I'm a theoretical cosmologist in the Astrophysics Group of Imperial College London, where I am a lecturer in astrophysics. My research in cosmology is about analysing, interpreting and making sense of cosmological observations, in order to learn more about the properties and nature of dark matter and dark energy. I'm also interested in the early Universe and in developing connections between cosmology and particle physics. The goal is to learn more about the history and nature of the Universe, by using cosmology as a Universe-sized laboratory for particle and high energy physics.
I am a science communicator and I take part in numerous public engagement with science activities, from science festivals to radio broadcasts. I am an STFC Public Engagement Fellow, and I'm currently developing a public engagement programme called "The Hands-on Universe".
I offer statistical consultancy and custom-made data analysis solutions, as well as training, for a broad variety of clients. I work as a scientific consultant with museums, writers, film makers and artists, providing the help and support they need to make their artistic creations scientifically sound.
My first book for the public is entitled "THE EDGE OF THE SKY" and will be published by Basic Books in Fall 2014.
The Edge of the Sky is a short book that introduces the general reader to the latest discoveries and outstanding mysteries in modern cosmology. From the big bang to planets in other solar systems, from dark matter to dark energy, from the destiny of the Universe to its fundamental reality, from the work of Hubble to Einstein, it explores the most important cosmological ideas through the eyes of a fictional female scientist hunting for dark matter with one of the biggest telescopes on Earth.
But the book differs from all other books on the Universe in one important way: it is limited to only the most common thousand words in English, as established from ten million works of contemporary fiction.
The entire book, from cover to cover, is written in this style.
There is no jargon, no difficult words, no mumbo-jumbo. In fact, the book doesn’t even mention the Universe once! “Universe” is not one of the thousand words!
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And here is a perhaps less technical description of my job, which uses only the most used ten hundred words in English:
I study tiny bits of matter that are all around us but that we can not see, which we call dark matter. We know dark matter is out there because it changes the way other big far away things move, such as stars, and star groups. We want to understand what dark matter is made of because it could tell us about where everything around us came from and what will happen next.
To study dark matter, people like me use big things that have taken lots of money, thought and people to build. Some of those things fly way above us. Some are deep inside the ground. Some are large rings that make tiny pieces of normal matter kiss each other as they fly around very, very fast - almost as fast as light. We hope that we can hear the whisper of dark matter if we listen very carefully.We take all the whispers from all the listening things and we put them together in our computers. We use big computers to do this, as there are lots and lots of tiny whispers we need to look at.I go to places all over the world to talk to other people like me, as together we can think better and work faster. Together, perhaps we can even find new, better ways to listen to dark matter. Most of them are good people, and after we talked we go out and have a drink and talk some more.
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT / The Hands-on Universe
An STFC-sponsored Public Engagement Fellowship
Innovative ways of using your senses to make sense of the Universe
Cosmology and astrophysics address some of the most fundamental and universally fascinating questions in the whole of science: Where did the Universe come from? What is it made of? What will its ultimate fate be? The study of the Universe is inspiring, humbling and in short one of the greatest scientific challenges of humankind.
But by its nature the cosmos is also far removed from our everyday experience. This is part of its mystery and fascination, but it can also become a hurdle when trying to engage the public in a genuine, two-way dialogue. The aim of my fellowship is to create and deliver innovative methods of transcending the old model of top-down communication of science. Better awareness, more genuine engagement and reaching out to a much wider and diverse cross-section of society will be the resulting benefits.
The Hands-on Universe will link the big questions in cosmology and astrophysics with everyday experiences, metaphorically, conceptually, artistically and emotionally. What is the Universe made of? How did it begin? How will it end? What is the nature of reality? How does science work? I will create immersive, participative experiences revolving around those and other questions, by using do-it-yourself activities, cookery and other fun, unexpected ways of engaging with the great mysteries of the cosmos.
Soon in a museum/school/lecture hall/exhibit space near you. And delivered directly to your home via the web.