Robin Ince at Red Lion Books

Is he a stand-up comic, actor or radio presenter; a writer, or explorer of the human condition, is he a science communicator or a poet? Well, this is Robin Ince and he is all of these things and more.

This afternoon he arrived at Red Lion Books to talk to our customers about his new book, ‘The Importance of Being Interested’. When I say talk…. let me explain. He said he would talk for about 40 minutes and then take questions. What happened was that an hour went by during which he hardly drew breath.  In that hour, we were taken on a roller coaster ride through his vision of what science is, how it works, what it means to be a scientist and what makes it so endlessly fascinating. Oh, and there were plenty of jokes and funny anecdotes thrown in.

He spoke about the importance of questions that stimulate and provoke exploration and experimentation and how they are, in a funny kind of way, more important than the answers. The total amount of what we cannot explain actually increases as we learn more!

He reminisced about an evening in Wales when the night sky cleared and the light pollution was low. Myriad stars were revealed, the sky packed with points of light. Light generated by the release of photons as Hydrogen turns to Helium. Photons created millions upon millions of years ago. Photons which had travelled across countless light-years and the first thing they encountered after all that time and space was his own eye.

He talked about what you might see in the universe as you slip into a black hole. I think it was to do with the layering of time.

There was talk of pulsars and pencils, beetles and Brian Cox…….and whether there might still be a place for God in a rational scientific world view.

Originally, Robin Ince had some mega gigs lined up for this autumn. When things fell through, he decided instead to embark upon a tour of 100 bookshops across the country, travelling always by train and on foot.  So instead of the Birmingham Arena with 12,000 people, here he was in our spare room above the bookshop talking to 25 people. And it was a privilege for all present. Listening to Robin Ince is like having the nuts and bolts in your brain unscrewed enough to shift some preconceptions and prejudices. And loosened enough to let some inspiration in. This was his 45th stop on the tour. If you get half a chance get along one of the upcoming 55 remaining gigs.