Cover of Collision: stories from the science of CERN

Putting the science into science fiction

Fundamental particles and interactions
Particle Physics

When cutting-edge science meets award-winning writers, the result is a unique collection of sci-fi short stories… Collision: Stories from the Science of CERN brings together 13 physicists from the largest particle physics laboratory in the world with writers and authors, including Steven Moffat (Sherlock and Dr Who) and novelist and Small Axe screen writer Courttia Newland.

Courttia Newland was paired with Dr Daniel Cervenkov from the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, whose pitch was successful back in 2021.

‘I submitted a page-long popular description of the subject of my research: matter, antimatter, and CP violation – the differences in the laws of physics between the two,’ Dr Cervenkov recalls. ‘In my pitch, I talked about the possibility of a distant alien civilisation living in an antimatter-dominated part of the universe, implications of CP-violation for communication with them, and a Leidenfrost layer between the matter- and antimatter-dominated parts. It raises the interesting scenario of establishing contact with aliens, we know we can never meet.’

At the end of 2021, Dr Cervenkov met with author Courttia Newland to discuss the science in more detail and talk about possible stories. He was then in touch with both Courttia and the book’s editor throughout 2022, commenting on and feeding into the developing manuscript. Each of the chosen physicists was also asked to provide an afterword for the story, published alongside each short story.

‘It was an exciting project to be involved with,’ concludes Dr Cervenkov. ‘As a big fan of science fiction and someone who is passionate about scientific outreach, it was great to take this to the next level by working with Courttia. I’m happy we could bring our science from CERN to a wider audience, even if we leaned more heavily on the fi than sci in sci-fi.’

Collision: Stories from the Science of CERN is out on 3 March 2023.