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

The Feed (SF) - Nick Clark Windo ****

Ever since The War of the Worlds, the post-apocalyptic disaster novel has been a firm fixture in the Science Fiction universe. What's more, such books are often among the few SF titles that are shown any interest by the literati, probably because many future disaster novels feature very little science. With a few exceptions, though (I'm thinking, for instance, The Chrysalids) they can make for pretty miserable reading unless you enjoy a diet of page after page of literary agonising.

The Feed is a real mixture. Large chunks of it are exactly that - page after page of self-examining misery with an occasional bit of action thrown in. But, there are parts where the writing really comes alive and shows its quality. This happens when we get the references back to pre-disaster, when we discover the Feed, which takes The Circle's premise to a whole new level with a mega-connected society where all human interaction is through directly-wired connections… until the whole thing fails …

The Bastard Legion (SF) - Gavin Smith *****

Science fiction has a long tradition of 'military in space' themes - and usually these books are uninspiring at best and verging on fascist at worst. From a serious SF viewpoint, it seemed that Joe Haldeman's magnificent The Forever War made the likes of Starship Troopers a mocked thing of the past, but sadly Hollywood seems to have rebooted the concept and we now see a lot of military SF on the shelves.

The bad news is that The Bastard Legion could not be classified as anything else - but the good news is that, just as Buffy the Vampire Slayer subverted the vampire genre, The Bastard Legion has so many twists on a straightforward 'marines in space' title that it does a brilliant job of subversion too.

The basic scenario is instantly different. Miska is heading up a mercenary legion, except they're all hardened criminals on a stolen prison ship, taking part because she has stolen the ship and fitted them all with explosive collars. Oh, and helping her train her &…

On the Moor - Richard Carter ****

There's much to enjoy in Richard Carter's pean to the frugal yet visceral delights of being one with England's Pennine moorland. If this were all there were to the book it would have made a good nature read, but Carter cleverly weaves in science at every opportunity, whether it's inspired by direct observations of birds and animals and plants - I confess I was ignorant of the peregrine falcon's 200 mile per hour dive - or spinning off from a trig point onto the geometric methods of surveying through history all the way up to GPS.

Carter is something of an expert on Darwin, and inevitably the great man comes into the story many times - yet his appearance never seems forced. It's hard to spend your time in a natural environment like this and not have Darwin repeatedly brought to mind.

I confess to a distinct love of these moors. Having spent my first 11 years in and around Littleborough, just the other side of Blackstone Edge from Carter's moor, the moorland…