The Next Chapter

Bob McDonald introduces young readers to the wonders of space with his new book

The host of CBC's Quirks & Quarks spoke with Shelagh Rogers about his latest book, An Earthling's Guide to Outer Space.
An Earthling’s Guide to Outer Space is a nonfiction book by Bob McDonald. (Jennifer Hartley, Simon & Schuster)

With that unmistakable voice, Bob McDonald has been explaining science to both kids and adults for more than 40 years.

He's the host of CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks and the science correspondent for CBC's flagship TV news program The National.

He's also created and hosted a number of children's science programs documentaries and written five books. His latest is called An Earthling's Guide to Outer Space, and it's a book for younger readers about the wonders of space.

He spoke with Shelagh Rogers to talk about why he wrote An Earthling's Guide to Outer Space.

Hello, universe

"An Earthling's Guide to Outer Space is an introduction to the universe. I tried to write it in a very approachable language to remind us all that the universe is an interesting place — and there are a lot of questions we can ask about it. 

The universe is an interesting place — and there are a lot of questions we can ask about it.- Bob McDonald

"It's for kids, but adults are finding the book interesting as well. They've been telling me that they look over the shoulders of their kids while they're reading this book." 

The space age

"I grew up in the space age. I remember Sputnik which was the very first satellite in 1957. I remember the headlines at the time as well. I was living in Orillia, Ont., and the local newspaper had this front page drawing with a circle around it and this little ball saying the Russians were in space. That year the space age had begun.

"I watched it all happen. I knew the names of all the early astronauts including John Glenn, Alan Shepard. I watched all the moon landings, and not just the first one. I've always been involved in space and it has been my exquisite pleasure as a journalist to be active during a time when we actually went to the planets."

Science and space expert Bob McDonald shares his thoughts on space junk and why pseudoscience gets under his skin. The Quirks and Quarks host also spoke to Andrew Chang about his newest book, An Earthling’s Guide to Outer Space. 9:59

Planetary pleasures

"I first learned about the planets through a book that I still have called The Planets. My mother came home with the book one day after shopping and gave it to me. I was about seven years old at the time. 

"It's a book of illustrations and not photographs, because at that time we hadn't actually been to space. But it's very accurate, even today a lot of the stuff in the book is still true. This book introduced me to the solar system. It showed me that the Earth is only one of a whole family of planets. I was fascinated by this."

The Quirks and Quarks host speaks with Stephen Quinn about "An Earthling's guide to outer space" and what we still don't understand about the universe. 7:55

A world of wonder

"The questions I answer in the book are questions that I think kids might ask or they're questions that kids have asked like, 'Why are all planets round?' or 'Why do comets have tails?' But they're also fundamental questions. 

It has been my exquisite pleasure as a journalist to be active during a time when we actually went to the planets.- Bob McDonald

"If you ask a question about why planets are round, you've got to start talking about gravity and how gravity works. I like simple questions that lead to more complicated answers. That's what I tried to do with this book."

Bob McDonald's comments have been edited for length and clarity.


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