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Anne Wallingford, WordSmith

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Addendum to Eric Schulman's Interview

In my introduction to Eric Schulman, I mentioned that, after reading his interview replies, I thought of several other questions to ask him. Eric was kind enough to send answers to those questions, so here they are! And, if any readers have additional questions for Eric, please send them along. He has graciously agreed to send replies!

- Anne Wallingford

Click here for: The original Introduction and Interview with Dr. Eric Schulman, Science Humorist, Author, and Astronomer.

Interview Addendum
Questions and Answers

Q: Have you ever seen the short video, shown several years ago at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, where Julie Child cooked-up a primordial soup to show how life began on earth?
Eric: No, I never saw Julia Child cooking up primordial soup, although Cosmos did include a couple of scenes reminiscent of that.

Q: How old were you when Sagan's "Cosmos" series influenced you? (I was in my mid-20s, and teaching, when the show ran on PBS.)
Eric: I was about 11 when I saw Cosmos on PBS. My parents were teachers in Los Angeles at the time and my Dad got a Cosmos poster that he gave to me. There were two really the great things about this poster. One was the collection of "powers of ten" pictures along the outside; it had a picture 1 meter across in the center, and pictures 0.1 meters and 10 meters across on either side, and 0.01 and 100 meters across on either side of those, etc.

So the pictures went from the size of a proton (10^-15 meters across) up through a carbon atom, a molecule of DNA, a cell, a person's skin, a picture of that person on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the city of San Francisco, the state of California, the Western Hemisphere of the Earth, the Earth-Moon system, the inner Solar System, the entire Solar System, the nearest stars, the local spiral arm of the Galaxy, the entire Milky Way Galaxy, the Local Group of galaxies in which we reside, the Local Supercluster of clusters of galaxies, and the entire observable universe (10^23 meters across).

These 39 pictures showed people--me in particular--how the very big and the very small are connected.

The other really great thing about this poster was a calendar showing the events during the history of the universe. On this calendar, a month was about a billion years long.

The Galaxy doesn't form until about April, and the Sun doesn't form until about October. Life appears on Earth shortly afterwards, but multicellular organisms don't appear until December. Written human history occupies the last 20 seconds or so of December 31. So this one poster brought together the very, very big and the very, very small as well as the very, very old and the very, very recent. Which is just what I set out to do in Briefer History almost 20 years later!

Q: How does one enter a contest to win the Hugo? Does your publisher enter your book? Do you submit copies?
Eric: In the year 2000 the convention was held in Chicago. The Hugo nominees are selected by those who will be attending that convention as well as by those who attended the previous convention (the 1999 World Science Fiction Convention was held in Australia).

So, no, the publisher doesn't enter the book and I don't submit copies. Whether or not A Briefer History of Time gets nominated for the Hugo award for best related book in March of 2000 will depend on a) how many science fiction fans have read the book, and b) how many of those readers believe that it deserves to be nominated for that award.

Q: Would you be interested in doing a follow-up interview if enough questions are generated by readers?
Eric: I think it very likely. :)


Comment from the Editor: Although the Powers of Ten poster described by Dr. Schulman is no longer in print, both a Powers of Ten book and flip book are on the market. And of course Dr. Schulman's own book, A Briefer History of Time is also available.
Powers of Ten: About the Relative Size of the Universe (W.H. Freeman, ISBN 0-7167-3441-8)
Powers of Ten Flip Book (W.H. Freeman, ISBN 0-7167-3441-9)
A Briefer History of Time (W.H. Freeman, ISBN 0-7167-3389-7)


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041403 Monday, June 07, 2010