Lisa Randall on Writing Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Sean Carroll in Cosmic Variance:

Randall Lisa Randall is a friend and collaborator, as well as a science superstar. She is one of the most highly cited physicists of all time, for a variety of contributions to field theory and particle physics, especially her work with Raman Sundrum on warped extra dimensions. Her first book, Warped Passages, was a major success, which naturally raises the question of what one does next. (Besides writing papers, I mean.)

So we’re very happy to welcome Lisa aboard to guest blog about her new book, just out today: Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World. (Among other virtues, this book has the single most impressive collection of blurbers of any book ever written, from Bill Clinton to Carlton Cuse.) From personal experience I can verify that writing a book doesn’t just happen; it’s a tremendous commitment over an extended period of time, and once it’s done there’s not much chance to go back and change it. So deciding to write a book at all, and more importantly how exactly to target the writing, is a delicate and critical process.

While Lisa hasn’t yet become a regular blogger, she is active on Twitter, where you can follow her at @lirarandall.


In conjunction with the publication of Knocking on Heaven’s Door, I thought I’d take advantage of Sean’s kind invitation to post on Cosmic Variance to explain my motivations in writing my book. I haven’t done a lot of blogging myself but I am impressed at the care and interest that go into science blogs. They are a way of sharing developments as they happen and an opportunity to have meaningful discussion of results.

I talk about a lot of science in my book. So I thought rather than summarizing it all—at least in this post—I’d focus on the question of why I wrote this particular book. I waited several years before even considering embarking on a second book project. I certainly didn’t want to simply repeat the content of my previous book, and my own personal goal is always to branch out into new arenas—in this case into new types of writing–while still remaining true to my physics roots. I didn’t know the exact book I was after but I did know some of the topics I considered important and timely.

More here.