Science into fiction – with help from Liverpool physicist

Professor Tim Jones

Interior block 3The story based on Professor Tara Shears work features two identical twins who discover that an equation lies at the heart of their relationship

Physicist Professor Tara Shears is more used to being published in scientific journals, but now, thanks to a collaboration with a prize-winning author, she also features in a short story collection.

Based on cutting-edge science, the writing in the newly published Moss Witch and Other Stories was developed by Somerset Maugham Award-winning writer, Sara Maitland in conjunction with scientists whom she interviewed while on a search for inspiration.

‘The Beautiful Equation’

The story based on Professor Shears work in particle physics is called ‘The Beautiful Equation’, and features two identical twins who discover that an equation lies at the heart of their relationship.

The story was inspired by a meeting between Sara and Professor Shears where they discussed matter and anti-matter, and the equations of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Paul Dirac.  This discussion was the basis for Sara to go away and write a story based on quantum physics.

”Sara brings scientific theory to life in her stories, stealthily giving you a whisper of scientific intuition that normally takes us years of study to develop”

Moss Witch also features inclusions from biologists, zoologists and physicists such as Professor Jim Al-Khalili, with all of the stories based on a conversation the author had with a scientist.  Professor Shears, like all the other scientists, wrote an afterword to her story explaining the science behind the fiction – hers, based on matter and anti-matter is called ‘the Ultimate Other’.

Professor Shears, who has worked at both the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and Fermilab near Chicago, said: “Maths is very strict and unambiguous, so I was really interested to see how an equation could be explored in literature through the use of metaphor.

Fascinating process

“It was a fascinating process, as a scientist, to work through an idea with an author who approaches their work in such a different way. Sara brings scientific theory to life in her stories, stealthily giving you a whisper of scientific intuition that normally takes us years of study to develop.”

Moss Witch and Other Stories is published by Comma Press and is available now.

To listen to a BBC Radio 4 interview with Professor Tara Shears and author, Sara Maitland, click here. From around 10 minutes in.

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