Welcome to the first installment of “Two-Minute Interview,” which I hope will be a weekly feature here.
Don’t you sometimes just want to ask someone a single question? I do. I decided to start close to home, with my father, Bernie Rosner. All my life, my dad devoured books. But not just any books; they were on the most wide-ranging and often obscure topics you could think of. Centuries and Styles of the American Chair, 1640-1970. England’s Thousand Best Churches. The Rise and Fall of Maya Civilization. It became something of a family joke at holidays to see who could come up with the most outrageously esoteric book for him. Lately, though, the bulk of the books piled on various tables around his apartment are about science. I wondered about the allure.
Q: Why do you read so many books about science?
A: I guess it’s an extension of my interests as a teenager. When I was growing up, science fiction was just starting to emerge in a serious way. The science fiction greats like Ray Bradbury and A. E. van Voght were writing amazing, mind-stretching things. Even L. Ron Hubbard was interesting.
I started out in science as a college student, then wandered off into the arts, then the dark arts of advertising. I guess I’m trying to re-connect to my science roots.
If you’re interested in science, it’s necessary to keep up with the latest books, because science is a field that keeps obsoleting itself.
The history of France, for instance, while interesting, is not likely to change from year to year. But astrophysics is. History is fixed, more or less. Science is in flux. Even something as rock-solid as evolutionary theory keeps evolving.
Also, since there’s generally not a plot involved [editor’s note: GASP!], or a host of characters to follow [editor’s note: DOUBLE GASP!], you can dabble in science books by reading a few at a time. Right now I’m reading Adventures Among Ants by Mark Moffett, The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics by James Kakalios and The Beekeepers Lament by Hannah Nordhaus, which you gave me.
I’ve just finished two interesting books on early humans, one about Cro Magnons (us) and the other about Neanderthals (not us).
One of my big interests is cave art. It’s mind-boggling to think that our immediate ancestors, some 30,000 years ago, worked their way into the remotest corners of caves, with flimsy torches, to leave their mark upon the walls. This ability to think symbolically led to computers and putting a man on the moon. The first five million years of human evolution didn’t produce very much except crude stone tools, but the last 30,000 years or so were off the charts.
I’m also fascinated by fossilization. I used to think that fossils were just old bones. Then I learned that fossils were bones that had been converted to stone, through minerals in the sediment replacing the organic matter in the bones. A stone replica. How can you not be amazed at that?
Every time you pick up the newspaper (or view it online), there’s another new scientific discovery to read about. I don’t mean to keep picking on France–but when was the last time you read about a new discovery in French history?