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Hardcover | $29.95 Trade | £24.95 | 246 pp. | 8.25 x 10.25 in | 248 color illus. | November 2017 | ISBN: 9780262037235
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The Dialogues

Conversations about the Nature of the Universe
Foreword by Frank Wilczek


Physicist Clifford Johnson thinks that we should have more conversations about science. Science should be on our daily conversation menu, along with topics like politics, books, sports, or the latest prestige cable drama. Conversations about science, he tells us, shouldn’t be left to the experts. In The Dialogues, Johnson invites us to eavesdrop on a series of nine conversations, in graphic-novel form—written and drawn by Johnson—about “the nature of the universe.” The conversations take place all over the world, in museums, on trains, in restaurants, in what may or may not be Freud’s favorite coffeehouse. The conversationalists are men, women, children, experts, and amateur science buffs. The topics of their conversations range from the science of cooking to the multiverse and string theory. The graphic form is especially suited for physics; one drawing can show what it would take many words to explain.

In the first conversation, a couple meets at a costume party; they speculate about a scientist with superhero powers who doesn’t use them to fight crime but to do more science, and they discuss what it means to have a “beautiful equation” in science. Their conversation spills into another chapter (“Hold on, you haven’t told me about light yet”), and in a third chapter they exchange phone numbers. Another couple meets on a train and discusses immortality, time, black holes, and religion. A brother and sister experiment with a grain of rice. Two women sit in a sunny courtyard and discuss the multiverse, quantum gravity, and the anthropic principle. After reading these conversations, we are ready to start our own.

About the Author

Clifford V. Johnson, Professor of Physics at the University of Southern California, gives many public lectures about his research and appears often in television documentaries as an expert. He has been science advisor for several movies and television series, including Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and the National Geographic Channel’s Genius.


“This is a fantastic book—entertaining, informative, enjoyable, and thought-provoking.”
A. Zee, Kavil Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara; author of Fearful Symmetry and Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell
“Two superheroes walk into a natural history museum—what happens after that will have you thinking and talking for a long time to come. Clifford V. Johnson’s The Dialogues joins a select few examples of recent texts, such as Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe, Nick Sousanis’s Unflattening, Bryan Talbot’s Alice in Sunderland, or Joe Sacco’s Palestine, which use the affordances of graphic storytelling as pedagogical tools for changing the ways we think about the world around us. Johnson displays a solid grasp of the craft of comics, demonstrating how this medium can be used to represent different understandings of the relationship between time and space, questions central to his native field of physics. He takes advantage of the observational qualities of contemporary graphic novels to explore the place of scientific thinking in our everyday lives.”
Henry Jenkins, Media Scholar, University of Southern California; author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
The Dialogues is everything I would have loved as a teen physics nerd, and exactly what I want the public—and my fellow scientists—reading now that I’m a professional physics nerd. The Dialogues successfully upends tired traditions in science writing, which all too often rely on outdated tropes about what science is, what scientists look like, and what we can trust the public to understand.”
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, theoretical physicist, activist, and writer, recipient of the 2017 lgbt+physicists Acknowledgement of Excellence Award