Special thanks to Chris Lintott for answering 5 questions about the book he co-authored which was recently featured – The Cosmic Tourist: The 100 Most Awe-inspiring Destinations in the Universe
Christopher John Lintott is an English astrophysicist, working as a researcher in the Department of Physics in the University of Oxford. Lintott is involved in a number of popular science projects aimed at bringing astronomy to a wider audience. – From Wikipedia
#1 – What was the impetus for this book?
A combination of things. In our previous book. Bang!, we tried to tell the history of the Universe from the beginning to the end, or at least to the far future. I still think that was a good idea, but it did have the unfortunate effect of putting the hardest stuff at the front! We tried very hard – and I think mostly succeeded – to explain all the wonderful cosmological questions that people had, but while it was well received I know some people found it tough. So the Cosmic Tourist was deliberately designed to be a gentler ride – not a dumbed down version of Bang but a different journey, this time starting on Earth and working outwards, all the while keeping the very latest research in mind.
#2 – Working with Brian May and Sir Patrick Moore. What did each of you bring to the book?
In Patrick’s case I think it’s obvious; he was the impetus behind the project and the person who wrote the early drafts. His writing style was so clear, and so fluid, that it provided great foundations. He also played the critical role of hassling Brian and I until we felt guilty enough to get our jobs done. My role was to bring in the latest research, and ensure the book was up to date, while Brian, who is, don’t forget, a highly qualified astronomer was wonderfully perfectionist – once Brian was happy with something then I knew we’d explained it well. Looking at the book now it’s hard to tell who wrote what – it was a true collaboration.
#3 – How did you decide which 100 destinations to limit it to?
A lot of arguments over a bottle or two of wine! We obviously all had our favourites – Patrick could have filled a book with lunar recommendations for tourists, and I’d be very happy skating from fuzzy galaxy to fuzzy galaxy. In the end it was a balance between what looked good in the images and where the good stories were.
#4 – Where did you source the wonderful images for the book?
Astronomy’s full of great pictures, and so we were spoiled for choice. One thing we tried to do where possible was use amateur images alongside those from spacecraft and from professional telescopes. What amateur astrophotographers can achieve is amazing, and I bet you can’t tell which are which without looking!
#5 – Are you working on any new projects/books that you can tell us about?
No. But let’s just say watch this space!