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A Teaspoon And An Open Mind: The Science Of
Allen Lane hardcover £12.99
review by Tony Lee
The cover blurb asserts this is "the unofficial guide to galactic truth... from cybernetics and regeneration to teleportation and time travel" and it quotes from the dry wit of Tom Baker's version of the Doctor on the back. However, like others of its kind (such as the various Star Trek tomes of recent years), this populist and vaguely educational science book's connection to the TV show of its subtitle is unfortunately tenuous at best. Except for mentioning certain aspects of Doctor Who lore and familiar trivia, there is little here of specific interest to keen fans of the series, whatever your age group.
This isn't as incisive as Asimov's library of bestselling nonfiction, and hardly as technical as a textbook by Nigel Henbest or Patrick Moore, so what's the point? Well, the author has a sufficiently engaging writing style when discussing the intriguing possibilities of what science might eventually tell us about the universe and our place in it, and most of the notions are presented in a positive light, though without overlooking valid concerns about the potential disastrous military application of things like nanotech. There are lively chapters on extraterrestrial life and interstellar travel, telepathy and teleportation, and robots and immortality looking at everything from quantum theory and nuclear physics, to cybernetics and genetic engineering.
Michael White is perhaps at his most entertaining when explaining the fascinating difference between what is thought to be probable, and what might be possible, however improbable it seems when gauged against the cutting edge of scientific understanding. Basically, White appears optimistic about the future (our future!) and, at a time when the doomsayer tendency gets rather too much attention in the global media, that's quite admirable of course.
Previously published in Starburst.
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