Book Review: Really, Really Big Questions About The Life, The Universe And Everything by Dr Stephen Law

At school, new ideas are thrust at you every day. Out in the world, you’ll have to find your inner motivation to seek for new ideas on your own, said Bill Watterson. Which is probably what makes children so much more curious than adults. Questions are good. Questions mean we’re thinking. Questions mean we’re interested enough to seek out answers. These answers will lead to more questions, more thinking and spark off a thirst for knowledge and, subsequently, a knowledge explosion.

Sometimes, it becomes easy to dismiss a child’s question because you haven’t really thought about the answer yourself and you don’t have time to think about these things anyway because who’s going to deal with all the grown up responsibilities you have, huh? But questions don’t really have an age limit, do they? We’re all inquisitive; my questions may be different from yours but we all seek answers.

Really, Really Big Questions About The Life, The Universe And Everything may be targeted at kids but the questions it poses include those that have perplexed humans for generations. Can money make someone happy? Is time travel possible? Can you really bend a spoon with your mind? What is the meaning of life? The book tries to answer all these questions and more.

You would think that a book dealing with scientific, moral and philosophical questions would be boring. Usually, I’m not a fan of non-fiction; I’d much rather pick fantasy over fact. However, this book with its glossy, colourful pages really caught my eye thanks to its fun illustrations. The book has been written by Dr Stephen Law, a British professor and philosopher. The content is brilliantly illustrated by Nishant Choksi.

The book follows a simple format – a question is posed which Dr Law tries to answer. However, the author also encourages the reader to find solutions, conduct thought experiments and basically think for himself. Complex questions and ideas have been simplified by his use of fun and easy to understand examples. The language isn’t the least bit condescending – the author simply gives  you information and gets you to think about it. Mind-teasers and quirky quotes also form a part of this volume. Additionally, the book includes a glossary, an index, a list of books and websites you can refer to as well as “thinking tips”.

Although it does explain some questions away using scientific principles, the book doesn’t attribute science with all-knowing powers. Science doesn’t tell us the difference between things we can do and things we should do. That’s where rational thought comes in. Encouraging alternative lines of thought, it also provides a few religious theories to go with the scientific versions as well as has examples dealing with physics, ethics and questioning authority.

A highly recommended read. And major props for that Douglas Adams reference! What I really like about the book is that Dr Law doesn’t always provide answers or guide the reader to form an opinion that he endorses. It’s a great book for inquisitive children who never tire of asking questions. I hope the book sparks off discussions amongst its readers, their homes and schools and opens their minds by presenting them with differing opinions on the same issue.

“Real education is a radical process. It thumps you on the head until everything you know makes no sense anymore. Then you run around picking up the pieces of your head and picking them back together. The pieces never go back together in the same way.” – Debbie Millman

Really, Really Big Questions About The Life, The Universe And Everything

Dr Stephen Law and Nishant Choksi

Pages: 64

Price: INR 350

Publisher: Kingfisher (An imprint of Macmillan Children’s Books)

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