The science of the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy

The science of the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy
Michael Hanlon
London, UK: Macmillan | 2005 | 195pp | ?16.99 (HB) | ISBN 1403945772
Reviewed by Stuart Williams

This is another ’Science of ’ type book. Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s series has cult status but does it really feature proper science that can be written about? Well sort of, providing you are willing to embark on a journey which involves no small suspension of disbelief. Although it could be argued that this is true for the Hitchhiker’s books themselves.

The book is well written and the compact chapters make this an easy book to dip in to. The dry wit meshes well with the humour of Adams, giving it a connection with the original texts. Each chapter ties in - sometimes rather loosely - with a particular theme from Adams’ works, such as the Restaurant at the end of the universe, or considerations of alien life and what it might get up to. 

Some of the scientific ideas presented are unusual, such as the suggestion that just because it’s likely that we will one day develop computers powerful enough to simulate an entire world, there is no way to be certain we’re not already living in one. To be fair, the author does point out that such ideas are a little unlikely but you can never be sure.

All in all, this book is not a bad read; but then it’s not a particularly good one either. You can’t help feeling that the publisher decided to jump on the ’Science of.’ bandwagon to coincide with the release of the new Hitchhiker’s movie. Fans of Adams’ work will probably find it an interesting read and a good summary of some of the wackier ideas out there at the moment in physics and astronomy. Others could feel this book is just a little surplus to requirements.