Science Book a Day Interviews John D Barrow


Special thanks to John D Barrow for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – The Book of Universes: Exploring the Outer Limits of the Cosmos

John David Barrow is an English cosmologist, theoretical physicist, and mathematician. He is currently Research Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Barrow is also a writer of popular science and an amateur playwright. – Wikipedia

#1 – What was the impetus for The Book of Universes?

There have been many new observations (and theories) in cosmology and there was a need to explain them and put them in a broader historical context. Hwoever, the main theme of the book was to stress the little-appreciated fact (even amongst professional cosmologists) that every solution of Einstein’s equations of general relativity describes an entire universe. Before Einstein’s discovery, cosmology was a bit like art histor: people had been imagining what the universe might be like — infinite, finite, spherical, cyclic etc — but there was no rigorous way to produce options that were consistent with the known laws of physics and then open to astronomical testing.

#2 – Your book is about the history of how we understand the universe. How did you try to convey the difficult concepts in the book?

I like to use analogies where I can. This is a tradition in science writing in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Also, the book was dividied into many small digestible pieces so that the reader would not have to follow a difficult idea for too long before there was a change of perspective. I have also tried to mix historical information with science.

#3 – With many influential scientists, whose do you think is most pervasive to this day?

The ‘best’ description of our universe today and for almost all its past history is the solution of Einstein’s equation first found by Georges Lemaitre in 1927.

#4 – If we answered any one question about the nature of the universe, which do you think would lead to a greater understanding?

What is the nature of the ‘dark energy;’ in the universe and why does it have the exact total density that it has?

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

In the next few days I hope to receive the first copy of my newest book, which will be published in the UK on November 6th. It describes 100 unusual applications of maths in the worlds of art and design, very broadly interpreted. It is called ‘100 Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Maths and the Arts‘. So, it’s not about cosmology but if you like to see how simple maths can illuminate a wide range of topics in art, music, sculpture, design, architecture, philately, auction structures, tiling, and many more, then take a look. In fact, there is a little bit of astronomy in it as well — as there’s more to Hubble Space Telescope images than meets the eye.

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