Why Is Uranus Upside Down? And Other Questions about the Universe

Why Is Uranus Upside Down? And Other Questions about the Universe

Why Is Uranus Upside Down? And Other Questions about the Universe

Why Is Uranus Upside Down? And Other Questions about the Universe


Have you ever wondered what dark matter is or why galaxies collide? Or why the Moon is gradually drifting away from Earth? Space is really, really big, as Douglas Adams once pointed out, and there is no better guide to it than Fred Watson, astronomer to the stars. Fred Watson has taken the many, many questions that have been asked by listeners of his popular, long-running radio shows, and answered them in this collection. Questions he answers include How can you identify the constellations? Does the Earth wobble? Could you dump nuclear waste into the Sun? What makes planets round? Where's the nearest black hole?Are there other universes? and Can we ever know everything? This highly entertaining and informative introduction to our planet and the Universe we live in is a must-read for enquiring minds of all ages.


In the school science curriculum of the mid-1970s, it was mandatory to dissect a rat at every opportunity. If your teacher wanted to explain water evaporation in the Murray-Darling basin, he’d work in some sort of rat dissection. Ask him the distance between the Earth and Saturn, and the answer would come back, ‘Hand me a rat’.

It was a great method of science tuition. My only problem was that every time I saw a dissected rat, I’d feel woozy for a moment, and then collapse in a face-forward faint. How long did I stay out on each occasion? Reports were uncertain—muffled as they were by the sound of 32 classmates pissing themselves with laughter.

Of course, if it weren’t for this weak constitution I’d probably be a great scientist today—spotting new planets by night and ridding the world of disease by day. But it’s hard to pick up the basics of science when you’re unconscious through most of the syllabus.

Thirty years on, I’m left with a hunger for science; for catching up with what I missed. Fainting over rat dissection might be rare, but— based on our experience at abc radio—this hunger for science is incredibly widespread.

Back in the late 1950s, C.P. Snow wrote his famous book, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution—in which he analysed the great divide between people with a background in the humanities, and those . . .

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