You can call him Al. Again

It’s over. And over a week ago at that. But I only finally caught up with the third and last episode of Prof Jim Al-Khalili’s BBC4 series Science and Islam last night.

I flagged it up just before the series started and had been quite excited, having enjoyed Atom, Al-Khalili’s earlier documentary about the hey-day of physics in the early 20th century. It didn’t quite deliver at the outset, although things improved with each episode. The final program was easily the best of the bunch and unearthed some telling detail about the influence of Arabic/Islamic astronomy on Copernicus.

Overall I think it was a worthy effort, though you really can’t get through much material in three hours of telly. I’m tempted by the book (actually written by someone else – Eshan Masood), since it is an important period in history, especially given the current parlous state of relations between the west and the middle east. You can hear more about the Abbasid Caliphs who started of the Islamic Empire on In Our Time.

I would go on but there’s a more considered review of the series on Andreas Forster’s blog. Andreas is a postdoc at Imperial who tells me he is “thinking about” getting started on Nature Network. So how about heading over there to read his piece, leave a comment and encourage him with some of that world-famous NN lovin’?

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12 Responses to You can call him Al. Again

  1. Lee Turnpenny says:

    Thanks for the flag on the book, Stephen, as I’d missed some of the series, but what I did see was fascinating. Some good stuff on BBC4.

  2. Stephen Curry says:

    Cheers Lee. I’m afraid my post was too late to let people catch up with it on iPlayer (beyond the 7-day limit). If you get through the book anytime soon I’d be very interested to read what you thought of it.

  3. Stephen Curry says:

    By the way, I presume you have seen that Jenny’s book club is doing moths next month…

  4. Maxine Clarke says:

    Ehsan (author of the book) is currently one of my colleagues at Nature again. He worked for us as a news reporter some years ago, then moved upwards to higher things elsewhere;-). During this time, he has written and contributed much to Nature on the topic of science and Islam, the Middle East and other excellent contributions. Currently, we are very lucky to have him back with us for some months while he covers Sara Abdulla’s maternity leave as Chief Commissioning Editor – that is, in charge of our “opinion” sections – Book Reviews, Commentaries, Essays, etc, and Podcasts. Ehsan is also organising some fascinating science and culture events at Kings Place, the new conference and concert venue next to the Nature offices. Ehsan’s contactable via the usual Nature email address convention, if you are interested in following up with him on science and Islam or other topics.

  5. Stephen Curry says:

    What a tiny, tiny world it is! I guess I’d better read that book now…
    I presume any interesting events will be advertised here.

  6. Andreas Forster says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Stephen, and thanks also for putting the pressure on. The reason I haven’t made the move yet is that I blog about all sorts of things but hardly ever about science. For now I’ll stick to my noncommittal ‘let’s see’.

  7. Stephen Curry says:

    Of course, it’s entirely your call Andreas, but I notice that the piece on Science and Islam wasn’t your only recent post about science…! 😉

  8. Lee Turnpenny says:

    Stephen – Thanks… and vice-versa; as I’ve plenty on the pile, I’ll likely wait for the paperback.
    (‘Moths’…? Me…?)

  9. Maxine Clarke says:

    Funnily enough, I came across news of one of these Ehsan-inspired great events after writing the above comment, via Li-Kim Lee (a.k.a. the goddess of Nature Network):
    Are We Still Evolving? A debate at Kings Place 9 Feb 2009
    Is natural selection still shaping humans, given that our survival is often more dependent on technology than genes? What might our species look like 1000 years from now?
    Along with Sue Blackmore (psychologist, writer and Visiting Lecturer at the University of the West of England, Bristol) and Andrew Pomiankowski (Professor of Genetics, University College London), the famous NN blogger Henry Gee will be debating if human evolution is still going on. The discussion will be chaired by Oliver Morton [Nature’s Chief News and Features Editor – and book author].
    The Nature Darwin Debate 1: Are we Still Evolving? will take place in Hall One at NPG’s neighbour, Kings Place. More details here.
    PS Hope we see Andreas blogging over here sometime!

  10. Stephen Curry says:

    @Lee – I’ll race you, very slowly…
    @Maxine – Alas, I would have gone but already have (free) tickets for another evolutionary event at Imperial on the same night – Olivia Judson talking to Darwin biographers Adrian Desmond and James about their new book.

  11. Maxine Clarke says:

    Oh dear, that is quite a clash of the Titans, isn’t it? What a pity.

  12. Stephen Curry says:

    There is a review by Gillian Beer of Desmond’s and Moore’s book (_Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins_) in today’s Guardian, alongside a review of Steve Jones’s opus on the great man, __Darwin’s Island: The Galapagos in the Garden of England_. She seems to prefer Jones’s work, though the two cover rather different aspects of Darwin’s life.

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