PROJECT HAIL MARY
📘 Book: Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
I don’t know if you’ve ever read a psychiatric report on a patient. A whole breakdown of demeanour, communication, thought and processing. An analysis of someone’s reason, behaviour, emotions and manner. Now imagine a whole psychiatric report for humanity. That’s how I’d describe science fiction books.
They allow you to step outside of everything for a second: why do we smile when we’re happy, wave to say hi and naturally understand that there’s such a concept of taking turns? By zooming out, questioning the unquestionable assumed basics, we escape from the daily and mundane, not only physically by leaving the solar system, but mentally by leaving assumptions, little worries and differences behind.
I absolutely love this genre, here’s what Project Hail Mary taught me:
🪄 Actionable takeaways:
We underrate our ability to accept and survive extreme situations, we’re stronger than we think we are. A lot of energy is wasted in futile fear of what might happen, most of which never will happen, and all of which we are likely to survive.
There is deep intellectual pleasure, excitement and relief to be found in questioning the basics of human existence. Why do we talk the way we do? Why do we wave? Why do we take turns? Why do we live as long as we do and mate the way we do?
The difference between science in Sci-Fi novels and science in school and university is truly insane - it’s the same laws and rules and calculations, yet they are made to be so practical, interesting and engaging in novels, it’s worth considering and breaking down how this is achieved to improve my own desire and interest to learn (and potentially teach if we can call YouTube that)
Having practical, real-life problems to tackle and solutions with discernible consequences (humanity will die unless…, this alien will die unless you solve this issue) makes things much more fun and engaging to work with rather than vague, non-specific problems that no-one is interested in (what is the time it takes light to go from Venus to Mars). Adding consequences and storytelling to equations and problems can transform them from dry to engaging.
The best combination of people to survive the end of the world is real scientists and real engineers. (real = great and creative, people who understand the concepts and can use them creatively)
Knowing a few segmented formulas in physics and some laws in other science subjects does not equate to scientific literacy. Every time I read about these scientists I feel my heart sink for how fragmented and pathetic my scientific knowledge is. I cannot apply it creatively, I can answer our fake questions in books but cannot ‘yield’ it properly. The way we are taught breaks my heart.
Being literate in science is so underrated (I should do more of this too). Knowing how very very basic things work: how distance, time, mechanics, machines, chemicals, nutrition work is surprisingly not taught to us. The true basics of science were never made fun enough, interesting enough and valuable enough for me to learn. I think this needs changing and I need to figure out how to go about it.
The book said children struggle to conceptualise the suffering of other people, but they can understand the suffering of animals much better. I almost cried (in a book about humanity potentially being wiped out) only when an alien almost died: am I a child?
🧝♀️ Fave Quotes:
Human beings have a remarkable ability to accept the abnormal and make it normal
“Hurry.” “Ok, I’ll wait faster.”
At least being stupid isn’t permanent.
I’m smart enough now to know I’m stupid.
🎶 Recommended Listening (depending on your taste):
📘 Book: Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
PS. If you'd like to see me talk through my (very unfiltered and rambly) thoughts, lessons and summaries of books, I host a raw-book-club video series on Nebula. The cheapest deal to get it is through Curiosity Stream, and you can get yearly access to both for under $15 a year with this link: https://curiositystream.com/elizabethfilips