CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/
-- Alexandra Harris isn't your run-of-the mill physics
professor. While most of her contemporaries (you could hardly call
them peers) were giggling through middle school, the gifted female
prodigy was well on her way to earning her doctorate in theoretical
physics. Now, at the tender age of twenty, she's a full professor
at a prestigious California
institute teaching much older students the ins and outs of Hilbert
Spaces, the Banach-Tarski paradox, and what it takes to navigate
the higher realms of science as not only a child, but a female
child at that. It's a treacherous path brought richly to life in A
Slow Leap into the Sky (Fulton Books, paperback, $21.95), Jenna
MacSwain's engrossing new novel about sex, love, and
billion-dollar ideas in the beginning days of Silicon Valley.
"I've always felt somewhat haunted by the thought that the
contribution of women in physics and mathematics is underplayed, if
not buried entirely," says MacSwain who, herself, was one of the
first women admitted to Cal Tech in the 1980s and whose work paved
the way for some of the most impressive advances in artificial
intelligence today. "I held thirteen patents by the time I was
twenty-three," she says, embarrassed at the immodesty. "The road to
Silicon Valley was paved by tons of forgotten work by talented
women in physics, math, and engineering." And while the gripping
narrative in A Slow Leap into the Sky is by no-means
autobiographical, MacSwain does admit that it was inspired by
someone she knew at Cal Tech, unable to survive in a man's world as
well as the author herself apparently did. "The beginning days of
Silicon Valley and the academic institutions from which it sprang
was a brutal place for women scientists. I chose the ending I wrote
for Dr. Alexandra Harris, the
story's heroine, precisely for that reason."
Make no mistake, A Slow Leap into the Sky is no academic
treatise; you could loath math and physics and still get swept
wonderfully away by the decades-long love story that MacSwain lays
out with both the precision of an engineer and the heart of a poet.
The writing is fast, fun, crisp and insightful. One can learn a
thing or two about love and commitment, much as the heroine does,
by watching Dr. Harris blossom from the insecure twenty-year-old
genius she starts out as to the scientific powerhouse she becomes.
The thread through it all is her life-long love affair with an
older man, Dr. Frederick Lund, one
of the early academics to turn his ideas into dotcom billions.
MacSwain presents the waxing and waning and waxing again of this
smart, exciting couple in a way that makes you eager to know what
happens next as you're pondering the nature of learning to
MacSwain's brisk novel has plenty of implications for women
today. "Did you know that until 2018 only two women were awarded
the Nobel in physics? Madame Curie, 1903, and Maria Geoppert Mayer,
in 1972," MacSwain explains. "And it's not like there weren't
amazing women doing exciting things in physics. Many of their
contributions were erased from history or attributed to male
colleagues over that period of a hundred and fifteen years." The
truth—no surprise—is that the Nobel "boys club" that started after
Marie Curie won one of the very
first prizes has made it difficult for women in the field. "There's
a message here, I think, that's congruent with the push for STEM
(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) among girls and young
women today," says MacSwain. "I was very gratified to see the Nobel
in physics go to Donna Strickland in
2018 for her pioneering work in pulsed laser technology. Let's hope
it doesn't take another 46 years for the next one."
Let's also hope MacSwain continues to bring her refreshingly
intelligent perspective to the literary world again soon.
Jenna MacSwain was a scientist
and engineer before turning to writing fiction. She attended
Caltech and Berkeley and worked
for the kind of companies that aspired to build things like HAL9000
and the Holodeck. She now lives in Cambridge, MA and studies block chains,
quaternions, and quantum dots while dreaming of stories filled with
brilliant and inspiring women.
For more information, visit
Media contact: Victor Gulotta
Gulotta Communications, Inc.
SOURCE Gulotta Communications, Inc.