Science behind hitchhiking

When Douglas Adams first posed the Ultimate Question of the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything in 1978 he was basing his outlandish tales of sci-fi whimsy on real, hard-as-you-like scientific fact.

THE SCIENCE OF THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY

Michael Hanlon: Macmillan Science: £16.99

When Douglas Adams first posed the Ultimate Question of the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything in 1978 he was basing his outlandish tales of sci-fi whimsy on real, hard-as-you-like scientific fact.

So posits this book, which clearly illustrates the grains of science buried within Adams’s best-seller and picks its way through some of the book’s more realistic scientific theories.

Hanlon is a witty writer, able to lucidly explain the murky intricacies of quantum physics, theoretical physics and the peculiarities of a ‘multiverse’ in some depth. He spans astronomy, philosophy and engineering and covers topics such as growing steaks in test tubes, time travel and the possibility of life on other planets.

Adams was a science and technology nut, first and foremost, and tucked among the silliness, Hanlon shows he was inspired by, and even pre-empted, a lot of the philosophical and scientific thoughts that were to obsess the greatest minds on the planet over the next 20 years.

Niall Firth

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