Quirks and Quarks guide to space: bite-sized answers to the massive questions of inquisitive astronomical ponderers

For my money, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Quirks and Quarks is the best science radio broadcast on the air (and the best science podcast on the net). It's witty, layperson-friendly, cutting edge, uncompromising and relentless in its quest to make science engaging and interesting to a broad, diverse audience.

So it's no surprise that Jim Lebans's The Quirks and Quarks Guide to Space: 42 Questions (and Answers) About Life, the Universe and Everything is the kind of astronomy book that manages to make subjects like star classification, galactic collision, space-folding, orbital pollution and other staples of astronomical curiosity into easy-to-understand, fascinating little stories that have something to say to anyone who's ever looked up at the night sky and wondered.

Each of the 42 questions is answered in a short, breezy essay style that will be familiar to anyone who tunes into the show. These are the perfect length for reading aloud in the car on long trips, bedtime stories, or on the crapper (ideal for this last, in fact, especially when you find out about all the deadly, high-velocity space-turds released by Shuttle and Mir crews -- talk about icy BMs!). And the book is the perfect source to turn to the next time you're wondering about dark matter, dark energy, the beginning and end of the universe, and other large imponderables. The Quirks & Quarks Guide to Space: 42 Questions (and Answers) About Life, the Universe, and Everything


  1. Hey, Cory, please b/l/a/m/e/ credit Spider for that “icy BM” thingy…it was Spider’s horrid shaggy dog story about leaky airline toilets, blue ice and the “icy BM”s that I heard that term many moons ago…

    But as excellent as Quirks and Quarks may be, it makes a great companion to Ideas. Especially the Sept 8th episode, which quotes you, among others on the subject “Who owns Ideas?”. This episode Ideas was also writen by Jim Lebans.

    You can download the postcast of that episode here:


  2. My 12-year old son read this book with huge enthusiasm, and highly recommended that I read it too. (I haven’t had the chance yet- my girlfriend took it and started reading it.) It was my son’s first ‘real science book’ and totally captivated him.

  3. Just a quick point which you may or may not find relevant, but the CBC is a publicly-owned and funded media corporation. Unlike PBS in the United States of ‘merica, the CBC gets money handed to it directly from the government tax collector.

    The quality of radio and television created by the CBC is among the best in the world, and yes I’m a biased Canuck, but that doesn’t change the fact that the CBC rocks!

  4. I’ve never heard this show, so I can’t say for sure, but are you seriously suggesting that this is a better science radio-show than Radio Lab? Because… somehow I doubt such a thing exists.

  5. Warning – vanity post.

    Oskar (#10). Radio Lab’s great. But we do 42 episodes a year (yeah, another bizarro coincidence) and we’re a different kind of show. They do fabulous sound, we’re a little more conventional.

    Besides, comparisons are odious ;)


  6. #13: Well, I’m certainly going to start subscribing, I love science shows of any kind. And it will be nice with a show with a little more regularity :)

  7. CBC Radio does ROCK!

    Q&Q is one of their best.

    If you’re a Science Geek then you’ve got to check out CBC’s Ideas: How to Think About Science @ http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/features/science/index.html
    – 24 episodes, all just under 53 minutes.

    If science is neither cookery, nor angelic virtuosity, then what is it?
    Modern societies have tended to take science for granted as a way of knowing, ordering and controlling the world. Everything was subject to science, but science itself largely escaped scrutiny. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years. Historians, sociologists, philosophers and sometimes scientists themselves have begun to ask fundamental questions about how the institution of science is structured and how it knows what it knows. David Cayley talks to some of the leading lights of this new field of study.

    podcast link: http://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/index.html?newsandcurrent#thinkaboutscience

    or find it on iTunes.

  8. I regularly listen to both Radio Lab’s and Q&Q’s podcasts (90 minute commute leaves plenty of time). I think the 2 shows address 2 different needs. Q&Q’s more of a “what’s happening now” survey, although more in-depth than, say, The Naked Scientists. Radio Lab is more “how many ways can we approach a single idea”?

    at #13 — I’d agree that Radio Lab sounds great. But Q&Q’s still far better than the frequently nearly-inaudible telephone interviews on The Naked Scientists and Nature podcasts.

    Strangely, I’ve never heard of Ideas. Thanks for the recommendations.

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