Short Stories from Modern Science
Edited by Ra Page
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Kate Clanchy, Annie Clarkson, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Stella Duffy, Sarah Hall, Tania Hershman, Trevor Hoyle, Maggie Gee, Michael Jecks, Zoe Lambert, Alison MacLeod, Sara Maitland, Adam Marek, Sean O'Brien, Christine Poulson, Jane Rogers and Emma Jane Unsworth
Prof Jim Al-Khalili, Dr Martyn Amos, Dr Robert Appleby, John Clayson, Prof. Matthew Cobb, Sarah Fox, Kathryn Harris, James Higgerson, Dr Nick R Love, Dr Tim O'Brien, Prof. Denis Noble, Prof. Giacomo Rizzolatti, Dr Zoe Schnepp, Dr James Sumner, Dr Angharad Watson and Dr John Wearden
Like the creation myths they supersede, the revelations of science are seared into our collective imagination through storytelling. From Archimedes' bath to Newton's apple, vivid accounts of scientific discovery help us understand the principles behind each theory, and add to the larger narrative of how the universe works, and how we came to be here.
This anthology draws out and distills science’s love of narrative from a wide range of scientific disciplines, weaving theory into very human stories, and delving into the humanity of theorists and experimenters as they stood on the brink of momentous discoveries: from Joseph Swan’s original light-bulb moment to the uncovering of ‘mirror neurons’ lighting up empathy zones in the human brain; from Einstein's revelation on a Bern tram, to Pavlov’s identification of personality types thanks to a freak flood in his St Petersburg lab.
Each story has been written in close consultation with scientists and historians and is accompanied by a specially written afterword, expanding on the science for the general reader.
Together, they bring vividly to life the stories behind the 'eureka!' moments that changed the way we live, forever.
Praise, Media Coverage & Award Recognition:
Selected for The Observer's Best Books of the 2011 list.
Features Alison MacLeod's 'The Heart of Denis Noble' - Shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Prize 2011
and longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2012
'Exquisite... delectable' - New Scientist
BOOK OF THE WEEK: 'The pairings work brilliantly, giving stereoscopic vision... ingenious... unfailingly interesting.' - The Independent
'A very alive, illuminating and good-natured collection' - The Observer.
'An inspiring tribute to inquiring minds.' - The Guardian.
'The tale of Henrietta Leavitt, by Sara Maitland, is particularly luminous, and inexplicably moving.' - Richard P. Grant, LabLit.com
'I plunged into Litmus
... then I couldn't put it down. I wept...I laughed...I shuddered...I was fascinated.' - Sue Haigh, The Short Review
Listen to Alison MacLeod being interviewed by Mark Lawson about her shortlisted story on Radio Four
This reading of 'The Heart of Denis Noble' also made Radio 4's 'Pick of the Week'
Listen to author Sarah Hall and editor Ra Page discuss the Litmus
project generally on Radio Four's Front Row
Listen to Jane Rogers read an extract of her story Morphogenesis on Radio 3's The Verb
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
The MLF event blog: Science is Golden
Arts Council England's News Page
Kate Clanchy is the author of three collections of poetry, Slattern, Samarkand and Newborn. In 2009, her short story, ‘The Not-Dead and the Saved’ won the BBC National Short Story Award. She has also written a children’s book (Our Cat Henry Comes to the Swings) and a memoir of her friendship with a Kosovan Albanian asylum seeker, What Is She Doing Here?: A Refugee’s Story.
is a poet and short fiction writer living in Manchester. Her short fiction has been published by Comma Press (in Brace), Flax Books and in various literary magazines.
Frank Cottrell Boyce
is an award-winning screenwriter and children’s novelist. His film credits include Welcome to Sarajevo, Hilary and Jackie, Code 46, 24 Hour Party People and A Cock and Bull Story. In 2004, his debut novel Millions won the Carnegie Medal and was shortlisted for The Guardian Children’s Fiction Award. His second novel, Framed, was published by Macmillan in 2005, and later adapted into a film by the BBC. His third, The Unforgotten Coat, was published this year. Frank also writes for the theatre and was the author of the highly acclaimed BBC film God on Trial. He has previously contributed stories to Comma’s anthologies Phobic, The Book of Liverpool, The New Uncanny, and When It Changed.
has written twelve novels. Theodora, published by Virago (UK) in 2010 and by Viking Penguin (US) in 2011, is her first historical novel. The Room of Lost Things and State of Happiness were both longlisted for the Orange Prize, and she has twice won Stonewall Writer of the Year. She has written over forty short stories, including several for BBC Radio 4, and won the 2002 CWA Short Story Dagger for Martha Grace. She is currently working on the sequel to Theodora, The Purple Shroud, as well as several film and theatre projects. Stella is also a theatre director and performer, and has written eight plays.
is the author of four novels: Haweswater, which won the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel and a Society of Authors Betty Trask Award; The Electric Michelangelo, which was shortlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize; The Carhullan Army, which won the 06/07 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the James Tiptree Jr. Award, and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award; and How To Paint a Dead Man, which was longlisted for the 2009 Man Booker prize. Her story ‘Butcher’s Perfume’ was shortlisted for the 2010 BBC National Short Story Prize and her first collection of shorts, The Beautiful Indifference, is due out from Faber and Faber later this year.
Tania Hershman worked for 13 years as a science journalist for publications such as WIRED and New Scientist, before turning her hand to fiction. Her first collection of stories, The White Road and Other Stories was published in 2009. She is currently writer in residence at the Science Faculty at Bristol University. She is also the founder and editor of The Short Review, a website dedicated to short fiction.
worked as an actor, an advertising copywriter and a lecturer in creative writing before becoming a full-time writer. His environmental novel The Last Gasp is currently under option in Hollywood, and his latest novel, Down the Figure 7, is set in Lancashire just after the war. Hoyle also writes drama for TV and Radio 4. His play GIGO won the Radio Times Drama Award and his Blakes 7 episode ‘Ultraworld’ inspired the album, The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld.
is the author of eleven novels, including The White Family (2002) which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and most recently My Driver (2009), as well as a memoir, My Animal Life, and a collection of short stories, The Blue (2005). In 1982 she was selected by Granta as one of the original 20 ‘Best of Young British Novelists’, and in 2004 became the first female Chair of the Council of the Royal Society of Literature.
has written over 30 historical fiction novels, most recently The Oath, set against the invasion of Queen Isabella and the decline of Edward II. His short stories have appeared in I.D. (Comma), The Best of British Mysteries 2005 and The Mammoth Book of Jacobean Whodunits.
’s first collection, The War Tour is published later this year by Comma. A graduate of the UAE Creative Writing MA, she is currently a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Bolton, and has previously published stories in Bracket and Ellipsis 2 (both Comma).
is a novelist and short story writer. Her stories have been widely published in both the UK and abroad, and broadcast on the BBC. In 2008 she was awarded the Society of Authors' Prize for short fiction for her story ‘Dirty Weekend’, while in 2011 she was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award for her story ‘The Heart of Denis Noble’. In 2009, her story collection Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction (Penguin) was named one of the ‘Top Ten Books to Talk About’ in association with World Book Day events, and she is currently completing her second collection. MacLeod is also the author of two novels, The Changeling (Macmillan) and The Wave Theory of Angels (Penguin), and her next novel will be published by Penguin in 2013. Alongside her writing, she is Professor of Contemporary Fiction at the University of Chichester.
’s first novel, Daughter of Jerusalem, was published in 1978 and won the Somerset Maugham Award. Novels since have included Three Times Table (1990), Home Truths (1993) and Brittle Joys (1999), and one co-written with Michelene Wandor – Arky Types (1987). Her short story collections include Telling Tales (1983), A Book of Spells (1987) and most recently, On Becoming a Fairy Godmother (2003). She has contributed stories to The New Uncanny and When It Changed and is currently writing a full collection of science-inspired short stories for Comma.
’s debut collection of short stories, Instruction Manual for Swallowing (Comma) was long-listed for the 2008 Frank O’Connor prize. Since then his stories have appeared in numerous anthologies – New Writing 15, Prospect, The New Uncanny and When It Changed (both Comma). In 2010 Adam was shortlisted for the inaugural Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Prize, and in 2011 he was awarded the Arts Foundation Fellowship in Short Story Writing. He lives in Bedford and is currently working on a second collection of stories.
has published seven collections of verse: The Indoor Park (1983), winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; The Frighteners (1987); HMS Glasshouse (1991); Ghost Train (1995); Downriver (2001); Inferno (2006), his verse version of Dante’s Inferno; The Drowned Book (2007) and most recently November. The latter won the 2007 T. S. Eliot Prize. Ghost Train, Downriver and The Drowned Book have all won the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year), making Sean O’Brien the only poet to have won this prize more than once. He is also a writer of plays, essays and one novel, Afterlife (2009). His first foray into fiction, a collection of short stories titled The Silence Room was published by Comma in 2008.
Before turning to crime Christine Poulson
had a career as an art historian working as a curator for Birmingham Museum and the William Morris Society in Hammersmith. She has since written three novels set in Cambridge, featuring academic turned amateur detective, Cassandra James, the most recent being Footfall. She has also written widely on nineteenth century art and literature and is a research fellow in the Department of Nineteenth Century Studies at the University of Sheffield. Her most recent work of nonfiction, a book on Arthurian legend in British Art,1840-1920, was short listed for the Mythopeoic Award in the USA in 2002.
was born in London in 1952 and lived in Birmingham, New York State (Grand Island) and Oxford, before doing an English degree at Cambridge University. She taught English for 6 years before the publication of her first novel, Separate Tracks. Since then she has written eight novels including Mr Wroe’s Virgins, Island, The Voyage Home and most recently The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press), as well as original and adapted work for television and radio drama. In 1994 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 2009 her story ‘Hitting Trees With Sticks’ was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Prize. She is currently Professor of Writing on the MA course at Sheffield Hallam University. She lives near Manchester with her partner and two children.
Emma Jane Unsworth
is a journalist, short story writer and novelist based in Manchester. Her first novel, Hungry, The Stars and Everything is published by Hidden Gem later this
ABOUT THE SCIENTISTS
OBE is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. He is a Trustee and Vice-President of the British Science Association and currently holds an EPSRC Senior Media Fellowship. His research at Surrey, since 1994, has established him as a leading expert on mathematical models of exotic atomic nuclei. He has been a Fellow of the Institute of Physics since 2000 when he also received the Institute’s Public Awareness of Physics Award. His television shows include The Riddle of Einstein’s Brain (Channel 4), Atom (BBC4), The Big Bang (BBC Horizon), Science and Islam (BBC4), The Secret Life of Chaos (BBC4), and most recently Everything and Nothing (BBC4).
Dr Martyn Amos
leads the Novel Computation Group at Manchester Metropolitan University. His research interests lie at the intersection of computer science and the life sciences, and include synthetic biology, nature-inspired algorithms and crowd dynamics.
Dr Robert Appleby
is a lecturer in the High Energy Particle Physics Group of the University of Manchester and an academic staff member at the Cockcroft Institute of Accelerator Science. He is also an associate of the beams division at CERN (APB) and a member of the LHCb experiment. His primary research is into the physics of particle accelerators. He is also involved in the International Linear Collider, Large Hadron Collider, LHeC and LHCb experiments.
is Keeper of Science and Industry with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, based at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.
is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester. He studies the genetic basis of behaviour, in particular how animals detect chemical signals – smells, tastes and pheromones. For seven years he studied the behaviour of ants, and he teaches Hamilton’s Rule to first, second and third year undergraduates. He is also interested in the history of science and is the author of The Egg & Sperm Race: The Seventeenth Century Scientists Who Unravelled the Truth about Sex, Life and Growth.
is a PhD researcher studying the neural basis of memory at the University of Manchester. Specifically, her work focuses on how naturally occurring changes in network activity, within the hippocampus, influence the way cells in this area form memories.
is a PhD student at the University of Central Lancashire specialising in quasar environments in the context of large scale structure (LSS). She is also the Outreach Officer for UCLan’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.
is a PhD student from the Manchester Urban Collaboration on Health at the University of Manchester. His research is looking at alcohol policy and health consequences in urban Europe, forming part of the European Union funded EURO-URHIS 2 project.
Dr Nick R. Love
is in the final year of his PhD at the University of Manchester, researching gene expression during the regeneration and wound healing of Xenopus tadpoles.
CBE FRS FRCP developed the first viable mathematical model of the heart cell in 1960 and is a pioneer of ‘Systems Biology’. His research focuses on using computer models of biological organs and organ systems to interpret function from the molecular level to the whole organism. Together with international collaborators, his team has used supercomputers to create the first virtual organ, the virtual heart. He held the Burdon Sanderson Chair of Cardiovascular Physiology at Oxford University from 1984 to 2004 and is currently Professor Emeritus and co-Director of Computational Physiology. As Secretary General of the International Union of Physiological Sciences 1993-2001, he played a major role in launching the Physiome Project, an international project to use computer simulations to create the quantitative physiological models necessary to interpret the genome, and he was elected President of the IUPS at its world congress in Kyoto in 2009.
Dr. Tim O’Brien
is a Reader in Astrophysics and Outreach Officer at Jodrell Bank. His research concentrates on the study of exploding stars using telescopes around the world and in space, working across the spectrum from radio waves to X-rays.
was the senior scientist in charge of the research team that discovered ‘mirror neurons’ in the frontal and parietal cortex of the macaque monkey. He is Professor of Human Physiology and Director of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Padua and former president of the European Brain and Behaviour Society. His awards include the Golgi Prize for Physiology, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s George Miller Award, the Feltrinelli Prize for Medicine and the Herlitzka Prize for Physiology. In 2007 he was co-recipient, with Leonardo Fogassi and Vittorio Gallese, of the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Psychology.
is an independent researcher at the National Institute for Materials Science (Tokyo, Japan). She was previously a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces (Potsdam, Germany). In 2009 she was a finalist in the British Council’s Famelab, and received a Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship in 2007. As a final year student at the University of Bristol in 2005, she won the Royal Society of Chemistry Award for the Best Chemistry Student of the Year.
is Lecturer in the History of Technology at the University of Manchester. He has a PhD from the University of Leeds on the history of scientific concepts in the brewing industry. Most of his work looks at how scientific and technological ideas have been communicated between different groups of experts and non-experts – usually in situations involving computers or beer.
Dr Angharad Watson
read Biochemistry at Oxford. Her studies led to a PhD position at the University of Manchester, where she now works as a postdoctoral research associate, researching complex sugars in the disease Mucopolysaccharidosis.
is Professor of Psychology at Keele University. He has also taught at the University of Manchester, as well in the US and Belgium. His early research was on conditioning in animals and humans, but for the last 20 years he has been mostly involved in studies of time perception.
The physics stories in this anthology (by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Adam Marek, Zoe Lambert, Stella Duffy and Michael Jecks) were commissioned with the support of the Institute of Physics.
The stories written in consultation with early career researchers (by Kate Clanchy, Annie Clarkson, Trevor Hoyle and Tania Hershman) were commissioned with the support of the Manchester Area Beacon.
The Hay Festival Preview Event, 30 May 2011
With Jim Al-Khalili (chair), Stella Duffy, Sara Maitland, Tim O'Brien & Rob Appleby.
Eureka Moments covered in the collection
Jeremiah Horrocks & the Transit of Venus, 1639
Dmitri Mendeleev's Periodic Table, 1869
Joseph Swan's Electric Light-Bulb, 1880
Einstein's Special Relativity Revelation, 1905
Hermann Minkowski’s Spacetime, 1908
Henrietta Leavitt's Period-Luminosity Relation, 1912
Pavlov's Flood and the Transmarginal Inhibition, 1924
Lise Meitner & the Discovery of Fission, 1939
Alan Turing's Morphogenesis, 1952
Denis Noble and Mathematically Modeling the Heart, 1960
Green Florescent Protein, 1961
Hamilton's Law and Inclusive Fitness, 1964
The Cosmic Microwave Background, 1965
HM, Brenda Milner & the Hippocampus, 1971
Kary Mullis’ Polymerase Chain Reaction, 1983
Giacomo Rizzolatti’s Mirror Neurons, 2003
The Discovery and Treatment of AIDS, 1981-present