The Science of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Michael Hanlon
Finished reading on April 7, 2014
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.”