About the Book
The idea for my first book, The Big Splat, or How Our Moon Came to Be, came out of a meeting that I covered in 1998 for Science magazine. It was a conference about the origin of Earth and the Moon, and I was the only reporter there. In three days of talks, I was astounded to hear over and over about the giant impact theory of the Moon’s origin — a theory that was completely unfamiliar to me, and yet was really the only one seriously discussed at this conference. I was amazed that the experts had more or less agreed on where the Moon came from, and yet no one outside the planetary science community knew about it! There was clearly a failure of communication between scientists and the public. It was up to me to bridge the gap.
Writing the book was a lot of fun. It was the perfect size for a first book. It came out to be twelve chapters long, and I had about twelve months to write it. That meant that I had to tell one in-depth story a month, which was just the right pace for me. I enjoyed the feel of working on a long-term project, as a change of pace from jumping around from one article to another.
To research one chapter I traveled to Cambridge, England, to delve into the Charles Darwin papers. (What does Charles Darwin have to do with the Moon? Read my book to find out!) I understood for the first time why historians love original documents. Imagine holding in your hands a letter that Darwin sent to his son a century ago, realizing that you might be the first person to read it since then!
The Big Splat came out in the spring of 2003, and received excellent reviews. Booklist, a magazine published by the American Library Association, named it as one of their Editor’s Choices for 2003 — an honor accorded to only 63 books that year, and only four science books.
In 2007, the History Channel interviewed me for a new series called “The Universe.” Tony Long, who was chosen to direct an episode about the moon, told me that at first he had no idea where to start. Then he read my book and, as he put it, “There was my outline!” About half of the one-hour program ended up being based on The Big Splat.
So when “The Moon” finally aired on June 26, 2007, it was a double thrill for me. First, there was the excitement of appearing on national TV for the first time. (Even today, I still get people telling me, “I saw you on TV!” because the episode has been broadcast several times since then.) I also enjoyed seeing ”the TV version” of my book. Every writer should get that opportunity at least once in a lifetime! By the way, I think that Tony, the director, did an excellent job.
The whole point of writing The Big Splat was to bridge the gap between the scientists and the public, and in our society, television is the way to do that. Probably 100 times more people have seen the History Channel show than the book. So if you want to see the ”lite version” of The Big Splat, click on over to the History Channel and order the episode on iTunes! (Season 1, episode 5, a mere $1.99.) If you would rather read the full version, click on the link in the sidebar, or on the book image above, to go to Amazon.com.