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Is it real, or is it magic?

April 6, 2012

‘The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True’ by Richard Dawkins, illustrated by Dave McKeanRichard Dawkins is famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for his outspokenly sceptical, rationalist views.

In this highly entertaining book, he compares ancient myths and legends – including creation legends – with what we, as a scientific, rational species, have learned about our universe…so far.

He presents much of this salient knowledge in a quirky, entertaining and highly informative style, tackling some of humankind’s most fundamental and enduring questions. What is reality? What is magic? What are things made of? Why do bad things happen? Are we alone? What is the sun?

Along the way, Dawkins takes a look at superstition, ghosts, religion, coincidence, fate, and the spooky mystery of Mrs Feynman’s clock. Suitable for all ages, read the first chapter, and you’ll be hooked…you’ll also be challenged, entertained and amazed.

Dave McKean’s dazzling illustrations practically leap off the page, the perfect accompaniment to the book’s mind-boggling statistics. For example: if you were to pile up pictures of your ancestors back to the dawn of life on Earth, the stack would represent of 185 million generations, and would be a pile of pictures 16,000 feet high…or you could keep them in a bookshelf three miles long.

Furthermore: if the nuclei of a diamond (carbon) atom were expanded to the size of a football, the neighbouring nuclei of the diamond would be fifteen kilometres distant, and the electrons zooming around them would be several kms away. Therefore, diamond atoms, like the atoms that make up everything else – including our bodies – consist of “almost entirely empty space!” In that case, why can’t we walk through walls? After all, the atoms making up walls consist of mostly empty space too, so surely our atoms’ empty space could simply slot through the empty space of the wall?

The Magic of Reality explains why you can’t walk through walls…don’t try it at home!   Reviewed by Keith


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