SciFri Book Club: ‘A Brief History Of Time’ Begins Now

4:49 minutes

illustrated stack of books with text "scifri book club"This story is part of our summer Book Club conversation about Stephen Hawking’s 1988 book ‘A Brief History of Time.’ Want to participate? Sign up for our newsletter or call our special voicemail at 567-243-2456.

The Science Friday Book Club is reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, complete an artists challenge, weekly newsletters, and an on-air physics geek-fest on August 24. SciFri producer Christie Taylor reminds you to pick up your book and get started.

[When your good doggo pants, he’s essentially using convection to evaporate water off the surface and keep cool.]

More information, and our our kick-off chat with physicists Priya Natarajan and Clifford Johnson, is all here.

There’s no time like the present to join the SciFri Book Club conversation. Here’s how to join the fun:

  1. Grab a copy of the book and start reading! Powell’s Books is offering discounted copies.
  2. Sign up for our SciFri Book Club newsletter to stay updated on extra reading suggestions, discussion questions, and events related to the Book Club. (And if you can’t get enough word nerdery, sign up for our Science Diction newsletter, which looks at the etymology and scientific origin stories of words.)
  3. Take part in our wrap-up discussion of the Book Club by calling in to the broadcast on Friday, August 24. Discuss the book with Ira and our special guest readers, physicists Priya Natarajan of Yale University and Clifford Johnson of the University of Southern California.
  4. Can’t wait to join the conversation? Join the #SciFriBookClub discussion on Twitter, email us at bookclub@sciencefriday.com, or leave us a voicemail! Right now, we just want to know if you’ve ever read A Brief History of Time. Give us a ring at 567-243-2456. Your comments may be played on the air.
  5. We’re inviting artists to design images based on Hawking’s beautiful analogies. Learn more here.
  6. What’s the best way to celebrate this book club? With a time traveler cocktail party, of course! Join us in NYC on August 21st at Caveat for an interactive evening of games and activities that will expand your conception of time, space, and reality.
  7. Keep checking back here over the next six weeks! There’s much more to come.

Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: OK, gather around, bookworms because our SciFri Book Club is kicking off. It kicked off last week. As you will remember, we were reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Or maybe you missed out on how to participate. You need a little extra nudge to get started. So we’re going to supply it. And here to remind you to pick up that book and start reading. Science Friday producer, book maven Christie Taylor. Welcome back, Christie.

CHRISTIE TAYLOR: Hey, Ira. How’s it going?

IRA FLATOW: Well, it’s– fine. I’m excited to finally be knocking this book off my bucket list.

CHRISTIE TAYLOR: Yeah, me too. It’s one of those books that really seems like everyone’s heard of, but a lot of people haven’t actually read yet. And it feels like a really good way to honor Stephen Hawking’s legacy as he passed away this week.

IRA FLATOW: I’m Ira Flatow. This is Science Friday from WNYC Studios.

CHRISTIE TAYLOR: And since this is a book club, we really do want you to participate. So we have a few ways, and I’m here to give those back to you again. So the first thing to do is go to our website– sciencefriday.com/bookclub. And that will have pretty much everything I’m about to tell you right there waiting for you in a nice list form.

But one of the things I really wanted to highlight is that we are working with artists this time around. Stephen Hawking, as you know, Ira– and have spoken highly of– has some really great analogies for how the universe works– that balloon metaphor for how the expanding universe can somehow still not have a center, for example. So there are great visual analogies. We want artists to help us visualize them. The online community Ello is helping us out with this.

So we want people to submit their portfolios, what they’ve already done so far so that we can commission a few artists to create the Stephen Hawking-themed, Big Bang, galaxy universe [INAUDIBLE]

IRA FLATOW: He wrote really simple pictures. We might get a little more complicated and artistic ones.

CHRISTIE TAYLOR: Yeah, and we’ve seeded it with some quotes that might help get you inspired. But all of that, again, sciencefriday.com/bookclub. And then our guest readers Priya Natarajan and Clifford Johnson, who are physicists, and they had a great conversation with us on the air last week– they’re going to be answering listener questions in our weekly newsletter, which you can sign up for on our website.

They are great science communicators themselves and physics researchers. And we all know that there are some concepts in here that might be a little– need a little extra unpacking, so they’re here to help. Other than that, we have a voicemail number that you can call– 567-243-2456. We’ll be having some really interesting physics conversations along the way. And we will wrap up with a big nerd fest on August 24 with Clifford and Priya again and you, Ira, if you have finished your reading by that point.

IRA FLATOW: 567-243-2456.

CHRISTIE TAYLOR: Right, and that’s where you can call in with your physics questions or comments as you’re reading along. And again, we have that weekly newsletter where Priya and Clifford are going to be helping answer some of those questions.

IRA FLATOW: You know, I love the book. I have to admit that somebody, I think, walked off with my copy.


IRA FLATOW: It’s so popular. I don’t want to say that I lost it. It got legs and– you know.

CHRISTIE TAYLOR: Stephen would be so disappointed. So Ira, there’s actually some good news for you. All is not lost. Powell’s Books, who always donate to our giveaway– they also are offering a discounted copy of that same edition.

IRA FLATOW: People can still get it.

CHRISTIE TAYLOR: Yeah, you can still get that all summer long. And that’s– again, go to our website for the link, but it’s available on their website to order.

IRA FLATOW: And one August 24, we’re going to have a wrap-up, right?

CHRISTIE TAYLOR: Right. And then actually, if you’re in New York on August 21, we are having a Time Traveler Cocktail Party first, where we’re going to have some hands-on demos and some fun physics conversations live in New York City. So August 21 is the Time Traveler Cocktail Party. If you miss it, you can always come back in time and attend again. And then August 24, on our airwaves, the nerdiest conversation that ever did nerd.

IRA FLATOW: That’s going to be great. And once again, our website for more information.

CHRISTIE TAYLOR: Sciencefriday.com/bookclub, Ira.

IRA FLATOW: Great. Christie Taylor is our producer for Science Friday and captain of our SciFri Book Club. Thanks for taking time to be with us today. We look forward to everybody participating. And speaking of great physics stories, did you know that quarks was named after a term in the James Joyce novel Finnegans Wake?

You can read all about the origins of words we use in science. It’s our new summer science newsletter, Science Diction. That’s a great name. Sign up and read more word nerdery at sciencefriday.com/sciencediction– Sciencefriday.com/sciencediction. Charles Bergquist is our director. Our senior producer– Christopher Intagliata. Producers are Alexa Lim, Christie Taylor, Katie Hiler. Our intern is Lucy Huang. And we had technical engineering help today from Rich Kim and Sara Fishman.

And, of course, we’re active all week on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all of social media. If you have a smart speaker, you want to hear SciFri podcast, you can go to our website or ask your speaker to play it for you. We’ve got them all up there waiting for you to go. Have a great weekend. I’m Ira Flatow in New York.

Copyright © 2018 Science Friday Initiative. All rights reserved. Science Friday transcripts are produced on a tight deadline by 3Play Media. Fidelity to the original aired/published audio or video file might vary, and text might be updated or amended in the future. For the authoritative record of Science Friday’s programming, please visit the original aired/published recording. For terms of use and more information, visit our policies pages at http://www.sciencefriday.com/about/policies/

Meet the Producer

About Christie Taylor

Christie Taylor was a producer for Science Friday. Her days involved diligent research, too many phone calls for an introvert, and asking scientists if they have any audio of that narwhal heartbeat.

Explore More

The Origin Of The Word ‘Zero’

There's a lot to say about nothing.

Read More

‘A Brief History Of Time’: Artist Challenge

The Science Friday Book Club invites you to submit your artistic imaginings of Stephen Hawking's visions of the universe.

Read More