If you’ve ever wondered why we accumulate such compressed fibers of tissue in the navel, Graham Lawton has the right book for you. In “The Origin of (Almost) Everything” the science journalist delves into the most important scientific theories about the beginning of things that surround us and satisfies the interest of the most curious.
“The goal was to create a comprehensive book with global appeal, and I think we probably did it,” says the author in a video conference interview from home in the UK. After being translated into almost all European languages, “A Origin” is published in Brazil by the Seoman publishing house.
Lawton is a reporter for the British science magazine New Scientist, of which he was previously the editor-in-chief. With 65 years of existence, the magazine is one of the most important references in specialist journalism in the region. The book was published in the UK in 2016 by the magazine.
Some of the texts that make up the work are content that has already been published in the magazine and that have been given a facelift – and appealing graphics. “But most of the texts are original, created for the book in the style of the magazine,” explains the author.
Most of the book has the direct, humorous tone that is characteristic of New Scientist, and even more complex and thorny subjects – such as the origins of life and the universe – are treated with ease and scientific rigor.
“When you deal with issues that are very important to people, such as existential questions or the origin of the universe and planet earth, we have many origin myths surrounded by sacred values and people have a spiritual connection to them. It can be very challenging to work with these topics, ”says the author.
“Even in more secular countries like the UK, people are not very comfortable with these issues,” he adds.
It was also a challenge to choose what to say in the book. Lawton holds a degree in biochemistry from Imperial College London, but his career as a journalist has spanned many branches of science. Lawton has left out football, one of his passions: “We can’t have everything,” laments the passionate author.
The work arrives in Brazil at a time when the demand for scientific information was growing during the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic. Scientific terms and processes that were previously ignored are now being followed comprehensively by the international press and are constantly in the minds of the population.
Reflecting this movement, New Scientist was bought for 70 million euros (about R $ 430 million) from the company that publishes the Daily Mail, a popular English newspaper. The deal was made earlier this year for the huge profits the magazine was set to make over the coming months.
“During the pandemic, we saw a deluge of unverified articles and theories. So it was difficult to navigate through all of this information. Some of the material was good, some of it utter nonsense, and there were still things that were in the thick of it, ”he says. “Our job as science journalists was to select good, solid, and verifiable content.”
For the author, a stronger scientific education among the population, i.e. knowledge of science and its processes, would make it easier to deal with the pandemic.
“Imagine a science-free pandemic like the Black Death [século 14]. We would be lost! I think people got that; The success in vaccine development shows that science is very useful, ”he says.
More transparency about what is done in the laboratories should help attract more people to scientific careers, says the author. “We have to change the culture that says you have to be a genius to understand science,” he says.
But all of the exposure of scientists and science can have a dangerous side. During the pandemic, scientists around the world turned to social networks like Twitter to share and comment on research. Lawton says one of the results of this interaction is to better inform people. “But there is also a lot of bad information on Twitter,” he says.
“A lot of journalists have switched from real journalism to Twitter. Instead of contacting sources and asking questions, they just search for something on Twitter, and that’s not journalism, ”he says.