This week we’re leaving planet Earth behind, with the astrobiologist Caleb Scharf and the science-fiction phenomenon Ann Leckie.
Recent advances in astrophysics have allowed scientists to find planets orbiting around remote stars, with more than a thousand distant exoplanets identified in the last 20 years. Scharf explores the competing pulls of two principles which have guided modern astronomers, and outlines his proposal for a middle way where human life is "special but not significant, unique but not exceptional".
The novelist Ann Leckie is both significant and exceptional, carrying off an unprecedented sweep of science fiction’s most prestigious awards with her debut novel, Ancillary Justice. She talks about how she got into the head of a vast, distributed intelligence, why gender politics made their way into her novels and the different ways in which scientific discoveries fire the SF imagination.