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

Beyond Weird - Philip Ball *****

It would be easy to think 'Surely we don't need another book on quantum physics.' There are loads of them. Anyone should be happy with The Quantum Age on applications and the basics, Cracking Quantum Physics for an illustrated introduction or In Search of Schrödinger's Cat for classic history of science coverage. Don't be fooled, though - because in Beyond Weird, Philip Ball has done something rare in my experience until Quantum Sense and Nonsense came along. It makes an attempt not to describe quantum physics, but to explain why it is the way it is.

Historically this has rarely happened. It's true that physicists have come up with various interpretations of quantum physics, but these are designed as technical mechanisms to bridge the gap between theory and the world as we see it, rather than explanations that would make sense to the ordinary reader.

Ball does not ignore the interpretations, though he clearly isn't happy with any of them. He seems to come clo…

Jim Baggott - Four Way Interview

Jim Baggott is a freelance science writer. He trained as a scientist, completing a doctorate in physical chemistry at Oxford in the early 80s, before embarking on post-doctoral research studies at Oxford and at Stanford University in California. He gave up a tenured lectureship at the University of Reading after five years in order to gain experience in the commercial world. He worked for Shell International Petroleum for 11 years before leaving to establish his own business consultancy and training practice. He writes about science, science history and philosophy in what spare time he can find. His books include Atomic: The First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb (2009), Higgs: The Invention and Discovery of the ‘God Particle’ (2012), Mass: The Quest to Understand Matter from Greek Atoms to Quantum Fields (2017), and, most recently, Quantum Space: Loop Quantum Gravity and the Search for the Structure of Space, Time, and the Universe (2018). For more info see: www…

Quantum Space: Jim Baggott *****

There's no doubt that Jim Baggott is one of the best popular science writers currently active. He specialises in taking really difficult topics and giving a more in-depth look at them than most of his peers. The majority of the time he achieves with a fluid writing style that remains easily readable, though inevitably there are some aspects that are difficult for the readers to get their heads around - and this is certainly true of his latest title Quantum Space, which takes on loop quantum gravity.

As Baggott points out, you could easily think that string theory was the only game in town when it comes to the ultimate challenge in physics, finding a way to unify the currently incompatible general theory of relativity and quantum theory. Between them, these two behemoths of twentieth century physics underlie the vast bulk of physics very well - but they simply can't be put together. String theory (and its big brother M-theory, which as Baggott points out, is not actually a the…