Science Book a Day Interviews Dennis Meredith

dennis-meredithSpecial thanks to Dennis Meredith for answering 6 questions about his recently featured book – Wormholes: A Novel

Dennis Meredith’s career as a science communicator has included service at some of the country’s leading research universities, including MIT, Caltech, Cornell, Duke and the Universities of Rhode Island and Wisconsin. He has worked with science journalists at all the nation’s major newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV networks and has written well over a thousand news releases and magazine articles on science and engineering over his career. – From Dennis’ Homepage

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#1 – What was the impetus for Wormholes?

I was fortunate to have worked as a science communicator at three of the world’s leading astronomy and astrophysics universities — Caltech, MIT, and Cornell. While I was there, it struck me that those scientists are exploring phenomena that are incredibly exotic, compared to the goings-on in our little corner of the universe. In Wormholes, I wanted to try to bring some of that fascinating strangeness home. What would happen if such exotic–and dangerous–phenomena as wormholes or black holes popped up in our celestial neighborhood?

#2 – In interviews you talk about being a “liar” when it came to the physics behind the wormholes. Did you try to base it on any scientific theories on wormholes? Or were you happy with this conceit?

Indeed, I did “lie” when I dubbed the “transdimensional apertures” that I invented as wormholes. But beyond that major conceit, I tried to portray realistically what would happen when my wormholes opened into deep space, the surface of stars, or on alien planets.

#3 – Who did you base your main characters, Dacey Livingstone and Gerard Meier on?

I based Dacey on the female geologists and seismologists I knew at Caltech. I greatly admired them because not only were they doing extraordinary research, they were going against the male tradition of earth science that existed back in the 80s, when I was there. Similarly, I based Gerald on astrophysicists I knew at Caltech, MIT and Cornell. I was fascinated at how they would be deep into developing theories about black holes one minute, and trying to remember to pick up the kids at school the next. In fact, Gerald Meier’s last name comes from a dear friend, David Meier, who’s a brilliant theoretical astrophysicist.

#4 – It seems important to you to portray scientists in a realistic way. Do you think scientists are portrayed incorrectly in fiction and non-fiction?

They are portrayed correctly, in that the vast majority of scientist characters in movies and TV shows are portrayed as heroes. I did my own survey that showed that fact. However, one misleading popular perception is that science is invariably successful. The vast majority of experiments are failures, but scientists are indefatigable enough to keep trying until they are successful. And that’s what I tried to get across in Wormholes.

#5 – What was the response been by scientists and non-scientists to your book?

I think scientists have forgiven my technical “lies,” because I captured what it’s like to toil away at a theory nobody else believes in. And non-scientists keep asking “Is this really true?” which prompts them to go explore the real, fascinating science of wormholes.

#6 – Are you working on any new projects/books you can tell us about?

My next book “The Cerulean’s Secret” is based on a weird question that popped into my head about three decades ago: “What if there were a blue cat?” It’s about a future in which genetic technology has enabled creation of all kinds of exotic pets, including the most beautiful cat in history, the Cerulean. And somebody steals it! You can see more at

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