Readers will know that Isaac is quite the philosopher. Having reached the limits of my knowledge about death, God and whether a cheetah can run faster than a car, he is turning his thoughts to the cosmos. And I’m learning how little I know. In the International Year of Astronomy, that would seem to be timely problem to fix. I wouldn’t mind starting with Christopher Potter’s voyage around the cosmos, ‘You are Here’ (see the carousel, bottom right, for a link). You can read a Guardian interview with Potter here.
As with many who have mused on the stars, Potter’s fascination began in childhood. As I describe in my own book, understanding where you fit in to the universe is just part of children’s general project of making sense of where they are in time and space. But the research I describe in Chapter 13 (‘The Young Doctor Who’) also suggests that knowledge about cosmology might progress relatively independently of other kinds of knowledge, such as biology or physics. Turning to the heavens may not necessarily be a sign that a child is fully conversant with the rules of life on earth. Knowledgeable he may be about the moons of Jupiter and the death of stars, but Isaac still gets hopelessly confused about whether he can go round to play with his friend Elina in Australia. As Potter might agree, you can be a poet of the heavens while still treading clumsily on the earth.