He obtained his PhD in oil-producing algae at TU Delft. She wrote and illustrated a rich collection of prose and poetry for adults and children. In Our Brains of Stardust, Peter Mooij and Jockey van Leeuwen team up.
Mooij provides scientific answers to nine key questions such as “How did the universe originate?”, “What is the difference between humans, animals and plants?” and “What is the right thing to do?” After each essay, Van Leeuwen reflects on it in poetry or prose. The small illustrations are also in her handwriting.
You don’t have to be a scientist to follow Mooij scripts. He has succeeded very well in building a bridge of his knowledge to a wide audience. He is able to convey a lot of information in a compact form with humor and illuminating comparisons.
For example, Moig offers a lesson on atoms, molecules, and atomic species at an ice cream parlor: “In chemistry, whole ice cream can be compared to the molecule, the balls to the atoms, and the flavors to the atomic species.” After answering the nine questions, it is explained how scientific truth appears.
It sounds almost biblical
You could call Van Leeuwen’s meditations modern creation stories. For example, in the chapter on the first origin of life, she wrote: “On the first day, which was not yet called a day, because there were no languages yet, time came into being, which was not yet called time.” . Time was in no hurry. That sounds almost biblical.
This is exactly what the authors intended, as is clear from their introduction. They write in it that man is naturally curious, and whenever he reaches the limits of his knowledge, he resorts to myths, stories, and religions. This was very true of our ancestors, but, as this duo says, it certainly applies to us as well. To fill the gaps in our knowledge, but also to address the challenges we face.
“To organize our society differently and better, we need cultural change,” they wrote. “For cultural change, as already implied in the word, culture is indispensable.” They invite other culture-makers to create stories “where we can, no matter how utopian, live valuable lives with all life on Earth, within the boundaries of the planet.”
This book is a great and beautiful plea for the friendship of fact and fiction.
Peter Mooij and Jockey van Leeuwen
Our brains are stardust. The essence of our existence is in fact and fiction
Thomas Raab; 238 pages €22.99