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ANIL ANANTHASWAMY is a consultant editor for New Scientist. He has been with the magazine since 2000, including as a staff writer and deputy news editor, and has written more than 400 news and features articles. He has also written for National Geographic News, Discover magazine, The Times Online (UK) and the Independent (UK) and is a columnist for PBS NOVA’s The Nature of Reality blog. He studied electronics, electrical and computer engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and the University of Washington, Seattle, and worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley before training as a journalist in the University of California Santa Cruz’s renowned science-writing programme. Now a guest lecturer on that programme, he also teaches an annual science journalism workshop at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India. He lives in Bangalore and California.



The Edge of Physics

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From Autism to Out-of-Body Experiences – What Mental Disorders Are Telling Us About Who We Are

An eye-opening look at the faultlines in our psychology – from autism to out-of-body experiences, from schizophrenia to epilepsy – that threaten our sense of self while giving us tantalizing glimpses into who we are.  

From the Buddha to the modern scientist and philosopher, humans have pondered the nature of the self. Is it real or an illusion? Is the self in the brain, and if so where in the brain is it? Neuroscience is telling us that our sense of self seems to be an ephemeral entity created by the brain: that the self is an illusion – nature’s most sophisticated sleight-of-hand. Yet this obfuscates a basic truth: we are our selves. Remove the self and there is no ‘I’ on whom a trick is being played, no one who is the subject of an illusion. What’s more, when the self gets disturbed, the ramifications are so serious that suggesting to the sufferer that the self is an illusion is of little help.


In MALADIES OF THE SELF, Anil Ananthaswamy sets out to disentangle the tightly woven threads that form our identity and to provide a new view of the self. In each chapter, he examines the self through the lens of a psychiatric or neurological disorder and reveals some sliver of the self excised by the disorder, often leaving in its wake a devastating illness. In ‘body integrity identity disorder’, for instance, the disturbance causes you to feel that a part of your body is foreign and needs to be amputated; in Alzheimer’s disease, the autobiographical self is fossilized; and in depersonalization disorder and Cotard’s syndrome, sufferers experience deep crises of identity that cause them to question their very existence. These disorders perturb different aspects of the self, such as sense of ownership or sense of agency, and so shed light on how these attributes make up our sense of self.


From schizophrenia, autism and epilepsy to Alzheimer’s disease and out-of-body experiences, Ananthaswamy introduces readers to the regions of the brain responsible for these and other maladies of the self as well as to the greatest thinkers, philosophers and neuroscientists who have pondered the nature of personal identity. All this is grounded in the author’s first-person accounts of people who suffer from disorders of the self. He meets, for example, an athletic man in perfectly good health, and with no signs of irrationality or psychosis, who submits himself to a voluntary amputation of a leg that he felt did not belong to him. Heartbreaking stories such as this provide strong clues to how the brain constructs our sense of self, and the trauma that ensues when the process goes awry. Together they provide a unique take on that perennial question, ‘Who am I?’

Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Publication: Autumn 2015

Length: 75,000 words


All rights available excluding:

World English Language (Dutton), Germany (Eichborn)


A Journey to Earth's Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

An accomplished and timely overview of modern cosmology and particle astrophysics. Ananthaswamy’s characterizations of the many physicists he meets are on the mark... Conveys that cutting-edge science is a human endeavour – NATURE

A remarkable narrative that combines fundamental physics with high adventure... Ananthaswamy is a worthy guide for both journeys – NEW SCIENTIST

Displays a writer's touch for the fascinating detail – WASHINGTON POST

Quite simply, the ultimate physics-adventure travelogue... as an adventure story and a fly-on-the-wall account of remote places that most of us will never visit, THE EDGE OF PHYSICS is brilliant – PHYSICS WORLD

A grand tour of modern-day cosmology’s sacred places... evocative...engaging... refreshing... a taste of science in the heroic mode – SKY AT NIGHT MAGAZINE


Ananthaswamy, a science writer and editor, smoothly weaves together the stories of people who help push science forward, from principal investigators to research institute gardeners, with exquisitely clear explanations of the questions they hope to solve – and why some research can be done only at the edge of the world – SCIENCE NEWS

Stirring, scenic narrative... Ananthaswamy journeys to several geographically and scientifically extreme outposts, and returns not only with engaging portraits of the men and women who work there, but also a vibrant glimpse of how cutting-edge research is actually performed. Part history lesson, part travelogue, part adventure story, THE EDGE OF PHYSICS is a wonder-steeped page-turner – SEED magazine

These experiments and others are heroic in every sense, and Ananthaswamy captures their excitement – and the personalities of the scientists behind them – with enthusiasm and insight– PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Sure to appeal to general readers interested in science books without the philosophy and mathematics found in drier, more academic physics titles – LIBRARY JOURNAL

Physicists are trying to understand the furthest reaches of space and the furthest extremes of matter and energy. To do it, they have to trek to some of the furthest places on Earth – from deep underground, to forbidding mountains, to the cold of Antarctica. Anil Ananthaswamy takes us on a thrilling ride around the globe and around the cosmos, to reveal the real work that goes into understanding our universe – Sean Carroll, California Institute of Technology, and author of FROM ETERNITY TO HERE: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time

Clean, elegant prose, humming with interest – Robert Macfarlane, author of MOUNTAINS OF THE MIND and THE WILD PLACES

An excellent book. The author has a great knack of making difficult subjects comprehensible. I thoroughly enjoyed it – Sir Patrick Moore, former president of the British Astronomical Society and presenter of the BBC’s 'The Sky at Night'

Ananthaswamy’s juxtaposition of extreme travel and extreme science offers a genuinely novel route into the story of modern cosmology. His story turns on the price of success: we already know so much about our universe that it becomes hugely difficult – even genuinely risky – to pry loose from nature that next burst of insight. The result is a well written and genuinely accessible tale of what it takes to push past the edge of human knowledge – Thomas Levenson, author of NEWTON AND THE COUNTERFEITER and EINSTEIN IN BERLIN


An intrepid journalist takes us from desolate deserts to derelict mines to answer some of the most burning questions in physics today.


Physics is in crisis. For more than two centuries, our understanding of the laws of nature expanded rapidly. But in the past few decades, we’ve made astonishingly little progress. What will finally break the impasse and get physics back on track?


In this timely and original book, science writer Anil Ananthaswamy sets out in search of the world’s most audacious physics experiments: the telescopes and detectors that promise to shed new light on such things as dark matter, dark energy and the phenomenon of quantum gravity (which string theory tries to explain). He soon finds himself at the ends of the Earth – in cold and remote and sometimes dangerous places. As it turns out, extreme physics requires extreme environments.

Reporting from some of the most inhospitable and dramatic research sites on our planet – from the Atacama Desert in Chile, to the Indian Observatory in the Himalayas, to the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica to deep within an abandoned iron mine in Minnesota – Ananthaswamy weaves together stories about the people and places at the heart of this research while beautifully explaining the problems that scientists are trying to solve. In so doing, he provides a unique portrait of the universe and our quest to understand it. Atmospheric, engaging and illuminating, THE EDGE OF PHYSICS brings cosmology – with all its rarefied concepts – back down to Earth.


Publisher: Duckworth (UK)/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (US)
Pub Date: 2 March 2010 (US)/22 April 2010 (UK)
Length: 336 pages

All rights available excluding:
UK & Commonwealth, US, Germany (Spektrum), Greece (Travlos), India (Penguin – English language), Italy (Codice), Japan (Kawadeshobo), Korea (Humanist), Poland (Prószyński), Russia (Eksmo)