November 28, 2015 Filed in: Review
Ryan Thompson, OAPT Treasurer, Physics Teacher, Newmarket HS
All physics teachers should read Neal Stephenson. His latest book is called Seveneves
, a tale that spans five millennia. Although the book starts off clunky, the premise of it, the explosion of the moon and how this impacts all life on Earth (very badly), drives the story past an awkward beginning to a point where I couldn’t put the book down. I got excited about finding about how humanity would rise above the technological and political challenges it faced to ensure the survival of our species. Seveneves
is a work of science fiction, so there are some liberties (for example, a giant asteroid connected to the International Space Station) but the genius of Neal Stephenson is that he knows enough about physics in particular and science in general to make everything he says just so believable. And I wanted to believe it. The humans went out to capture a nearby comet for the ice it contained, which on one level is absurd. On the other hand, the way that Mr. Stephenson describes the process (a nail-biting read) with so much real physics (orbital mechanics in this case) and action, made me think that humans could really do this if we absolutely had to.
Neal Stephenson has carved out a niche in science fiction where he creates worlds which is jammed with technology that is either fresh out of the box in our world or on some drawing board at MIT. He then makes all his characters highly intelligent engineer types, and has them use their impressive intellect to solve their problems. This is what he does all the time. It’s this problem solving that drives the story. It’s not character driven but “problem solving” driven. So, if you need a book for your Christmas list, choose this one to ask Santa for and if you like it, you should also try Anathem
and The Diamond Age
. These are two other books that I heartily recommend.