The Edge of the Sky
All you Need to Know about the All-There-Is
Named one of the best science books of 2014
Roberto named a Foreign Policy Global Thinker 2014
“This book will be more important than any other science book I will read for a very long time.” —The Book Bag
“The Edge of the Sky makes the whole topic sound like a wonderful fairy tale – reading it just makes you feel good.” —BBC Sky at Night Magazine
“A wonder-full not-afraid story-telling try-it-and-see. Very not-usual, most good. Fun, too. Buy now!” —Ian Stewart
“A surprisingly clear, and often poetic, primer” —Scientific American
“This beautifully written book, with its limited vocabulary, soars.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“One part children’s book for grownups, one part imaginative exercise in economical yet lyrical language, and wholly wonderful.”—Brain Pickings, Best Science Books 2014
“A master storyteller.”—Foreign Policy
From the big bang to alien worlds, from dark matter to dark energy, from the origins of the universe to its destiny, The Edge of the Sky is a tale of the great discoveries and outstanding mysteries in modern cosmology — with a twist. Astrophysicist Roberto Trotta has used only the 1,000 most common words in the English language to talk about difficult concepts in cosmology in beautifully simple terms that everybody can understand.
Through the eyes of a female scientist (student-woman) looking for dark matter in far-away galaxies (Star-Crowds) with one of the biggest telescopes (Big-Seers) on Earth (Home-World), Trotta explains what we have learnt about the universe (All-There-Is) and our place in it.
The result is a surprising, entertaining, and entrancing story of the cosmos on a very human scale.
Illustrations by Antoine Deprez.
Available in a bookstore near you (yes, including Point Reyes Station, CA, population: 330) and online:
Reviews for “The Edge of the Sky”
“I think it’s a lovely marriage of poetry and science. More importantly, it tells us something important about language and science communication.”
—The Japan Times, May 16th 2015 [read more]
“As science communicators we occasionally assume that to find innovation in outreach requires projects above and beyond the page, but here is an example of written communication as innovation in itself. I highly recommend that you read it.”
—Communicating Astronomy with the Public, December 2014 [read more]
“Writing a book about an expanding universe, planets, alien worlds, particle physics, galaxies and telescopes without being able to use any of these words, creates a unique science story that is entertaining, metaphorical and magical in places, but educational and enlightening at the same time.”
—Reporter, Oct 30th 2014 [read more]
“This little book and its creative turns of phrase is packed full of fun puzzles […] The result is a refreshing and unprecedented perspective on the complexities of modern astrophysics, and it makes for a mind-stretching read.”
—True Anomalies, Oct 22nd 2014 [read more]
“This book then is the one to tell you all you probably need to know about dark matter and the dearth of antimatter, of gigantic neutrino detectors deep in Antarctic ice, exoplanets and more, and have everything sink in. […] The fact Trotta can add a romantic edge to particle physics shows what a great communicator he is. [T]his book […] will be more important than any other science book I will read for a very long time.”
—The Book Bag, Oct 21st 2014 [read more]
“Somehow, [The Edge of the Sky] makes the whole topic sound like a wonderful fairy tale – reading it just makes you feel good. […] The Edge of the Sky could just be the right quirky book to fire the imagination of a curious boy or girl who might then go on to become the ‘student-person’ who slays these fearful cosmological monsters.”
— BBC Sky at Night magazine, November 2014
“[The Edge of the Sky] is, without doubt, the strangest popular science book I have ever read or am ever likely to read. For reasons I don’t quite understand, I really liked it. […] The result is something with a strangely hypnotic, poetic quality. […] This book isn’t in verse, but it has the same, slightly mystical, rhythmic feel that translates a fairly ordinary story (like the opening chapter about an astronomer arriving at an observatory) into something magical.”
— PopularScience, Oct 10th 2014 [read more]
“The Edge of the Sky [is] a book that will be of special interest to teachers seeking ways to reach young, linguistically unsophisticated learners while giving accurate accounts of some dauntingly sophisticated concepts […] If anything, to take it down to the level of that basic vocabulary, Trotta proves this point: Big ideas don’t always need big words.”
— Kirkus Reviews, Sept 26th 2014 [read more]
“[A] poetic primer on the universe…. What emerges is a narrative that explains some of the most complex science in modern astrophysics told in language that sounds like a translation of ancient storytelling, like the folkloric fables of African mythology, the kinds of tales written before we had the words for phenomena, before we had the understanding that demanded those words…. But Trotta’s greatest feat is the grace with which he addresses the greatest question of cosmology, the one at the heart of the ancient tension between science and religion…a bind with which humanity still tussles vigorously to this day, yet one Trotta untangles with extraordinary intellectual elegance…. The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is is one part children’s book for grownups, one part imaginative exercise in economical yet lyrical language, and wholly wonderful.”
— Brain Pickings, Sept 25th 2014 [read more]
“The extraordinary story of the Universe and our journey to understand it is not an easy one to tell to the general public. But because it is the story that binds us all together, it is important to tell it in myriad ways to reach as many people as possible. The Edge of the Sky is an inventive, enjoyable and thought-provoking contribution to that effort.”
—Nature, Sept 25th 2014
“In less capable hands, this experiment could backfire and become confusing rather than charming. In Trotta’s, ordinary words are bent and spun to achieve extraordinary results. He uses his self-imposed limits to find new ways to describe reality.”
—Columbus Dispatch, Sept 21st 2014 [read more]
“[A] surprisingly clear, and often poetic, primer on such complicated topics as the big bang, dark energy and the possibility of multiverses.”
—Scientific American, September 2014
“A simplified but by no means simplistic introduction to modern cosmology and physics—the flagship sciences of the “All-There-Is.” […] An entertaining exercise … for those student-people who like to ponder the All-There-Is while testing the always-inadequate limits of language.”
—Kirkus Reviews, August 13th 2014
“Trotta’s deft word choices quickly draw the reader into a surprisingly vivid alternate reality where student-persons (scientists) strive to pierce the mysteries of the All-There-Is: the universe. From its origin in the Big Flash through Einstein’s marriage of time and space into ‘space-time’ to the invisible power of the Dark Push (dark energy) and dark matter, Trotta explores each topic with clarity as well as charm…. [T]he spare writing is elegant, even poetic. Literary experiments tend either to work or to flail with awkwardness; in Trotta’s hands, this beautifully written book, with its limited vocabulary, soars.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review, July 21st 2014 [read more]
“A blend of literary experimentation and science popularization, this delightful book tells the story of the universe on a human scale.”
—Publishers Weekly, Top 10 Science Books list, Fall Announcements, June 23rd 2014
The Edge of the Sky will be published in Korean by Kyobo Book Centre and is now available in German by C.H. Beck.
Print and media
Roberto’s “In So Many Words” NewScientist #upgoer5 column. Where space news stories are re-told using only the most common 1,000 words in English:
- In so many words: Minute world with big stories to tell, NewScientist online, July 30th 2015
- In so many words: Don’t kill small-life before Red World trip, NewScientist online, July 24th 2015
- In so many words: How to ride the space-wind to the stars, NewScientist online, June 4th 2015
Roberto discussing “The Edge of the Sky”:
- “A New Language For Science”, Science Writing Resources for Learning blogpost, Jan 2016
- Interview with “Fascination” magazine, Summer 2015
- FQXi podcast, with Sophie Hebden, July 28th 2015
- Neil Delamere’s Sunday Best, Today FM, June 14th 2015
- Sierra Club Radio, with Orli Cotel, Apr 11th 2015
- Interview with Fiat Physica, Jan 29th 2015
- Simple is Hard, Army AL&T Magazine, Jan-Mar 2015
- Book Q&A with Deborah Kalb, Jan 2015
- Is the All-There-Is all there is? Significance magazine, December 2014.
- The power of simplicity: explaining All-There-Is with the most common thousand words, Communicating Astronomy with the Public journal (CAPj), December 2014.
- Science for the People, with Desiree Schell, Nov 28th 2014.
- Speaking of Science, with Julie Gould, Nov 19th 2014.
- Can the universe be described in simple English? British Council’s VOICES blog post, Nov 12th 2014.
- Inquiry, with Mark Lynch, Oct 31st 2014.
- Between the Covers, with Leigh Anne Kranz, Oct 30th 2014.
- Living on Earth, with Steve Curwood, Oct 24th 2014.
- Words on a Wire, with Daniel Chacon, Oct 19th 2014.
- New Books in Physics podcast, with Meg Rosenburg, Oct 21st 2014.
- In Residence podcast, with Steve Scher, Oct 21st 2014.
- Seattle Astronomy blog, Oct 21st 2014.
- Imperial Podcast with Gail Wilson, Oct 15th 2014.
- Four-way interview with Brian Clegg, popularscience.co.uk
- The Jason Mohammad Show on BBC Radio Wales, Oct 13th 2014.
- Talk Radio Europe with Hannah Murray, Oct 8th 2014.
- C-SPAN2 Book TV, Talk at the Commonwealth Club of California, Sept 23rd 2014.
- Authors at Google video, Mountain View, Sept 29th 2014.
- Mangalyaan: The Power of Science and Simplicity, The Eastern Eye, Oct 3rd 2014.
- KATU-TV am northwest, with Helen Raptis and Dave Anderson, Oct 2nd 2014.
- Nature podcast with Elizabeth Gibney, Sept 25th 2014.
- NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday interview with Wade Goodwyn, Sept 21st 2014.
Advance Praise for “The Edge of the Sky”
“The Edge of the Sky is the epitome of accessibility and utterly captivating. Completely wonderful.”
—Sarah Bridle, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Manchester
“In this unusual and engaging book, short in length but long in ideas, Roberto Trotta uncovers the mysteries of the Universe, from the Big Bang (“Big Flash”) to the dark energy (“dark push”), in a highly original and understandable way. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down.”
—Carlos S Frenk, Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics, Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology, Durham University
“It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but this unique book reverses that old adage by employing only the 1,000 most commonly-used English words to paint a wonderfully vivid picture of the story of our universe. The Edge of the Sky contains a compelling, almost poetic account of cosmology, encompassing the Big Bang, dark matter, dark energy, the Higgs boson, and much more, and is presented in a manner that will be accessible to all. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in learning about our universe, from here to the Edge of the Sky and beyond.”
—Mike Hobson, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Cambridge
“The Edge of the Sky ranges from exoplanets, through dark matter and dark energy and even supersymmetry… without any technical words. Speaking as someone who works on the ‘Big Ring’ in the ‘city in a land full of safe places to put your money in’: this is big fun, and amazing that so much can be said in so few words.”
—Jonathan Butterworth, Professor of Physics, University College London
“The Edge of the Sky is a highly original book, which explains the foundations and the latest discoveries and ideas in astronomy: from planets and life elsewhere in the universe to dark energy and the multiverse. Roberto Trotta, a leading cosmologist from Imperial College London, has managed to achieve this by only using fewer than the 1,000 most common words of the English language. This is an inspiring book for everyone.”
—Ofer Lahav, Perren Professor of Astronomy, University College London
“Never before did we know so much about our universe, the All-There-Is. But are we getting any closer to understanding essential components of its true nature, dark matter and dark energy, which dominate by far over the visible, familiar matter? With rare candour and true learning, Roberto Trotta takes us on an intimate adventure in search of possible answers, as he charts the story of our universe from a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang to the present – while conveying at the same time the very human, at once exhilarating and humbling experience of this search. All this by using merely seven hundred and seven out of the thousand most common words of the English language, charmingly arranged to shake off the familiar, leaving us to marvel at our Home-World and at the mysteries that lie beyond its edge.”
—Laura Baudis, Professor of Physics, University of Zurich
“Jargon is a perpetual problem in communicating frontier science to a general audience: everyday specialists are so immersed in their specialised argot that we cease to be aware of the barrier it creates. I therefore applaud this attempt to describe the current state of cosmology in the most stripped-down language possible. The result is transparent, and also full of marvellously vivid turns of phrase, such as ‘Mr Einstein’s Dark Push’. Definitely an original and distinctive addition to the literature in this area.”
—John Peacock FRS, Professor of Cosmology, University of Edinburgh
“A tale as beautiful as the great spiritual stories – with the difference that this one is built on a solid foundation of fact.”
—David J. Hand, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Imperial College London and author of The Improbability Principle
“A delightful little gem for adults and children alike that leads you on a unique journey with its hypnotic, disarming prose. There are many books that attempt to creatively explain the universe in simple terms; this is one of the few that succeeds.”
—Bruce Bassett, Head of Cosmology at the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town, and author of Introducing Relativity
“How many different chords must you know before you can appreciate a symphony? How many different brush strokes must you master before you can appreciate a painting? How many different words do you need to use to appreciate the wonders of the universe? Roberto Trotta claims just 1000, and bravely put pen to paper to try and prove it in this enjoyable short volume.”
—Lawrence M. Krauss, Foundation Professor and Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University and author of A Universe from Nothing, and The Physics of Star Trek
“Our Universe is described by only six numbers. In this entertaining and enjoyable book, Trotta recounts our knowledge of the cosmos with only the most 700-odd used words in the English dictionary. His extremely original approach conveys all the information with the most minimalistic use of language. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the latest discoveries about our Universe within the framework of an “avant-garde” and experimental writing style.”
—Raul Jimenez, Professor of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics, University of Barcelona
“Cosmology and astrophysics are confusing at the best of times. But, against all the quantum odds, Dr Roberto Trotta has managed to explain the topics using just 1,000 unique words. Readers of The Edge Of The Sky will be treated to a delightful, poetic journey into our world, other worlds and beyond without ever feeling like their vocabulary is holding them back. And yet that is not this book’s greatest achievement. More impressive than the linguistic poetry and more profound than the hard science herein is the overwhelming sense of awe and wonder this book gifts the reader. This book will appeal to any adult who as eight year child looked up to the stars and wondered about the universe. Best of all, the eight year olds of today don’t have to wait until they are adults to discover it for themselves.”
—Stephen Follows, Writer and Film Producer
“Roberto Trotta’s clever metaphors illuminate dark matter and dark energy. This book is a delightful, poetic, and informative read about all there is in the Universe.”
—Edward Frenkel, Professor of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley, and author of Love and Math
“It’s a daunting challenge to condense the rarefied world of modern cosmology into a short book that involves only the thousand most common English words, but Trotta has pulled it off with considerable aplomb. The result is engaging and amusing but also surprises the reader into thinking deeply about the way our use of language shapes our view of external reality.”
—Peter Coles, Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Sussex
“The Edge of Sky is an enthralling read that turns on its head the conventional (and in my view thoroughly misguided) wisdom that complicated scientific ideas can only be described using complicated language. Roberto Trotta takes the reader on a fascinating and entertaining journey through the very latest discoveries in astrophysics and cosmology, using only the 1000 most common English words, but never compromising on the clarity and detail of his scientific descriptions. The Edge of the Sky captures with child-like wonder the mysteries of the cosmos in language accessible to everyone, making it eminently suitable for children of all ages!”
—Martin Hendry, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Glasgow
“In a style akin to magical realism, Roberto Trotta tells the story of the cosmos—an engaging and informative book.”
—Arthur I. Miller, author of Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art
“A wonder-full not-afraid story-telling try-it-and-see, about big-sky-study of today with only the ten-hundred most used words. Very not-usual, most good. Fun, too. Buy now!”
—Ian Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick, and author of Visions of Infinity
04.06.2015: “In So Many Words” NewScientist column written in #upgoer5 launches.
27.03.2014 Announcing the German translation of The Edge of the Sky, to be published by C.H. Beck.
31.12.2014 The Edge of the Sky named as one of the Great Popular Science Books 2014 by The Huffington Post books blog
31.12.2014 The Edge of the Sky named as Favourite Physics Book 2014 by Scientific American Cocktail Party Physics blog
4.12.2014 First foreign translation of The Edge of the Sky announced: to be published by Kyobo Book Centre in Korean.
24.11.2014 The Edge of the Sky named one of the best science books of 2014 by brainpickings.org
17.11.2014 Foreign Policy’s 100 Global Thinkers 2014 award ceremony in Washington, DC. Roberto named in the “Chroniclers” category for “junking astronomy jargon”.
6.10.2014 UK launch party! Hurrah! [video]
09.10.2014 UK Publication day for The Edge of the Sky!
23.09.2014 Publication day! The Edge of the Sky is bestseller #2 on Amazon.com “Astrophysics and Space Science” list!
18.09.2014 You can now try the 1,000 words format used in The Edge of the Sky yourself!
19.08.2014. The Edge of the Sky is featured as a “Recommended” book on Scientific American
31.07.2014. The Edge of the Sky is named as one of the “most anticipated books of fall 2014” by Publishers Weekly.
21.07.2014. The Edge of the Sky gets a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
14.07.2014. Audiobook available for pre-order here.
02.07.2014. The Edge of the Sky available for pre-order here.
Meet Roberto and discuss The Edge of the Sky with him at one of the events below!
- Tuesday, August 28th @12.00 PM – INSAP IX Conference, Gresham College, London
- Friday, July 10th @ 2.00 PM – Graduate School Summer Research Symposium keynote, Imperial College London
- Saturday, June 27th @ 4.00 PM – Google SciFoo camp, Mountain View
- Sunday, June 14th @ 2.00 PM – Zurich Dalkey Book Festival, Dalkey, Ireland
- Saturday, May 9th @ 1.00 PM – Imperial Festival, London
- Friday, April 10 @ 7.00 PM – The Big Bang Bash, Edinburgh Science Festival
- Friday, April 10 @ 5.30 PM – Edinburgh Science Festival
- Friday, April 10 @ 3.00 PM – National Museum of Scotland
- Monday, March 16 @ 7.00 PM – Airware, San Francisco [private event]
- Thursday, February 12 @ 7.00 PM – Royal Institution, London [sold out]
- Wednesday, January 14 @ 4.30 PM and @6.30 PM – Winchester Science Centre, Winchester
- Thursday, December 11th @7.00 PM – Imperial Fringe Festival, London
- Monday, November 17th @ 6.00 PM – Global Thinkers reception, Washington, DC
- Thursday, November 13th @ 7.00 PM – English Language Council lecture, Mayfair, London [sold out][video]
- Saturday, November 1st @ 3.40PM – World Teach In weekend, Imperial College London
- Monday, October 27th @ 6.30 PM – Manchester Science Festival [sold out]
- Thursday, October 16 @ 6:30 PM – UK book launch, London [video][article]
- Sunday October 12th @ 1.30 PM – Technopop, Stratford London
- Wednesday, October 1 @ 7:30 PM – Powell’s Bookstore (Portland, OR)
- Tuesday, September 30 @ 7:30 PM – Town Hall Seattle (Seattle)
- Monday, September 29th @ 1.00 PM – Google Campus, Mountain View [video]
- Tuesday, September 23 @ 6:00 PM – Commonwealth Club of California (San Francisco) [sold out][video]
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Do you have questions, comments, feedback for Roberto? Have you read The Edge of the Sky and want to share your thoughts? Get in touch… using the 1,000 most common words in English!