Physics in fiction
Aug 30, 2012
Physics and fiction have a long history together. From seminal science-fiction epics such as H G Wells' The Time Machine to recent works that use physics in less-fantastical ways (Ian McEwan's picaresque novel Solar comes to mind), writers of many styles and eras have incorporated themes and characters from physics into their work. In this episode of the Physics World books-podcast series, we discuss four recent entries to the "physics in fiction" genre and see how they measure up
The podcast is hosted by James Dacey and features four books in total. The first two, The Sky's Dark Labyrinth and The Sensorium of God, are both fictionalized versions of real episodes in physics history. They are part of a trilogy (the third book is due to be published in 2013) by the science writer Stuart Clark, and in the podcast they are covered by Physics World's reviews editor, Margaret Harris.
Next up is a thriller by Robert Harris called The Fear Index. This book is set in the modern-day world of mathematical finance, and as Physics World's editor Matin Durrani explains, its main character is a rather unsavoury ex-CERN physicist who has become a hedge-fund tycoon.
The last book discussed in the podcast is Mr g. This one is a bit harder to describe but author Alan Lightman – a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – bills it as "a novel about the creation", which seems pretty spot-on to us.
So are any of these books destined to become classics of physics fiction? Unlike in physics itself, there are no right or wrong answers here – but there are plenty of opinions, and we would love to hear your favourite examples of physics in fiction after you've listened to the podcast. You can post them as comments to this article, e-mail them to us at email@example.com or send them to @PhysicsWorld on Twitter.
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