qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Could Do Better

Book Review: A Teaspoon and an Open Mind - The Science of Doctor Who, by Michael White
Michael White has tried to move the subject up-market by taking the 37000ft view of Doctor Who, and extrapolating from the book's subtitle to essays he would rather write. In itself, this is a good idea, and he discusses in popular science terms subjects such as long-distance space and time travel; extraterrestrial life; telepathy and telekinesis; robotics, cybernetics and "regeneration". However, this may leave some of his audience feeling short-changed, as there is really very little beyond the title to link the book to the TV series. For those prepared to make the journey, some of the science, such as on interplanetary travel, is fairly written, and some of it, such as on time travel and intelligent extraterrestrial life, has minor glitches. White is prepared to talk at some length about Einstein's theories of relativity, but then overlooks some of the more commonly discussed possibilities such as "time loops" - which have featured in the TV series once or twice. There's a blooper in the discussion on intelligent life where he describes one of the factors as a "fraction", and then assigns it a value of "between 1 and 4". Some of the writing on fusion doesn't convince me that he has really researched and understood the topic. Likewise, some of his discussion on quantum phenomena doesn't seem to grasp some of the consequences of wave theory.

In the epilogue, he chooses to discuss a number of phenomena in the TV series which he considers to be beyond science - the dimensionally transcendental aspect of the TARDIS, "magic" crystals and resonance. Yet certainly the first of these seems to deserve a scientific consideration in a book deliberately written on "far-out" and speculative science. String theory (a somewhat controversial candidate "theory of everything") postulates the existence of 10 or 11 dimensions, most of which are "rolled up" so small that we cannot experience them. Now suppose the TARDIS was a device to transfer matter from the macroscopic dimensions to these "hidden" dimensions - wouldn't that be a way to make a container "bigger" on the inside than the outside? This isn't a bad book, but it's not a good one either.
Tags: books
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