlon has this to say:

“A good candidate for the Ultimate Question seems, to me anyway, to be ´Why is there anything here at all?` The more you think about this question the deeper and more unsettling it becomes, and the ability to unsettle is usually a sign that you are on the right lines.”

 

Book 95: The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Finished reading on December 27th 2013

Rating 8/10

The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide is a collection of all five novels in the “trilogy”, nicely packed into a format that would allow one to use it quite nicely on interstellar travels as self-defense or how-to-guide. But it’s definitely not for people who want to leave the Earth and never come back as a lot of my acquaintances seem to want to do (I’ll count myself as one there too…), as it shows the Earth as a nice comfy little planet, that’s totally forgotten, almost impossible to find and improbable to leave it alive.

I loved these books almost as much as I love the movie. And because I saw the movie first (and memorized everything Marvin said), then the characters appear as the actors in my minds-eye, so all the characters that aren’t in the movie are kind of dull and non-existent…But the books are clever and sarcastic and unless you have the Dictionary of Sarcasm nearby (I wouldn’t be surprised),  it is just the necessary dose of acidic remarks on the Life, the Universe and Everything. Today I left a party saying I have to go and save the Universe -something that might sound familiar if you’ve read the novels.

As far as the separate novels go – it’s either all or none, and the first one’s the only real option to consider here if you’ve liked the movie. I’m not quite sure where one novel ended and the other started, as it’s all a kind of blur faintly resembling the shape of a vogon that has had too much coffee ( if you’ve no idea how that looks like – it’s like a code-monkey jumping around happily because of discovering a fancy new operating system that tells them they’re on the other side of the world).

To sum up – read it and some day you might feel the same way as the poor Arthur did while trying to get a computer to make him tea (the feeling being: I’d die for a cup of tea).

When was the last time you felt like Marvin? (you know actually having a genuine people personality, and a rather cheerful one of those..)?