17 June 2010

Guest Post: Martin Chatterton on Holes

On Monday, I reviewed The Brain Full of Holes by Martin Chatterton. As you could tell, I really like Martin's style and off-beat humor, and I bet you will too.

I am happy to have the opportunity to welcome Martin to Beth Fish Reads. I was curious about how he came up with the idea to write about holes, especially because I don't want anyone messing with my Swiss cheese. Here's a look into Martin's thought process.

Holes: They're Full of It

In my book, The Brain Full of Holes, Theo Brain, the lead character, and self-styled "World's Greatest Detective," discovers there's something fishy going on when the holes in his Swiss cheese sandwich disappear. Swiss cheese sandwiches, as The Brain and all sandwich aficionados know full well, must contain holes—and fairly substantial ones at that—if they are to qualify as Swiss cheese sandwiches. He and his trusted sidekick, Sheldon, embark on a thrilling (well I was fairly thrilled) adventure in which, amongst many other things of staggering stupidity, the very meaning of the universe is discussed.

I began this story with holes as a subject. Holes, it struck me, are everywhere. Black holes in particular, when I looked into the subject, seem to be particularly mystifying for us clod-hopping humans. The basic sum of all expert scientific knowledge about what constitutes black holes, seems to consist of "Er, we dunno, really. Could be very interesting but, quite frankly, we're all too dumb to have the foggiest clue. Sorry." The nearest I could fathom is that black holes, like a lot of the universe seems to consist of stuff we can't see. Which seems to be about as good a definition of a hole as anything else.

The other big starting point for The Brain Full of Holes was the discovery that the scientific community was, for some utterly unknown and deeply worrying reason, spending a bazillion trillion Euros on building a Large Hadron Collider underneath the Swiss Alps. Apart from wondering why this twenty-seven-kilometre circle of concrete was being built in the first place, I couldn't help wonder why it was being built in Switzerland. Switzerland is not a country noted for its go-getting scientific research. It is noted for cuckoo clocks, chocolate, lederhosen, and gnomic Swiss bankers who hid Nazi gold. So why build a gigantic science project under Europe's largest mountains?

Well, possibly, I thought, because these boffins have something to hide. The public face of the Large Hadron Collider is that its all a bit of fun; sort of a Nerds Science Camp on steroids. The logic seems to run like this: We're going to fire particles around and around a tube magnetised to a ludicrous degree, and then smash them into something and see what happens.

Its that "see what happens" which concerns me. "Let's see what happens" could well include the sucking up of all matter in the universe into one central point—in this case, somewhere near Lucerne, Switzerland. I've only been to Switzerland twice and, while it's a very pleasant place for a holiday, I have no desire to be forcibly returned there, along with the rest of the universe, because a bunch of over-achieving physics students want to play with the forces of nature. The last time the boys in white coats did that, we ended up with Hiroshima.

I don't want to sound like I don't like science. Far from it. When researching The Brain Full of Holes I did find out some astonishing information. Astonishing to a meat-headed artsy-fartsy chap like meself, anyway. Did you know that pretty much all of an atom is empty space? Apparently this is the case. Or we see it as empty space but—and this is where it gets really spooky—there's something else in there we can't see. I'll repeat that in case you didn't get it first time round. There's something else inside atoms that we can't see.

Atoms form the entire universe. And we can't see 99% of what they are made of.

My question is: What the hell is in there?

It could be anything. Miniature polar bears. The World of Who. The source of immortality. Old shoes. I chose to believe that given all that empty space, there could be a large number of parallel universes all existing simultaneously. Which meant that I could write about all the fun things I like to write about. Impossible things. Things that can't happen (or can they?). Silly things. Scary things. Things with just enough fact behind them to be plausible in some way (my definition of plausible is a highly elastic one).

The last point I want to make in this guest blog is about your brain. My title wasn't an accident. The brain is full of holes. It's an amazing thing, the brain, but there's no getting away from the fact that it's a soggy lump of grey tissue with the consistency of Jell-O. And, at an atomic level, it is basically made of fresh air. The thing you think with, the organ that dissects and discusses everything you read—including drivel such as this—is pretty much clinging together through nothing more than electricity and good luck. We are full of holes. If you had a very good microscope you could see how holey we all are. It's a good job we don't have microscopic vision because otherwise you'd be able to look straight through Uncle Albert.

So the next time you see a hole, just stop for a moment and think. Alternatively, you could do something useful.

Thanks so much, Martin. I have read this post a few times now (apparently I can't do something useful), and I still laugh out loud. I love Martin's sense of humor and quirky view of things. I am looking forward to the next installment in the series. What will The Brain and Sheldon and Helga get themselves into next?

The Brain Full of Holes at Powell's
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Note: All images are in the public domain: Cheese from Clipart Graphics, Alps by Tim Spilman, black hole from NASA, and brain from PowerPoint.


Julie P. 6/17/10, 7:04 AM  

Great guest post. I do feel as if I got a sense of his writing style!

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog 6/17/10, 7:59 AM  

Great guest post and a perfect example, at least for me, of how hearing about a book in an author's own words makes potential readers more interested. These are on my list now!

Jenn's Bookshelves 6/17/10, 8:43 AM  

Fantastic guest post! Martin is hilarious! I'll have to share this one with my oldest son; he's quite a fan of little scientific factoids. He's my little budding scientist!

Sandy Nawrot 6/17/10, 11:04 AM  

OMG he is a freaking hoot! I would think just about anything he would write would be entertaining.

Robin M 6/17/10, 11:36 AM  

Great post and I like how his mind thinks.

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