The Meaning Of The Universe, Etc

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami is one of those events that cracks our narrow minds apart and sends a great wave of perspective flushing through our thoughts. It may be coincidence, or it may be an impending sense of Armageddon tweaking at the guts of media producers with timely disease, but there seems to be a glut of excellent stuff out there at the moment for those inclined towards interrogating Big Questions.

There's always good old TED for a bit of bracing ideation (Deb Roy 's recent Birth of a Word is well worth a watch), but recently I've been glued to Prof Brian Cox's (who has also done a turn on TED) BBC2 series Wonders of the Universe which, despite his disturbingly wolfish smile and the inevitable tingly-panorama shots, bombastic soundtrack and CGI starscapes, is really rather good.

Cox was on Start the Week this morning (listen again before it disappears), evangelising the importance of science alongside Brian Greene, whose new book The Hidden Reality looks at 'Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos', and Angela Saini, whose own new release Geek Nation celebrates India's reverence for science, which is paired with an irreverence in applying it in innovative ways.

It's all very timely for me - not just because the environment is reminding us of its mysterious might in such a horrifying way, but also because the novel I'm writing stems from a fascination with time, choice and parallel selves (yep, it's gonna be a real money-spinner). I adored science at school - I wanted to be a geologist for ages, until I realised it was pretty incompatible with wearing a Haider Ackerman bondage kimono - so it is wonderful to be able to continue an intellectual journey that got stunted once I was labelled a 'humanities' type.

But perhaps my happiest discovery of the week is the RSA's series of Animate videos. There's something about seeing a concept evolve through pictures that not only clarifies, but makes it stick. Two of my favourites include Matthew Taylor on 'The 21st Century Enlightenment' and Steven Pinker on 'Language as a Window into Human Nature', but lets stick with the time-space fabric theme and look at 'The Secret Powers of Time'.

Now all I need is a bit of Christopher Kane to make me Patrick Moore in a (very good) skirt.