Project Brief: Thought X (by invitation only) (Part 2)

This is a new, on-going project coordinated by Comma Press, in conjunction with the Institute of Physics, to commission authors and scientists to collaborate on new short stories that explore the great 'what if's in physics: the thought experiment. 

Often referred to as the 'Intuition Pump' or Gedankenexperiment, the thought experiment shows the scientific imagination at its most ingenious. Devised as a way of conducting an experiment to test the limits of a theory without actually having to conduct it, it shows that, contrary to popular belief, science is NOT averse to story-telling, the power of the imagination, or the creative possibilities of the 'what if'. 

The long-term ambition of this project is to produce a full-length anthology of stories incorporating thought experiments (and accompanied by scientific afterwords), but initially we commissioned five stories from the following writers:
        Sara Maitland (2 stories) - working with Dr Rob Appleby and Professor Tara Shears
        Sara Schofield - working with Dr Rob Appleby
        Marie Louise Cookson - working with Dr Rob Appleby
        Claire Dean - working with Prof Roman Frigg

The first two stories, by Sara Maitland, are titled 'The Beautiful Equation' (dealing with anti-matter and Paul Dirac's formulation of the schrodinger equation) and 'Dark Humour' (about the four fundamental forces) have been included in Sara's new collection Moss Witch. Follow the link for more. 
The other three stories, 'The Tiniest Atom', 'Bright Boy' and 'People Watching' - which explore the thought experiments 'Laplace's Demon', 'Maxwell's Demon' and 'Gallileo's Boat', respectively - are available to read online below, along with their afterwords.

Read Bright Boy by Marie Louise Cookson.

Afterword by Dr Rob Appleby here.

Read People Watching by Claire Dean.

Afterword by Prof Roman Frigg here.

Read The Tiniest Atom by Sarah Schofield.

Afterword by Dr Rob Appleby here.

In the meantime, here are some clips of three of the above mentioned stories being read and discussed, on Radio Four's 'Open Book' with Mariella Frostrup, at Lancaster Litfest, and at Manchester's MadLab.

1. LISTEN TO: Prof. Tara Shears and Sara Maitland discuss anti-matter and the story 'The Beautiful Equation' with Mariella Frostrup on Radio Four's Open Book.
Click here then scroll to 10mins in.

2. WATCH: Sarah SchofieldMarie-Louise Cookson and Dr Rob Applerby discuss Maxwell and Laplace's Demon, and the stories 'The Tiniest Atom' and 'Bright Boy' at MadLab.

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

3. Watch Dr. Rob Appleby and Sara Maitland discuss the four fundamental forces, and the story 'Dark Humour' at Lancaster Litfest.
(apologies for the poor sound). See it here.

If you are a physicist (or philosopher of physics) and would like to be involved in this project (for example, suggest a thought and then consult on the story), please get in touch with Ra.Page[at]
Here is a list of thought experiments already suggested. If you can think of others (and would like to consult on them), we'd love to hear from you!!

About the Authors 

Sara Maitland grew up in Galloway and studied at Oxford University. Her first novel, Daughters of Jerusalem, was published in 1978 and won the Somerset Maugham Award. Novels since have included Three Times Table (1990), Home Truths (1993) and Brittle Joys (1999), and one cowritten with Michelene Wandor, Arky Types (1987). Her short story collections include Telling Tales (1983), A Book of Spells (1987) and most recently, On Becoming a Fairy Godmother (2003). She also contributed a story to The New Uncanny (Comma, 2008). 

Claire Dean's stories have been published in The Best British Short StoriesMurmurations: An Anthology of Uncanny Stories About BirdsStillShadows &Tall Trees and elsewhere. 'Marionettes' and 'Into the Penny Arcade' are published as chapbooks by Nightjar Press. A collection of Claire's new fairy tales is due out from Unsettling Wonder in Spring 2014. She lives in Lancashire with her two young sons. 

Sarah Schofield is a new writer whose recent prizes include the Writers Inc Short Story Competition and the Calderdale Short Story Competition. She was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in 2010 and was runner up in The Guardian Travel Writing Competition. She has contributed to three Comma science projects so far: 'Traces Remain' appeared in Lemistry: A Celebration of the Life of Stanislaw Lem, The Tiniest Atom, in the forthcoming Thought X anthology, and a new story for Beta-Life, a collection of stories exploring artificial life. 

Marie Louise Cookson writes and performs short fiction, monologues and scripts. She was recently selected to take part in Flying Solo, Contact Theatre's annual festival to support and mentor solo performers. Her play, Get The Confidence, Get The Love was produced as part of Shortworks, also at the Contact Theatre. Marie has collaborated with the film and video making collective, Institute Zoom on their fantastical time adventure serial, Universal Ear. She continues to write a blog, Well Fan My Brow & Shut My Mouth, a comedic look at North West life