cover image The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is

The Edge of the Sky: All You Need to Know About the All-There-Is

Roberto Trotta. Basic, $19.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-465-04471-9

Explaining complex ideas in accessible language is the goal of every popular science writer, but Trotta, a theoretical cosmologist at Imperial College London, stretches that effort to creative extremes, telling the story of modern cosmology with only the “ten hundred” (aka 1,000) most common English words. At first glance, the deliberately simple language feels childish, more of a distraction than a valuable, creative approach. Airplanes are “flying cars,” planetary rovers like Curiosity are “space-cars,” a large telescope is a Big-Seer, and planets, with their wandering paths across the heavens, are Crazy Stars. But 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. There are a few quirks—for example, why are Big-Seers gendered as male?—but, in general, the 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. (Oct.)