Although I am keeping October free this year (the German translation of my Wegener book is coming out then and there's talk about my giving a talk in Frankfurt) there are a couple of non-fiction events that appeal: Nicholas Crane's talk about Great British Journeys and Paul Parson's on The Science of Dr Who.
So, this Sunday, I find myself dipping into the first of these books: The Science of Dr Who. It's got a wonderfully glossy cover: highly reflective, with a slight 3D quality, seemingly close to a hologram, and when it catches the light it reflects small rainbows...but I guess that is a small point (although it did attract my eye to the book). It is also recommended by an eclectic range of people: including the astronomer and great populariser of science, Patrick Moore, and the actor who played the sixth doctor, Colin Baker.
Of course the best Dr Who was Tom Baker. Even though the two most recent re-incarnations have both been impressive, Tom Baker, remains, for me, the definitive doctor. He was wild, maverick and slightly edgy - a Heathcliffe let loose in time and space. When I was at school I was in love with him for even longer than the weeks it took to knit 'his' scarf - carefully matching the colours and ensuring that it went several times around my neck and then down not just to my ankles but trailed along the floor. I was sure it would have been a mutual attraction if only he had known about me - after all, underneath that gruff unpredictable exterior there beat not just one heart, but two; and therefore could easily have had room for two women. The attractions of my rival Romana, I felt, would be short-lived. Just from looking at the way she dressed - shallowly and shamelessly provocatively - I could tell she had no inner depth. He would soon tire of her, I thought, and would become hopelessly attracted to me - once we had all spent a couple of centuries in his tardis together.
The first chapter of The Science of Dr Who is about these two hearts. After a physiological consideration of the benefits of having two hearts (more even blood flow, and less stress on the each heart - although difficult to synchronise, perhaps); the chapter goes on to deal with the important matter of the emotional heart of Dr Who and his altruism. Where does altruism come from, it asks, since it is so obviously at odds with the concept of Darwin's survival of the fittest. The answer comes in two ways: maximising the survival of one's genes may mean that supporting close relatives is of benefit too; and the support of strangers is often of mutual benefit. The examples are interesting and the the concept itself is fun - especially, if like me, your interest is long-term and has sometimes bordered on the obsessive.