The Science of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials-John Gribbin, Mary Gribbin

  • Title: The Science of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials
  • Author: John Gribbin, Mary Gribbin
  • Released: 2005-08-23
  • Language:
  • Pages: 224
  • ISBN: 0375831444
  • ISBN13:


From School Library Journal Grade 5-9–The Gribbins are fairly successful at relating various aspects of the worlds of Pullman's series to scientific principles of our world. The discussion is less than scientific at some points. The authors relate the use of The Golden Compass to the unconscious mind and, in so doing, describe both the theories of Jung and the use of the I Ching. At other times, their science is on solid ground, even cutting edge, as in their discussion of quantum entanglement, but their comparison of this scientific principle to Will and Lyra's sharing the same Oxford park bench in different worlds is tenuous at best. The book is organized roughly by the chronology of the trilogy so readers must jump from one concept to another quite disparate idea within a few pages. Overall, though, the Gribbins introduce quite a few interesting topics ranging from cosmology to natural selection in an understandable and readable manner. This book could be used to introduce scientifically inclined readers to Pullman's works and Pullman's fans to the wonders of science.–Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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From Gr. 6-9. In a sometimes self-deprecating introduction, Pullman notes, "When I first read [this book], I was enormously impressed by how clever I was. Then, I . . . realized that if I'd got anything right in the first place, it was because of the work of writers like [the Gribbins], who explained these difficult ideas--and many others--with clarity and skill." And difficult ideas they are: string theory, space-time continuum, quantum physics. Noted science writers, the Gribbins show how concepts are the real magic of Pullman's trilogy. Each chapter begins with a quote drawn from the books, which leads to an elegantly written explanation of the science. ?A description of the Northern Lights, for instance, starts a discussion of "the magic of magnetism" that moves to a description of the magnetic earth, and on to a look at atoms. Some readers may say that the book veers off a true scientific path in a chapter that uses Lyra's alethiometer to launch into the world of oracles, Jung, and the I Ching (even with diagrams, the latter concept will be hard for young readers to grasp). ?And occasional statements are surprisingly oversimplified: "William Gilbert was the first scientist." Actually, the book is often at its best with complicated material. The authors do an amazing job teasing an introduction to string theory from Will's "subtle knife," even if concepts such as compactified dimensions seem unbelievable. Naturally, fans of the series will be the best audience, but the book offers much to readers simply interested in the advanced sciences, who then may be led back to His Dark Materials.^B Ilene Cooper
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