Skip to main content

Roberto Trotta - Four Way Interview

Roberto Trotta is a theoretical cosmologist and senior lecturer at Imperial College London, where his research focuses on dark matter and dark energy. He is one of the world’s leading figures in the new discipline of astrostatistics – the development and application of advanced statistical tools to problems in cosmology and astrophysics. He has published more than fifty scientific papers and received numerous awards for his research and outreach work. He’s also worked with museums, writers, filmmakers and artists as a scientific consultant, helping to make their artistic creations scientifically sound. A passionate communicator of science, he has recently been awarded an STFC Public Engagement Fellowship to carry out an innovative public outreach programme, which aims at developing and delivering new interactive ways of bringing the excitement of cosmology to the general public. His first book is The Edge of the Sky.  www.robertotrotta.com
Why science?
To think that we can find out answers to hard questions about the nature of the Universe, where it comes from and what will happen to it in the future still excites me and fills me with wonder. For example, we have now learnt that the Universe is 13 billion 798 million years old (give or take 37 million years) -- an amazing achievement! This is what science at its best does: it gives us new eyes to look at the cosmos and understand it in a deeper way. But as I say in The Edge of the Sky, "perhaps the most amazing thing about the All-There-Is is that we can understand it at all."
Why this book?
For over a decade I've been looking for ways of better engaging the public with cosmology, the science of the cosmos. When I came across the XKCD cartoon of the Up-Goer-Five (the Saturn V moon rocket, all labeled using only the most common 1,000 words in English), I thought that perhaps this new language could be used to talk about the entire All-There-Is (that's to say, the Universe), in a simple, straight-forward way that everybody could understand. Limiting my lexicon to the 1,000 most common words in English would not only do away with jargon -- it would force me to think about my subject anew, and express it in a novel, fresh and hopefully surprising way. The Edge of the Sky is the result of that small Eureka! moment. 
What’s next?
I have some ideas for a book that will try to take public engagement and literary experiment where no one has gone before - but it's too early to talk about that! For the moment, I am thoroughly enjoying seeing The Edge of the Sky reach a wide, new audience of readers, and hearing back from them about how they relate and connect with the book. It's been a wonderful journey! 
What’s exciting you at the moment?
Scientifically, the hunt for dark matter is reaching a critical point. We might be on the verge of discovering the dark matter drop (ahem, particle) in a laboratory experiment, which would be one of the greatest scientific breakthrough of all times. I'm very excited to be giving my small contribution to that quest. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Einstein's Greatest Mistake - David Bodanis ****

Books on Einstein and his work are not exactly thin on the ground. There's even been more than one book before with a title centring on Einstein's mistake or mistakes. So to make a new title worthwhile it has do something different - and David Bodanis certainly achieves this with Einstein's Greatest Mistake. If I'm honest, the book isn't the greatest on the science or the history - but what it does superbly is tell a story. The question we have to answer is why that justifies considering this to be a good book.
I would compare Einstein's Greatest Mistake with the movie Lincoln -  it is, in effect, a biopic in book form with all the glory and flaws that can bring. Compared with a good biography, a biopic will distort the truth and emphasise parts of the story that aren't significant because they make for a good screen scene. But I would much rather someone watched the movie than never found out anything about Lincoln - and similarly I'd much rather someon…

A Tale of Seven Scientists - Eric Scerri ***

Scientists sometimes tell us we're in a post-philosophy world. For example, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in The Grand Design bluntly say that that philosophy is 'dead' - no longer required, as science can do its job far better. However, other scientists recognise the benefits of philosophy, particularly when it is applied to their own discipline. One such is Eric Scerri, probably the world's greatest expert on the periodic table, who in this challenging book sets out to modify the philosophical models of scientific progress.

I ought to say straight away that A Tale of Seven Scientists sits somewhere on the cusp between popular science and a heavy duty academic title. For reasons that will become clear, I could only give it three stars if rating it as popular science, but it deserves more if we don't worry too much about it being widely accessible.

One minor problem with accessibility is that I've never read a book that took so long to get started. First t…

Four Way Interview - Tom Cabot

Tom Cabot is a London-based book editor and designer with a background in experimental psychology, natural science and graphic design. He founded the London-based packaging company, Ketchup, and has produced and illustrated many books for the British Film Institute, Penguin and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Tom has held a lifelong passion to explain science graphically and inclusively ... ever since being blown away by Ray and Charles Eames’ Powers of Ten at an early age. His first book is Eureka, an infographic guide to science.

Why infographics?
For me infographics provided a way to present heavy-lifting science in an alluring and playful, but ultimately illuminating, way. And I love visualising data and making it as attractive as the ideas are.  The novelty of the presentation hopefully gets the reader to look afresh. I love the idea of luring in readers who might normally be put off by drier, more monotone science – people who left science behind at 16. I wanted the boo…