Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Salon 14 September 2008: The Science of Dr Who by Paul Parsons (cont.)

Hello, Sunday Saloners! It is the season of 'mists and mellow fruitfulness' in this part of the UK this morning. Autumn, at last!

I am a slow reader and just recently I have been busy with my work, so I welcomed the fact that yesterday I had to spend five hours on a train. If it is not too noisy, I think a train is the perfect place to read. So yesterday I made some progress through The Science of Dr Who by Paul Parsons. As I said last week, I am a long-term fan of Dr Who, and this book makes me want to watch all the episodes again from scratch because I think I'd look at them with new insight. At the end of each one I could turn to whoever was watching them with me and say something like 'they could do that, you know...'

Chapter two told me how the Tardis (Dr Who's time machine/space craft) could be bigger on the inside than on the outside, examined the possibility of teleporting, and then looked at how the doctor might manage his toilet facilities by describing exactly what goes on aboard the shuttle and space stations (it involves funnels, pipes, leg rests, clamps and vacuum suction).

I think one of the aspects of this book that I like the best is that it not only considers the basic science, but also asks some quite philosophical questions: for instance, after considering the vast amount of information transfer required to teleport a human, it asks about the soul, and if that is transferred too.

Chapter three deals with time travel, and explains how this might be possible if the time lords were able to take one of the transient microscopic worm holes (that are thought to be constantly forming and fading away around us) and threaded it with something called 'exotic matter'. This would make the worm hole swell to a usable size and so the doctor's tardis would be able to glide through to somewhere in the future.

There are two caveats to this, however. One is that the location of end-point of the wormhole would be difficult to control (this fits in with what happens in the series, the doctor is always ending up in the wrong place and time), and would only allow travel forwards in time from when the technology to do all this was discovered. However this is all right too -it just means that the time lords have been able to do this from the start of the universe!

Also...what's this about the universe being littered with tiny 'loops, bubbles and wormholes'? I had no idea. I imagine them appearing and disappearing again like those tiny cirrus clouds high up in the sky on a fine day. The more I found out about 'stuff', the more perplexing it all seems to be...

Anyway, to continue... Chapter four compares regeneration with what goes on when a hydra loses one of its parts (it involves reversion of specialised cells to stem cells and is very interesting); and then describes how one man, Ray Kurzwell, plans to live forever. This involves drinking green tea and nano-robotics.

Chapter five examines the technology behind the doctor's sonic screwdriver, and chapter six reveals that I am, I mean, was, not the only woman to fall in love with the doctor. According to Dr Petra Boynton this is quite normal (something I shall be telling Dr Grump next time I see her - since I confessed to this last week she had been given me the same look I have seen her give her more 'exotic' subjects in her sexual dynamics laboratory).

I am now on the second section of the book which goes on to describe other worlds - what would it be like to be on a planet that orbits a binary star, for instance, with constantly changing lengths of day and night, and orbits that rotate one way and then the next. And what would it take to destroy a planet like the Time Lord's Galifrey (the answer is an extremely large bomb of antimatter).

The Cybermen chapter contains some amazing facts about the clients of a beach club in Rotterdam and a man called Kevin Warwick who works at the University of Reading. I have heard about this man before - but every time I read about his experiments on himself and his wife (they had microchips implanted into their bodies that were linked to their nervous systems with startling results) I am more and more impressed.

The Daleks, it turns out, are related to GM crops, and I am now on the chapter which explores how the Slitheens managed to force themselves into human-sized suits, which takes me, in some ways, back to toilet facilities in space...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just been writing about the onset of Autumn as well Clare and the mist has just cleared here. I shall have to look out for this book. I'm not a great Dr Who fan, but I do like popular science works and this looks as if it is something I would enjoy very much.

Sun Sept 14, 11:19:00 am  
Blogger Ruth King said...

I love Doctor Who. This book looks great! I'll have to check it out soon. I really miss having new episodes to look forward to -- Christmas seems so very far away.

Sun Sept 14, 04:19:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing! Did you know that Henry Gee wrote The Science of Lord of the Rings in this series? I've got it upstairs, together with The Science of His Dark Materials and The Science of Harry Potter, neither of which is by Henry. I've dipped into them but never attempted a cover-to-cover read through.

Sun Sept 14, 04:47:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, TT - something for everyone here - really useful tidbits!

Ruth - glad you have Dr Who in the US too! It sounds like you have it almost as soon as we do!

Maxine: I'd no idea! Sounds like I'd better take a look on amazon now. Thanks for the tip.

Sun Sept 14, 07:23:00 pm  
Blogger Law and Order said...

Thanks. Will go to Amazon now. Great blog too.

Sun Sept 14, 07:45:00 pm  
Blogger Anne S said...

I've watched the Doctor Who series all the way through I think. I remember watching the series when I was a teenager in the 1960s.

It is broadcast on the National television network here in Australia. We get it a bit behind Britain. It's currently running the latest series on Sunday nights.

I've always been a big fan of the show and think the latest versions are the best. Can't say I've ever had any romantic feelings for any of the Doctors.

Tue Sept 16, 12:31:00 pm  
Blogger Marie Cloutier said...

my husband is a Doctor Who maniac (we even have a Doctor Who pinball machine in our living room) and he will be thrilled to read this. Thanks for the heads up! :-)

Wed Sept 17, 07:50:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Joanne!

Sounds much like me, Anne - except for the one-sided fixation!

Great stuff, Marie. Sounds like your husband is a very sound man!

Fri Sept 19, 08:34:00 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

Not a bad write-up, Clare. It quite catches. I had read about Dr. Who through Guiness Book of Records. Never seen it. But I think this will prompt my looking out for it.

How are you doing? My book is coming out this November. You mind giving me a blurb? I really will appreciate. If it's not possible, no worries.

Take care.

Sat Sept 20, 07:13:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Congratulations Onyeka, of course I am happy to help you any way I can. Please email me, you can link through to my email on my profile page.

Sun Sept 21, 03:14:00 pm  

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