Why do we breathe? What is money? Does time really exist?
These are the kinds of questions explored by UK author Marcus Chown in his intriguing new book What a Wonderful World. They also give an idea of the broad topics covered at his Adelaide Writers’ Week evening session last night at Elder Hall.
With a background in physics, Chown is also the author of Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You and the creator of the Solar System app.
His latest book is about everything (although he admits it doesn’t contain a whole lot about sport), including areas where he has no knowledge, such as money, sex and the human brain.
As well as questions like those in the introductory paragraph above, the Elder Hall session also explored semi-absurd statements such as “We are one third mushroom”, which refers to the fact that human DNA is closely related to that of fungi.
Chown is a great, engaging speaker who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Even when the topics are quite complex and not necessarily anything other than theories, he uses simple terms to illustrate for his audience what he means.
There were too many interesting topics and facts discussed to mention them all in this article, and I am certain everyone in the audience walked out buzzing with new ways of seeing familiar things. Suffice to say that IBM once predicted sales of five computers; not even a computer on every continent.
The mass of all humans in the world could fit into a sugar cube. Why is this? Well, it has to do with the fact that atoms are 99.9999999999999 per cent emptiness. Get rid of the emptiness and there isn’t much of us left.
Chown guided us through mind-boggling theories with a light touch. Needless to say, What a Wonderful World will be a perfect present for all those friends who think they already know it all.
Congratulations to Adelaide Writers’ Week director Laura Kroetsch for including such a thought-provoking and humorous evening session. I feel sorry for those of you who missed it. However, you can still catch Marcus Chown in a free Writers’ Week session called The Great Debate, where he’ll be discussing faith and science with Francis Spufford at 12pm on Wednesday, March 5, in the East Tent at the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.
Adelaide Writers’ Week continues until March 6, with daily sessions featuring guest authors in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.
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Click here for InDaily’s stories and reviews from the 2014 Adelaide Festival, including WOMADelaide and Adelaide Writers’ Week.
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