Meet the author: Dominic Walliman
We interviewed Dominic Walliman, author of the Professor Astrocat books. Illustrated by Ben Newman, Walliman’s schoolfriend, the books take a fun-filled approach to scientific concepts. Walliman also runs the Youtube channel Domain of Science, where he explains STEM subjects in an engaging, accessible way.
When I was at junior school I had lots of books, I got really into dinosaurs, nature, natural history, but for me science education took a lot of the fun out of it. I was fairly good, but a bit uninspired. Through a Channel 4 TV show about the universe, I read some books about quantum physics and it was so bonkers I did physics at A-level and it went from there.
With my books, I’ve tried to tackle the crazy exciting things that leave you wanting to find out more! Physics can be so abstract and strange you can come up with crazy thought experiments, like people experiencing time at different speeds. The more I’ve learnt, the more I see how those thought experiments are part of our everyday lives. GPS satellites for instance, have the time programmed into them, they have very accurate clocks, but they experience time in a different way to us because they’re in a different gravitational field. It’s only because these clocks have to be so accurate you do notice that effect.
My goal was to cover the most exciting stuff in the Astro Cat books and not leave anything out. [Me and Ben] were friends from school and I went off to uni, he studied illustration, I studied my PHD. He published some books with a publisher called NOBrow that did kids’ books, he really wanted to do a space book and he thought of me. We developed it together, the characters and ideas. Ben says that his knowledge of science is about the right level for our age range, I think he’s underselling himself! When I was writing I was imagining my nieces, so I was imagining how would I explain to them what I’m writing right now?
I’ve been doing science communication my whole life. Like when a child gets into facts and loves to tell everyone about facts, I was one of those kids! Ben remembers me for that because I would tell him about all of that stuff. I was teaching when I was doing my PHD, I made videos when I was doing my research and at events, explaining physics to the general public.
I’m still that kid, but my motivation has changed, it’s a shame that people miss out on some of the stuff that I’m learning, because it’s so interesting. If people go off science they won't ever get a chance to learn this stuff, because it’s not explained well. So for me it's about how I can best explain this stuff so people can understand it and not be intimidated by the science?
I started Domain of Science, my YouTube channel, seven years ago, it’s the real joy of working out how to explain things. My fundamental love is learning about science, when I made these videos I spent a lot of time learning about science, some of my favourite things is researching topics I don’t know so well because then I’m learning new things.
The latest book is Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey, it’s a human body book where they actually go and explore my body! They shrink down and go down into the muscles, the ears, eyes, mouth, the whole thing. It’s a well-covered book on the human body, it should interest a wide age range of kids! We can just get a bad impression of science because of school, but you don’t have to worry whether you’re good or bad at it, just worry about whether you’re interested in it.