Book Review: How To Build A Universe

Genre: Science
Publisher: William Collins/ Harper Collins

A lot of us grew up in the era of science as an act of educational torture; trapped in classrooms filled with impenetrable jargon, and teachers who made you feel like the worst kind of idiot if you didn’t follow effortlessly along with what you were ‘learning’. Though many of us had questions burning at the tips of our tongues, we learned to keep our ignorance quiet to avoid ridicule.

And yet… the questions are still there.

For those with questions, or even just a vague wanting to better understand the world in which we live, you’re going to want to grab ‘How To Build A Universe’. And, truthfully, any of the books by Professor Brian Cox and his partner in comedic crime, Robin Ince.

80s and 90s music tragics might recognise Cox from D:Ream and Dare, but increasingly, he’s built a reputation as the go-to guy for those times you want to understand a complicated scientific concept, without the risk of feeling like an idiot. Cox and Ince have made it their mission to cut through the jargon and find fun, engaging ways to explore science.

In their latest venture, ‘How To Build A Universe’, the pair take the mind-bendingly complicated notions of universal creation and all that goes along with it, and makes them understandable to even those of us who slept through or skived off of science classes. ‘How To Build A Universe’ is funny, fact-filled, and filled with the kind of language that’s thankfully easy to follow along with.

If you’ve ever hesitated to ask a question because you’re dreading the eye rolls or condescension, Professor Cox, and Robin Ince, need to be at the top of your TBR pile. This isn’t science aimed at children, nor dumbed down to the point you feel like you’re being mocked. ‘How To Build A Universe’ is what happens when two people who absolutely love a subject feel like those around them should get the chance to love it, too.

Most importantly, their work starts from one very important premise: no one is too stupid to understand science, they just haven’t found the right way to relate to it yet. Maybe you won’t go off and become a scientist. But there’s a high chance you’ll come away a little bit more aware, a little bit more curious, and a lot more informed than you may have been.

Those with a firmer understanding of the subject matter are in for a treat, too. The ‘Infinite Monkey Cage’ boys have a knack for finding new and interesting ways to explore and contemplate the ideas being discussed, and their work should be required reading for all science teachers.

It’s hard not to enjoy the geeky-but-relatable humour, and it’s impossible to ignore that Ince and Cox adore their subject matter. There are no dry retellings here, no rote learnings to struggle through. It’s nuanced, thoughtful, and far more fun than I’d ever thought science reading could be.

‘How To Build A Universe’ is published by William Collins/ Harper Collins, and is available through the publisher’s websites, and at leading retailers.

Rating: 4 and a half stars

Review by Kylie Thompson

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