Interview: March 31, 2006
March 31, 2006
Nobel Prize-nominated research scientist and businessman Robert D. Taylor is trying his hand at fiction with his debut novel, PARADIGM. In this interview with Bookreporter.com's Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight Team (Carol Fitzgerald, Joe Hartlaub and Wiley Saichek), Taylor discusses his theories on gravity and how it may affect the stock market, and compares and contrasts creative and scientific writing. He also explains how he structured the book by entwining his scientific research, historical data and fiction with real life experiences, and drops hints about both his next theory and follow-up novel.
Bookreporter.com: A "paradigm" is defined, broadly, as "a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind." In PARADIGM, it refers to a dramatic presentation of your theory concerning the predictability of the stock market, based upon human reaction to the variant force of gravity. This is, to say the least, heady stuff for the topic of a thriller novel. What inspired you to use this particular form, and genre, to present your theory?
Robert D. Taylor: I agree that a mystery/suspense international thriller has little to do with a Nobel-nominated discovery, but finance happens to be the most exciting industry in the world and knowing the direction of the stock market might just draw a lot of interest. Unlocking the key to forecasting the stock market just might be something people in a murder mystery would be willing to kill for!
To make a long story short, I was offered an opportunity to publish my essay, "The Taylor Effect," in the Journal for the National Academy of Science by one of their members. I declined because I didn't want to see my discovery locked in the scientific arena for the next 20 years. By publishing my findings in an exciting book like PARADIGM, I calculated that I would be able to reach many thousands of readers drawn to the suspense and the dynamic characters --- who would then be drawn to understand the science.
BRC: Could you share you professional background to readers who may not yet be familiar with PARADIGM? When did you begin to focus your research on econo-physics?
RDT: I began my undergraduate work at Northern Michigan University in 1965 and finalized my studies at Eastern Michigan University in 1973 after a short two-year Vietnam tour of duty in between. After I left the university, I started many businesses and corporations that earned me a great deal of money. This business success allowed me to perform my research into the predictability of human behavior.
For the last 19 years I have worked with international scholars in the fields of nuclear physics in developing alternative atomic energy. During this same time frame I also studied geophysics, astronomy, astrophysics, fluid and liquid dynamics and control theory with a group of international scholars and including Dr. Robert W. Bass (Rhodes Scholar) Professor of Physics & Astronomy, BYU. Together, we wrote over 230 aerospace system identification software programs that quantified my discovery in econo-physics. Some of these same programs are used today by NASA for the space shuttle program.
BRC: We always have had trouble understanding any economic theory much beyond the concepts of supply and demand and elastic and inelastic markets. One of the strongest points of PARADIGM for us was the manner in which you presented advanced economic concepts in a concise and understandable manner. Did you find this to be a challenge, given the level of the discourse on such matters that you normally engage in? Did you have people not well-versed in economics read pertinent passages of PARADIGM to ensure that the economic concepts would be understandable to the average reader?
RDT: I am really happy you found the economic concepts understandable. I was worried the subject might be difficult for the average reader. Believe me, when I wrote my first draft the editors had a lot to say to persuade me to focus on the mystery, the travel to foreign locations, and the relationship between the two young couples at the heart of the thriller... For the reader's sake and with much persistence, they won out. I really believe we were able to successfully incorporate my economic theories into a riveting page-turner.
My study in econo-physics --- as opposed to fundamental, traditional and technical approaches to economics --- is one of the most concise segments of my research. My research was comprehensive, in that it was long, conclusive and empirical. The subject matter is overwhelming by any stretch of the imagination, but still achievable. For these reasons I did find the study challenging, and no, I didn't have anyone in the field of economics read my work prior to publishing. I felt that I could defend, debate or at least explain conclusively my thinking on the matter.
BRC: You stated on your website that many of Nicholas's and Alex's actions and thoughts were based on your own experiences. Were Gabriel, Cassandra and Francesca also based on real people, or are these characters completely fictional?
RDT: Yes, Nicholas and Alex had to go through the same processes I did to have made sense to the reader, both professional and casual. As for Gabriel, Cassandra, and Francesca --- they were completely fictional.
I first wrote a character outline for each of my characters, although as the book evolved, I found myself beginning to know and understand each one more personally. In some instances I went back through the book and rewrote passages because I started to better know and understand them so well that some of the original quotes had to be changed to fit the characters' personalities.
In the sequel, THE LAST PARADIGM, I continue on the story by using all the same characters. I believe the reader will be delighted to visit these fictional people through another thrilling episode in their lives.
BRC: In the opening chapters of PARADIGM, an Egyptian box is found at the Biltmore Estate. Does this box actually exist and is it the box you are pictured with on the cover jacket of PARADIGM?
RDT: No, the box as described in my book does not actually exist, although there is rumor and some documentation that around 5000 BC, the Egyptians had developed an instrument called a 'Nileometer' that measured the flood seasons of the Nile. I have no way of proving this to be true, but don't you think the reasoning is interesting? An instrument that mechanically measures gravitational fluctuations while I use algorithms to perform the same feat. Now you know why I used the box. It was easier for readers to understand a mechanical method of measuring something rather than by using an algorithm, don't you think?
And yes, the box I am pictured with is real and in front of me as I type.
BRC: This mysterious antique box leads to the revelation that the influence of variances of gravity upon human behavior can affect market forces. Assuming, of course, that you did not discover a similar box, what findings and research led you to the theory that is the motivational force behind the events in PARADIGM?
RDT: It was a scientist by the name of J. M. Hurst who became perplexed by the fact that individuals around the world started buying or selling the stock market simultaneously without sharing the same instantaneous knowledge. You see, his studies were in the 1940s and '50s, well before CNBC, Bloomberg or any other financial reporting agency. He suggested that there was some kind of exogenous (outside) influence that caused millions of individuals to act bullish or bearish in and about the same time. He called this influence "X Motivation." He speculated that this driver could be gravity or possibly electromagnetic radiation.
When I read gravity, I knew that it was the answer. After all, it was Einstein who was quoted as saying that "Gravity was the strongest force in the Universe." From there, I went on for the next 19 years or so proving this to be the case.
BRC: You lay out your theory concerning the market very convincingly and generously in PARADIGM. Have you heard from anyone who has experimented with your theory? What have the reactions been? Do you find that individuals attempting to follow your theory unsuccessfully all make the same error? If so, what is it?
RDT: Thank you. Yes, I have talked with many individuals over the years, and now that the book is out, I have received many emails from interested people.
Most inquires I received are positive, but occasionally I receive a note from a skeptic. For those individuals, I suggest they just continue on guessing the direction of the market.
For those of you who find my studies interesting, perform the section at the back of the book for yourselves. You will be amazed and delighted with the findings. If you aren't inclined to do computer graphing, go to www.paradigmbook.com, look at the Proof section, and click on the Dow charts. You will see the gravitational fluctuations correlated to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Now this is truly interesting.
You ask about individuals making an error in understanding my discovery. The only error one can make is not to read the book. I believe the fictional book PARADIGM is a prerequisite to understanding the logic I am presenting and the first step in understanding that the markets aren't random as once thought. And by the way, you can time the market!
RDT: Yes. In PARADIGM I elude to another discovery that Alex was working on. This is the topic of my next book, THE LAST PARADIGM, which is the sequel. See if you can find the link. If so, then you will find yourself anxious for the next book to hit the shelves.
BRC: How and when did you decide to present your Taylor Effect discovery as a thriller? Had you done much fiction writing prior to PARADIGM?
RDT: I had already written the essay, "The Taylor Effect," prior to even thinking about placing it in the back of PARADIGM. It was after I decided not to publish in a scientific paper that I worked out the idea of publishing it in back of a fictional piece of work.
No, I have never written fiction other than at the university. I did enjoy the flexibility of fictional writing while working on this book. Scientific papers don't allow much for the imagination.
BRC: How did you approach the research for the historical aspects of PARADIGM? How did you decide when to use historical data and when to use fictional elements?
RDT: I wrote a complete book outline first, than weaved the story through history. While doing so I researched each event, place and person as I went along.
I used historical data as often as possible, but in some situations I had to improvise to move things along. After all, history is colorful, but in some cases the rules had to be bent. As Captain Jack Sparrow would say, "The code is just sort of a guideline." In PARADIGM, truth and fiction mixes well, although I believe the reader will find more truth than fiction.
BRC: Writing a work of fiction, we would think, is dramatically different from the type of work you had done. What were some of the obstacles you encountered? Did you find the experience, overall, to be an enjoyable one?
RDT: I found very few obstacles at all. Fictional writing is very rewarding and actually fun compared to scientific research and documentation. At the end of the day after writing fiction, I would look back and say, "Wow, that was fun." After a day of scientific research, I look back and shake my head!
BRC: There were parts of PARADIGM that reminded me of the work of one of the original thriller writers, H. Rider Haggard. What fiction writers have influenced your work? Who are the writers you read for pleasure?
RDT: I actually enjoy many works of literature. Dan Brown's book, THE DA VINCI CODE, was very enjoyable. I like original works of art in any format, although I find many writers rewrite the same old things over and over again.
For pleasure, I read scientific essays and books related to natural physics. I guess you might find my reading boring, but that's alright; I won't talk about your reading preferences if you don't talk about mine!
BRC: Your first book was OPSTIME: THE SECRET TO PERFECT TIMING FOR SUCCESS. Do you have other nonfiction books in progress? What other writing projects are underway?
RDT: I am currently working with scientists on an energy project, but this doesn't require empirical documentation at this time. I will be incorporating this research project into the sequel to PARADIGM as I move along. The book will be titled THE LAST PARADIGM, which is about half completed.