Steve and Deja Whitehouse

BOOK DETAILS REVIEWS AUTHORS’ INFORMATION AUTHORS’ INTERVIEW PRESS RELEASE HOW TO ORDER BOOKMARK


AUTHORS’ INTERVIEW

What led you to write this book?
Steve & Deja Whitehouse: Both of us have vivid imaginations and we wanted to see if we really could work together and complete an entire novel. Having established that, we had two main objectives. Our first was to weave contemporary physics and mathematics research into our story, taking a few liberties along the way. The second was to try to understand the nature of Existence, our place in the Universe and future human possibilities.

This second objective forced us to confront the prime question of Existence - how, and more importantly, why do we exist? We address this directly in the book - but of course it is up to the reader to judge how successful we’ve been.

There are many different themes in the book. What would you like readers to understand most?
Steve & Deja: We appreciate that we’ve taken a bit of a risk with the sheer number of ideas and themes included in our story, not to mention the level of technical detail used to describe them. However, we endeavoured to structure the narrative so that there was no impact on the plot if the reader chooses to skip over the ’hard science’. Having said that, every effort was made to ensure that the technical detail, such as equations and information sources, was strictly accurate.

Einstein's Question

But to answer your question, we hope that our novel will inspire readers to explore some of these themes in more depth. For example, the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre is fascinating and we only touch on some of his ideas - "Nothingness’ is a fundamental tenet of our book and is well worth investigating further.

We’ve also mentioned several topical research areas: Cosmology, Theoretical Physics and Pure Mathematics, any one of which would be well worth exploring by scientists and laypeople alike.

Morality and physics are intertwined in the book, would you say that you believed in a sort of cosmological utilitarianism?
Steve & Deja: That’s a really good question. In our view, principles of morality and justice provide the overarching philosophy and framework that enables humans to live in a mutually respectful and sympathetic way. And while its application to world disputes by the United Nations, and especially the West, often displays double standards, it’s the best approach we have for resolving problems and differences.

We also believe that, in our Universe and the wider Multiverse, higher sentient beings - ‘Gods’ to us, have imposed a value system based on morality and justice, and to that end, yes, we do have an unshakeable belief in cosmological utilitarianism.

I suppose you could say that physics and mathematics provide the tools, opening a window on to our galaxy and the Universe within which we find ourselves, while morality affords the overarching fabric that holds the Cosmos together.

Is it an isolating experience when you deal with concepts that most people cannot fathom? Is one of the functions of this book the democratisation of theoretical physics?
Steve & Deja: Of course, writing itself is an isolating experience - when you’re engrossed and the story is flowing, then everything else becomes secondary. And then there’s the research - both of us have been known to get totally absorbed in a specific topic and not come up for air until the other points out that the book is not going to write itself!

One of the biggest challenges was trying to make sure the science and philosophy was approachable without compromising the integrity of the detail behind it. Only one of us has the theoretical physics background - Deja stopped Physics before ‘O’ Levels, so for her it has been a major learning experience. Having to look at these concepts from both aspects meant that for Steve at least, this was far less isolating than, say, writing a scientific research paper.

We have tried to engage readers with all levels of scientific understanding and interest them not just in Quantum Theory, but Special and General Relativity, Number Theory etc. By weaving it into our story, we wanted to show that these subjects were interesting and exciting - to everyone, as well as something to studied and described in scientific papers and journals. So YES, the democratisation of theoretical physics - and the other scientific topics used, was definitely one of our key objectives.

Even Paul and Edward - both physicists - have problems understanding each other. Do you think that the problem that most people have with understanding theoretical physics is one of communication or is it something else? Many have tried, but with little success.
Steve & Deja: Presently, there is a very large disconnect between the general public and science, especially in the fields of theoretical physics and mathematics, and communication is undoubtedly a massive problem. Without the right encouragement in education, students can be put off at an early age and then it is difficult to persuade them to re-engage at a later date. A lot of science teaching can be so dry, but by including some of the history behind the theories, and subsequent implementation of these theories, these subjects could be far more appealing.

The sad thing is that very few people understand or even care that their current existence and continued survival is dependent upon the application and future research of science - everything from the electricity that flows through a domestic household to the helium cooled magnetic superconductors essential to the operation of the Large Hadron Conductor (LHC).

Mind you, this is beginning to change. Stephen Hawking’s "Brief History of Time" was probably the first scientific text, written by a serious academic, to really attract interest outside the Physics community. Now, institutions such as the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society, the American Mathematical Society, Royal Holloway College and others are establishing communications programmes. Marcus du Sautoy at Oxford and John Burrows at Cambridge are tasked with providing public lectures and each of them writes at least one popular science book a year. The BBC, Channel 4 and Five are all showing documentaries covering the LHC, Prime Numbers, the origins of the Universe, etc. at peak viewing hours, so interest is certainly growing. There is even a US sitcom "Big Bang Theory" where one of the main characters is a Theoretical Physicist.

Do you believe that there are things that are unknowable? Paul seems to be getting to grips with the unknowable by the end, but can these things ever be known?
Steve & Deja: Our view is that everything is ultimately knowable once we remove the barriers to human ambition such as religious certainty and the limitations of an individual’s imagination. Science is under constant attack from retrogressive religions and their promulgators. For example, currently Intelligent Design categorically rejects Darwinism, asserting that our very lack of knowledge proves the existence of God! In the book we address these issues head on.

What are the chances of there being other universes, with different life forms?
Steve & Deja: We are absolutely certain that other life forms exist in our Galaxy and not just Carbon based. In the book we use the concept of silicon and robotic life forms to illustrate this very point.

As to whether there are other Universes, presently there is no strong evidence either way. However the physics and mathematics do not preclude multiple Universes and their inter-relationships. A maxim in physics is "if it’s not precluded, then it must exist." And of course other life forms will be present in other Universes.