Non-Fiction | 29 July 2016Q & A with Raman Prinja Share article facebook twitter google pinterest What exactly goes on at the International Space Station and why does the Earth spin? Raman Prinja answers these questions in his new title 50 Things You Should Know About Space, currently a Professor of Astrophysics at University College London, he offers us fun facts and figures on a topic that excites all ages – from learning about space missions to the sun and colliding galaxies. He reveals an insight into the creative process, why he got into writing and what’s next… How did your career in writing begin? It stemmed out of my ‘main job’ as a Professor of Astrophysics. I have always felt strongly that encouraging and promoting public engagement in science is a very important component of the role of a scientist. I’m very fortunate to be researching in astrophysics, as the Universe offers up so many beautiful and imaginative opportunities to engage the wider public – and young people in particular – with exciting new discoveries. I am keen to promote an encouragement of science in children in the hope that more of them will be persuaded to consider a career in science. One platform for this Outreach has been to author informative, exciting and visually stunning books on astronomy and physics. Books that get across an understanding of some of the latest discoveries, while encouraging the young readers to explore further and deeper. Do you have a favourite part of the writing / creative process? I particularly enjoy the initial brainstorming. It’s been a pleasure working with publishers who have encouraged me to develop new ideas and different angles, rather than be constrained to rigid outlines. Mixing up ideas, different formats and layouts, and themes for getting across a lot of factual information is the most creative and inspirational part of writing for me. It’s also always a relief when the book has been completed and I can put the Publishing Editor’s stress over the (invariably very tight) schedules at ease! Can you tell us about the things that most inspire your work / what you enjoy writing about. I am quite simply inspired by the beauty of the Universe. As as professor at University College London I have spent many decades carry out research into stars and their influence in galaxies. It is very exciting to be working in astrophysics at a time when some amazing discoveries are being made, using incredibly powerful telescopes. The collision of black holes to generate gravitational waves, discovery of Earth-like planets around other stars, the creation and spread of life-giving chemical elements in massive stars, a Universe where the expansion is in over-drive due to mysterious dark energy…there’s much going on! In terms of space exploration, we have fascinating spacecraft missions across the solar system, fantastic new telescopes being built such as JWST the successor to Hubble, and the engineering challenges of getting humans to Mars. I enjoy writing about these awesome developments in books that will hopefully also excite and inspire children. What project are you working on at the moment? My latest book for young people 50 Things You Should Know About Space has just been published this summer. The book is packed with the latest and most important discoveries, lots of cool facts, and fabulous images from amazingly powerful telescopes. I hope to get the book widely noticed and placed into school and public libraries, and then into the heads of young people, and their parents and teachers too! I’m also working on new ideas to describe a future time-line of the Universe; key events that science and physical laws predict will occur over the next several billion years of the Universe. In my life as a research professor, we are leading a radio astronomy project exploiting UK’s extremely powerful e-MERLIN array of radio telescopes to study collections of thousands of the most massive stars in our Galaxy. These amazing stellar clusters provide fantastic laboratories for exploring the formation and evolution of massive stars in the Universe. What has been the highlight of your career so far? A recent highlight of my book writing career has been to be shortlisted for the 2015 Royal Society Young People’s book prize. It was a great honour to be part of this prestigious and very worthwhile scheme to promote science books for children. It was very satisfying to have the chance to directly engage with critical(!) young readers and know that many were inspired by my ‘Night Sky Watcher’ guide to get out there, look up and view the Universe for themselves. That’s awesome! If you had to pick three favourite books which have made a difference to how you see the world, what would you choose and why? The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – it’s a fantastic narrative, and a wonderful lesson that great treasure is not physical, but rather the ‘personal legend’ of discovering and pursuing your own unique path; and enthusiastically arriving at your destiny. 1984 by George Orwell – not everything is at it seems. There are truly powerful ideas in this classic novel, and your eyes are never again closed to the right to privacy, the media, and government – quite a mix! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – very smart, witty Sci-fi; can’t ask for much more! Taught me that serious things don’t always have to be solemn and sombre. There’s always a way of looking at things that lets you enjoy happiness! 50 Things You Should Know About Space Author: Raman Prinja Format: Paperback / softback, 80 Pages Publisher: QED Publishing Series: 50 Things You Should Know About Find out more on this title here Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.