Name the three figures, living or dead, with whom you would most like to sit down to dinner. Though perhaps a little tired, the challenge still reveals something worth knowing about the respondent’s personality. If I know the personalities of Open Culture readers at all, I’d wager that more than a few of you would choose to set places at the table for Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Arthur C. Clarke. Anyone interested in asking the big, existential questions and understanding the science underneath them would have the time of their lives at such a meal, especially if astrophysically inclined. But until a genie grants you this wish, may we offer God, the Universe, and Everything Else?
Presented by Magnus Magnusson, longtime host of the BBC’s Mastermind, this program brings the three together to discuss “the Big Bang theory, God, our existence as well as the possibility of extraterrestrial life.” Hawking, of course, talks through his signature speech synthesizer, and Sagan joins up through a satellite link — beamed through, yes, the very sort of floating miracles of engineering that Clarke wrote about in his novels. With minds like these, you can rest assured that the conversation won’t stray far from what Sagan calls “the fundamental questions,” nor will it come untethered from established human knowledge and float into the realms of wild speculation and wishful thinking. And of course, in such conversations, a sense of humor like Hawking’s — a man who, not expected to reach age thirty, would nevertheless live to see more advancement in human knowledge than anyone else on the broadcast — never goes amiss.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.