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The Science of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materialsby Mary Gribbin
Synopses & Reviews
The secret of science, and
all the stars that shine
''She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.''
...her knowledge was patchy. She knew about atoms and
elementary particles, and anbaromagnetic charges and the four fundamental forces and other bits and pieces of experimental theology, but nothing about the solar system. In fact, when Mrs. Coulter realized this and explained how the earth and the other five planets revolved around the sun, Lyra laughed loudly at the joke.
However, she was keen to show that she did know some things, and when Mrs. Coulter was telling her about electrons, she said expertly, "Yes, they're negatively charged particles. Sort of like Dust, except that Dust isn't charged."
Science is explainable magic. If you were a time traveler visiting our world from the ancient past, you would think that magic was everywhere around you. Planes flying, cars moving, even frozen food would seem strange and miraculous. They are not strange magic to us because we are used to them and because we know they work by science, not magic. In ancient times, people were amazed and awed by things like rainbows and eclipses, things they had no control over. We still can't control these things, but we aren't scared of them, because we understand the science behind them.
In Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, when Lyra visits Will's world, things like cars seem magical to her. And in Lyra's world there are things, like the alethiometer, and Dust, that seem like magic to Will. But even these things are really based on science. We are going to tell you about that science, the science of His Dark Materials. The story is all about uncovering hidden truth. The truly big magic that Philip Pullman weaves into his story is the magic that understanding things and knowing how the world works makes it less scary. He shows us that knowledge and science put you more in control of things.
This means more than understanding how a frozen pizza is made. Understanding frozen pizza is pretty smart, but the understanding behind His Dark Materials involves the whole Universe. That's where the "Dark Materials" come from. We're not talking here about the kind of material used to make a shirt or a curtain, but much more mysterious stuff, a kind of invisible matter that fills the Universe.
The worlds inhabited by Lyra, Will, and the other characters are embedded in a sea of Dust, which falls on them from space, and is real, but cannot be seen by human eyes. The characters, especially Lyra and Will, are also surrounded by a sea of knowledge. There is information about the world that they know nothing about when the story begins, but that they learn about, with the help of the alethiometer, as their adventure unfolds.
Both these images are true. Knowledge really does make the world a better place to live in. And astronomers really do have evidence that there is about ten times as much dark stuff in our Universe as there are bright stars and galaxies. Just like Dust, this dark material is not like anything ever detected on Earth. It isn't made of the kind of atoms and molecules your body is made of, or the air yo
Traveling through space and time, this adventurous tale explores the reality of parallel worlds in this addition to the celebrated science fiction trilogy for young adult readers. Reprint.
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is renowned for its mystery and magic. What’s the truth behind it all? Is the golden compass actually based in science? How does the subtle knife cut through anything? Could there be a bomb like the one made with Lyra’s hair? How do the Gallivespians’ lodestone resonators really work? And, of course, what are the Dark Materials? Drawing on string theory and spacetime, quantum physics and chaos theory, award-winning science writers Mary and John Gribbin reveal the real science behind Philip Pullman’s bestselling fantasy trilogy in entertaining and crystal-clear prose.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Mary and John Gribbin are award-winning science writers for both adults and children whose books include Eyewitness: Time & Space. John Gribbin has a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Cambridge and is a Research Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex. The Gribbins live on the Sussex coast in England with two sons, one dog, one cat.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Introduction — Bright materials : the secret of science, and all the stars that shine — Dark materials : the hidden world, and the nature of dust — Northern lights : lights in the sky, and the magnetic web — Golden compass : the meaning of truth, and the unconscious — Other worlds : worlds beyond the world, and the quantum cat — Subtle knife : hidden dimensions, and how to cut them — Worlds of if : the power of choice, and a balancing act — Living together : the nature of wheels, hummingbirds, and the living planet — Amber spyglass : how to see invisible light, and the way scientists work — Entanglement : love is all you need.
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