Arts and Entertainment

What goes on in our brains when we’re not thinking? Why do some animals lounge around all day doing nothing? Is outer space completely empty? Why did it take so long for the number zero to be accepted? These are just some of the questions discussed in this intriguing collection of essays on “nothingness” by science writers including Ian Stewart, Marcus Chown, Nigel Henbest, Michael Brooks, Paul Davies and David Fisher.

Letter: Pooh's tragedy

Sir: A A Milne? A carefree childhood? ("Now we are sick", 28 January.)

Theatre: Eye on the New

Yes, it's time for those traditional panto classics, Cinderella, Babes in the Wood, Oedipus... we're promised the biggest giggle since Theseus's father threw himself over a cliff. Looks set to be the only panto that's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

BOOK REVIEW / Stories mummy never taught me: 'During Mother's Absence' - Michele Roberts: Virago, 9.99 pounds

THIS IS a dark and witty book. And if to be political means that systems of order and power are interrogated and stood on their head, then it is a political book as well. But it is not a tract, and for good reason. Tract- writers and polemicists have every faith in argument, but little enough in the imagination. For Michele Roberts, imagination is the cutting tool she uses to rearrange perceptions of sexuality and pleasure, of customary relations and received values. As the nine stories in this collection unfold and then fold back into each other, a shifting array of meanings is laid out. How you look at them depends on who you are: there are, after all, political readers as well as political writers.

BOOK REVIEW / Bookshop Window: The widow's broom - Chris Van Allsburg: Andersen Press, pounds 8.99.

A wonderful fairy-tale, welcome after all the moral fables and slices of life, about a widow who suddenly acquires a witch's broom. The broom can sweep by itself, but also chop wood and play the piano; the widow knows it's a friend, but has to save it from the suspicions and violence of her neighbours. The pictures are exquisitely detailed and luminous, in shades of grey and sepia, as if done by moonlight.

MUSIC / Notices: The Snow Queen - Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells

Beating the panto season with a Hans Christian Andersen story, Trinity's 'Unfamiliar Music Series' has lived up to its ahead-of-the-times reputation. You can't get less familiar than a new, full-length music-theatre piece, specially commissioned by Jane Manning. In Matthew King's score she shares the platform with instrumentalists from Jane's Minstrels and a schools chorus. Singers narrate; players sing duets with their instruments or suddenly leap on to the stage; the Snow Queen picks up her handbag and takes over at the piano. King switches deftly from Prokofiev to Mozart, Handel to Wagner, pastiche to parody, like a bright Hollywood composer with a sense of humour.
Latest stories from i100
Career Services

Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
Prices correct as of 12 March 2015
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower