The Importance of Being Interested

Adventures in Scientific Curiosity

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Pub Date 7 Oct 2021 | Archive Date 8 Oct 2021

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'A delightful and scintillating hymn to science.' Carlo Rovelli Comedian Robin Ince quickly abandoned science at school, bored by a fog of dull lessons and intimidated by the barrage of equations. But, twenty years later, he fell in love and he now presents one of the world's most popular science podcasts. Every year he meets hundreds of the world's greatest thinkers. In this erudite and witty book, Robin reveals why scientific wonder isn't just for the professionals. Filled with interviews featuring astronauts, comedians, teachers, quantum physicists, neuroscientists and more - as well as charting Robin's own journey with science - The Importance of Being Interested explores why many wrongly think of the discipline as distant and difficult. From the glorious appeal of the stars above to why scientific curiosity can encourage much needed intellectual humility, this optimistic and profound book will leave you filled with a thirst for intellectual adventure.

'A delightful and scintillating hymn to science.' Carlo Rovelli Comedian Robin Ince quickly abandoned science at school, bored by a fog of dull lessons and intimidated by the barrage of equations...

Advance Praise

'A delightful and scintillating hymn to science. Resolutely a non-scientist, Robin Ince discovers with awe that when science addresses the "big problems" and destroys familiar beliefs, it does not leave us in a cold, meaningless and de-humanized world, but in a one which is colourful, human, full of intensity and wonder.' - Professor Carlo Rovelli, bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics 

'Wonderful! A beautifully written elegy to science, combining wonder, mystery and humour. Curiosity dances across the pages. Robin's take on science is human, funny but also deeply enthralling.' - Professor Alice Roberts, TV presenter, academic and bestselling author of Ancestors

'Robin is the most engaging of science communicators. As someone who also struggled with science as a child, still finds physics an impossible foreign tongue, and came late to the fulfilment of a curious mind, I found this book by turns challenging, entertaining and moving.' - Steve Backshall, BAFTA-winning British explorer, naturalist, presenter and writer 

'With razor-sharp wit and insight, Robin slices into the biggest questions of our time. The Importance of Being Interested left me smiling and thinking more deeply' - Commander Chris Hadfield, astronaut and bestselling author

'Brilliant and Entertaining. Science is done by humans, and humans are the only reason that science matters: curiosity is part of human nature, but sometimes we need reminding just how much is out there to explore and enjoy.' - Dr Helen Czerski, Physicist and bestselling author of Storm in a Teacup

'A delightful and scintillating hymn to science. Resolutely a non-scientist, Robin Ince discovers with awe that when science addresses the "big problems" and destroys familiar beliefs, it does not...

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ISBN 9781786492623
PRICE US$28.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

I think The Importance Of Being Interested is excellent. It is witty, insightful and extremely interesting.

Robin Ince, as most readers will know, is a comedian who began with little knowledge of science but developed an interest and has now presented over 100 episodes of The Infinite Monkey Cage with Prof. Brian Cox on Radio 4. In The Importance Of Being Interested, he reflects on his and others’ responses to discoveries in science, using the very considerable knowledge he has gained combined with the humility of a non-expert, to try to understand what some of these ideas mean to people. These people include a wide range of scientists, astronauts and the like who have deep knowledge of the subjects, and also ordinary non-scientists. It’s a fascinating, thoughtful and entertaining read.

Ince addresses subjects like the relationship between science and religion, what space travel means for humanity, evolution and why some people refuse so violently to accept it and so on. He is plainly knowledgeable but wisely leaves most scientific exposition to experts whom he has talked to or read, while concentrating on the human aspects of what the science means. I found it fascinating and very well balanced; for example, as an atheist himself he has immense respect for a lot of rational religious people, strives to understand how it it possible to believe in both scientific rationalism and a God and concludes (correctly in my view) that it certainly is, even if it isn’t a set of beliefs he shares. Ince he has no truck with anti-scientific ideas which clearly go against the evidence, but is genuinely interested in finding out why some people hold them and seem to be immune to reason. He also recognises the importance of trying to re-establish rationality in areas where irrationality and conspiracy theory abound, and the importance of making genuine human contact and explaining scientific ideas with respect and humility. No one has ever been insulted into changing their mind.

One other aspect which I liked very much is that Ince stresses how much scientific knowledge has enhanced his – and humanity’s – awe, respect and wonder at the universe and the natural world. I have always thought that it was a naive and insulting view of the universe to insist that analysing and investigating a poem, for example, leads us to a greater appreciation of its beauty, but doing the same for the natural world somehow destroys all beauty and wonder in it. My own study of science has had quite the opposite effect and it is very pleasing to see this view shared and advocated so well.

In short, this is a fascinating, humane and very enjoyable read. I can recommend it very warmly.

(My thanks to Atlantic Books for an ARC via NetGalley.)

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Robin has such a way with words that made this an utter joy to read. I saw so much of my own early experiences in his (and no doubt, what many others will have found too) with the loss of a spark in secondary school science classes. Where all of a sudden all the bright colours of science are turned drab and grey and you can’t wait for the bell to ring to be out of that physics classroom!!

But it’s so important to keep a curiosity when it comes to science. It is everywhere whether we like it or not. In our lives, in what we do, in what we are. It can be an amazing thing when that spark for science is relighted and something I’m very grateful to the Infinite Monkey Cage podcasts for, which Robin Ince also hosts (would recommend!).

I found my love for science through curiosity and I’m now a scientist so, guess anyone can overcome their preconceived high school dislike of science.

Many people think science is for ‘others’. For people with an Einstein level IQ and those who were born with a quantum physics book in their hand. But science is everyone’s. Robin really goes a long way to show that and this book is beyond perfect to rekindle a curiosity in science. It can enrich your life and how you think, and can be nothing but a benefit to those who retain their curiosity about the world and the universe through science.

It really is greatly written and I love Robin’s style of writing. So easy going, entertaining, a pleasure to read and easy to sink into. Non fiction can be something that people struggle to read but not so with this one.

Whether it’s about conspiracy theories and questioning our information, on the topics of science and religion, the vastness of the universe, aliens or about our place in the universe, there’s definitely something in here for everyone to get your brain firing and your curiosity peaked. The chapter about life and death was so beautifully written and so well done.

The book also includes talks to many eminent researchers in their field, astronauts who have had a very unique perspective of earth and those who have had their own stories to tell when it comes to scientific curiosity. With that and Robin’s own thoughts and experiences, it made for very informative and great reading. A very worthwhile read! I loved it.

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