Skip to main content

Justin Pollard – Four Way Interview

Justin Pollard is a historical writer/consultant in film and TV. He is a researcher for the TV show QI and the author of five books. His most recent title is Boffinology – the real stories behind our greatest scientific discoveries.
Why Science?
When I was a child there always seemed something perfect about science. It was carried out by brilliant people in immaculate white coats who would invent audacious experiments leading, inevitably, to stunning results. In this way science would take another giant step forward, the scientists would congratulate one another, then clear their benches and start all over again, on a new and even harder problem. So I wanted to become one of those scientists but somehow ended up an historian.
Why this book?
As a historian I get to spend a lot of time with dead scientists. There are thousands of them in history books and reading the stories of their lives taught me something about science itself. Real science is not done by the perfect white-coated men and women I imagined as a child. It does have it heroes, of course, but it also has its villains, its disasters, its brilliant ideas that turn suddenly to dust and those handfuls of dust that, quite unexpectedly, lead to moments of genius. There is just more chaos in science than I ever imagined in my youth. It is a field populated by humans, together with all their triumphs and failings, their valiant strivings, their dogged determination, their indomitable spirit and their bitter rivalries, prejudices and tempers. That is what this book is about.
What’s next?
I’ve just finished work as historical advisor on the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie (POTC 4 – ‘On Stranger Tides’) and I’m moving on to work with Sir David Hare advising on a modern-day spy thriller about MI5 called ‘Page Eight’. Then in January research for the new series of QI should kick off.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
Currently I’m most excited by the inside of my head. Having had a MRI scan (which turned out to be fine) I persuaded the very lovely radiographers at give me a copy of the dataset, so I’ve been exploring my brain, such as it is. Another advantage is that on Facebook I can have a profile picture of the inside of my head rather than all those normal, boring shots of the outside of people’s heads.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Einstein's Greatest Mistake - David Bodanis ****

Books on Einstein and his work are not exactly thin on the ground. There's even been more than one book before with a title centring on Einstein's mistake or mistakes. So to make a new title worthwhile it has do something different - and David Bodanis certainly achieves this with Einstein's Greatest Mistake. If I'm honest, the book isn't the greatest on the science or the history - but what it does superbly is tell a story. The question we have to answer is why that justifies considering this to be a good book.
I would compare Einstein's Greatest Mistake with the movie Lincoln -  it is, in effect, a biopic in book form with all the glory and flaws that can bring. Compared with a good biography, a biopic will distort the truth and emphasise parts of the story that aren't significant because they make for a good screen scene. But I would much rather someone watched the movie than never found out anything about Lincoln - and similarly I'd much rather someon…

Four Way Interview - Tom Cabot

Tom Cabot is a London-based book editor and designer with a background in experimental psychology, natural science and graphic design. He founded the London-based packaging company, Ketchup, and has produced and illustrated many books for the British Film Institute, Penguin and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Tom has held a lifelong passion to explain science graphically and inclusively ... ever since being blown away by Ray and Charles Eames’ Powers of Ten at an early age. His first book is Eureka, an infographic guide to science.

Why infographics?
For me infographics provided a way to present heavy-lifting science in an alluring and playful, but ultimately illuminating, way. And I love visualising data and making it as attractive as the ideas are.  The novelty of the presentation hopefully gets the reader to look afresh. I love the idea of luring in readers who might normally be put off by drier, more monotone science – people who left science behind at 16. I wanted the boo…

A Tale of Seven Scientists - Eric Scerri ***

Scientists sometimes tell us we're in a post-philosophy world. For example, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in The Grand Design bluntly say that that philosophy is 'dead' - no longer required, as science can do its job far better. However, other scientists recognise the benefits of philosophy, particularly when it is applied to their own discipline. One such is Eric Scerri, probably the world's greatest expert on the periodic table, who in this challenging book sets out to modify the philosophical models of scientific progress.

I ought to say straight away that A Tale of Seven Scientists sits somewhere on the cusp between popular science and a heavy duty academic title. For reasons that will become clear, I could only give it three stars if rating it as popular science, but it deserves more if we don't worry too much about it being widely accessible.

One minor problem with accessibility is that I've never read a book that took so long to get started. First t…