About Me

My name is Peter Coles and I’m Professor in, and Head of, the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University in Ireland. My research is in the area of cosmology and the large-scale structure of the Universe.

I was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and educated at its Royal Grammar School. After that I went to Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge to study Natural Sciences, eventually specialising in Theoretical Physics. After graduation I started a doctorate in the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex under the supervision of John Barrow, the famous writer. After completing my DPhil in 1988, I stayed for two years in Sussex as a postdoctoral research fellow. My next move was to London, where I held a number of positions in the School of Mathematical Sciences at what is now Queen Mary, University of London. I was awarded an SERC Advanced Fellowship in 1993 which I held for five years and was eventually promoted to the position of Reader. In 1998 I was appointed Professor of Astrophysics in the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Nottingham, a position I took up on 1st January 1999. I helped set up an Astronomy group there, and stayed about eight years in Nottingham until, in 2007, I moved to a position as Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University. From February 2013 until the end of July 2016 I was Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex, after which I returned to a part-time job in Cardiff.

In 2017 I decided to take up a position as Professor of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University. I started work part-time in Maynooth on 1st December 2017 and relocated fully to Ireland in July 2018. As of 1st September 2019 I became Head of the Department of Theoretical Physics.

I’ve published a few books that not many people read, and have been in a few TV programmes that not many people watched. But I’m not bitter…

In case you hadn’t realised “Telescoper” is an anagram of “Peter Coles”, which is quite ironic because as a theorist I don’t know one end of a telescope from the other (especially if it’s of reflecting type). Still, it could have been worse. I might have picked “Tesco Leper”.

48 Responses to “About Me”

  1. Hi Peter. Welcome to the blogosphere – I’m enjoying the posts a lot! It has been a long time since we met in Aspen – hope to run into you again soon. Mark.

    • Hello Prof. Peter Coles,

      I am delighted to learn that you are a student of John D Barrow, whose books I like to read, especially “The Constants of Nature” and “The Artful Universe”.

      The pages of my soft-cover versions of those books are getting somewhat yellowish. I wish that the publisher had used acid-free paper instead.

  2. I find the blogosphere surprisingly hospitable, although I’m not convinced that it is actually spherical. On the other hand, the blogo-prolate-ellipsoid doesn’t quite have the same zing to it.

  3. Adrian Burd Says:

    Hi Pete,
    Just saw you’re entry to the blogosphere via Cosmic Variance. Welcome unto the fray. When did you move to Cardiff (I hope the performance of the football team in your other location had nothing to do with the move). Oh, and you can add my name to the list of those having read three of the books, though I’ve not seen you on TV – hard because I never watch cable.

    All the best,


  4. Adrian,

    Nice to hear from you. I found an offprint of our old paper on stochastic cosmology last week and was thinking of you and wondering where you are.

    I officially moved to Cardiff in July 2007, although it took about a year to sell my old house and buy a new one, so I didn’t completely relocate until June this year.

    Cardiff is a great place to live, especially when its not raining!


  5. Adrian Burd Says:

    Well, I’m at home at the moment convalescing after having had a chunk of colon removed, so I’m able to catch on life in the blogosphere. I’m now tenured, still at the University of Georgia in Athens.

    I have been keeping up a little with what’s been going on in the field. It’s a pity that stochastic cosmology paper didn’t take the field by storm, but it was fun to think about. Most of my time is spent thinking of biogeochemical cycles and particle processes in the oceans. The lab website is at



  6. Arthur Golden Says:

    Many thanks for this blog. I’m not a cosmologist or even a scientist, but just a writer with a lot of curiosity about the world, and I’ve always been fascinated with the cosmos. The sculptor Henry Moore once said something like, “The secret to happiness is to find something you love, but it must be impossible to do.” I would add, too, that the secret to keeping your mind alive is to find something you love to read about, but it must be impossible to understand. That would be the cosmos. I’ve read more books about it than I can easily remember, but each one seems almost entirely new to me, because with each one I’m awestruck, and confused, and fascinated all over again.

    I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read here on your blog so far, and I very much look forward to continuing to follow it.

    Arthur Golden

  7. Can you sex up this blog?

  8. Dear Peter-

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog & thought you might enjoy our new “Star Formation” game, which was just published on Discover Magazine’s site:



    Christine Cody
    Second Avenue Software

  9. hi. I like your blog and have enjoyed reading through it. May I blogroll you on my own? See http://truthandrocketscience.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/the-truth-and-chickens/ among other things on the blog. Thanks! –John jguidry.7@gmail.com

  10. Andrew Chalmers Says:

    …all sounds very straightforward to me…time you moved onto something more challenging…

  11. Andrew Chalmers Says:

    Hi, Peter, indeed you were. Nice to see you have been able to build a career around your boyhood passion. Most of our contemporaries seem to have ended up in IT…though DAC was last heard of running a Nursing Home(!) Keep up the good work, Cheerful as ever.

  12. Andrew, Nice to hear from you after all this time. I’ve been very bad at keeping in touch with ex-RGS friends, partly because I moved around quite a lot after Cambridge. Feel free to direct others here if you think they’ll be interested!

  13. Mick Fothergill Says:

    Your Uncle George trained me as a dental technician between 1974 and 1978 i saw him at a mutual colleagues leaving party last year he looked great!

  14. telescoper Says:


    Last time I saw my Uncle George was the sad occasion of my Dad’s funeral (George’s brother Alan) in 2007. In the circumstances he was in good spirits. I’m glad to hear he’s still well, although I’ve sadly lost touch since then after moving house.


  15. I was reading your blog about Humphrey Lyttleton and thought you might like to know that my sister and I used to go to his jazz club in the early 1950s which was on Oxford Street. I only remember it being called “The Humphrey Lyttleton Jazz club” and it was wonderful to dance to his live band.

  16. Cathy Tobin Says:

    I had to click through a few hyper links to find you, and when I did I was delighted to see that you were the same author I had already cited numerous times in my paper on the history of gravitational theory. You’ve been no end of help to me. Thank you.

  17. hi peter , wondered if you may e-mail me , just have a few questions about your interesting posts , thanks neill

  18. I would never have predicted that a dislike for chocolate could link to anything about theoretical astrophysics, but I’m thrilled that it did. I find your blog fascinating!

    • It has to do with something called “dark matter”.

    • I’d like echo kristalynn’s comment – your blog is fascinating and a superb example of a blog well done. Stumbled on it yesterday searching for something tangential. A few hours yesterday and today have gone engrossed in the content and debates especially 3rd-5th May 2010 😉 It was excellent to see how professionally you lit the fuse and then stood back while others did the work 🙂

  19. Haven’t you done well considering you say you didn’t start to talk till you were 3 – maybe you were too busy stargazing! Of course you had the advantage of coming from Benwell!!! Dorothy would have been proud of you.

  20. […] alternative view is given by Peter Coles, another astronomer at Cardiff University, UK, who also explains the issue clearly: For those of […]

  21. robert price Says:

    Dear Professor.. Thank you for your bok Cosmology..a vsi
    I have read and read it again. I get lost in space thinking about it all.
    Your name anagram is very good …amazing the coincidences we come across.
    Einstien was a day dreamer and i.ve heard he was a slow student.
    he was bound to sit at his desk doodling and thinking of space ..playing with the letters in his name.
    I woder if he thought … hmmm. Ein ..means one in German.. ST stands for space time .. ( 1 space time )
    but ST is isolated in between two ..EIN.s..symbols for absolute either side of the St and you have absolute space time …remove them and you get spacetime is not absolute
    use two
    ein st ein………also ein ……energy in space time.lines

    • According to Abraham Pais, Einstein thought and preferred to speak in German until his death, even though by then he had lived in the USA for more than 20 years and had not returned to Germany, not even for a visit. So, he definitely wasn’t thinking in English as a student. Perhaps if he had been called Einrzein.

  22. Peter,

    I’d like the opportunity to speak with you regarding a fellow Astronomy Professor, Neil F. Comins, and his work “What if the Moon Didn’t Exist?”

    I searched your blog for a preferred email address and was unable to locate one.

    If interested, would you please email me at tharruff@iuniverse.com

    Thank you kindly,
    Taylor H.

  23. Susan Webb Says:

    Hi Peter,
    When watching ‘8 out of 10 cats’ yesterday, one of the panel showed a film clip of the outgoing ecclesiast in Italy, sporting a pair of red shoes (that he has to return apparently) suggesting he looked rather camp. Hubby suggested he could actually be Dorothy, so I said he probably clicks his heels 3 times and says ‘There’s no place like Rome’!
    Sue 😉

  24. David Crawford Says:

    Dear Peter
    I have a paper that I would like to submit to OJFA either in is test form or later. If I post it to ArXiv how do I notify you or the editors about its submission.
    David F Crawford

  25. Did you ever consider “Cot Sleeper”? It has a nice ring to it.

  26. I’ve only published one book so far (and it was a nightmare to get it published…!), and nobody reads it. You should be happy because yours were written in English, a language some foreigners know 😉 (I might get one of yours, btw!)

  27. David Crawford Says:

    About a month ago you agreed to read my paper on a static universe. I had already sent you an email to your University address but since it may have been a victim of a spam filter I sent a copy via this blog reply. Please let me know what is the state of play.
    David Crawford (dcrawfrd@bigpond.net.au)

  28. I just saw Peter Coles’ beautiful blog and cannot help but totally sympathize with him.
    One can as he did require colleagues to publish their new insights and not present them in art circles beforehand. I apologize that I used the opposite order of procedure. My only excuse is that the CERN experiment forces a certain time schedule on any critic. I hope I regularly published in the meantime a few of my statements which, if true, are no doubt intriguing.
    It would be a privilege to be challenged factually by my so sympathetically self-critical colleague, Professor Coles.

  29. […] my erstwhile colleague, Peter Coles, has pointed out in a typically clear-headed and eloquent piece, what Hunt said was indefensible. […]

  30. Rose Creamer Says:

    Hi Peter, I found your blog while doing some genealogy on my ancestors, Charlton’s, who came from Newcastle Upon Tyne. In the 1841 census they were living in the Benwell Garden Cottage and my ancestors profession was listed as gardener. Do you know if this could have been one of the two cottages you describe in your blog?
    Would love to hear from you.


  31. […] few days ago, Peter Coles, aka Telescoper, wrote a typically punchy and engaging post on the question of where religion fits within the […]

  32. […] alternate version from astrophysicist Peter Coles […]

  33. Hello, this may be the strangest message you have ever received. So I apologise in advance.

    Is there anywhere I can message you privately as I am trying to search for a lost family member and my trail keeps bringing me to you and someone who I think could be your brother.

    I am struggling to contact the other person so I’m on my final try.

    I’m asking if anything at least reply to me as it’s a little disheartening when I’m hitting brick walls all of the time.

    Thank you


  34. […] in favour of remaining in the EU for many of the compelling reasons (and more) that Peter Coles lays out so well in his recent post on the […]

  35. Amy Francis Says:

    Dear Sir,

    I am an A-Level Physics student, currently studying at Worthing College, England. I am a believer in learning about the world we live in, which makes me a big believer in you!

    I am taking an extra course alongside my regular two year A-level courses called The Extended Project Qualification. Basically, I chose a project to create or write something to be assessed and graded for the best interests of people hoping to study a similar subject to their project at university.

    My EPQ is the making of a telescope, which I am very excited to begin. We are able to start within college in September, but I would like to gain more time and get as much research in as I can for the task ahead, so I am going to start now.

    I was hoping maybe I could ask for any advice you have to offer me on the making or works of a telescope. This is set apart from my Physics course, so I have not learnt much about telescopes- therefore I am going to need all the help I can get.

    Thank you for your time in reading this and I hope this finds you well,

  36. Miriam (Mim ) Davies Says:

    Still practising the internet highway and not sure if you got my Blogg on Benwell where I grew up in the Community of profoundly deaf people ( I am hearing). As this was a very unusual social group I am trying to put pen to paper! ( I went to Pendower Commercial School for Girls . The art room you mention also had a Cookery room next to it.)

  37. Delighted to meet you Telescoper! Enjoyed your writing. Thank you.

  38. […] universe on such vastly different scales (and gained a lot from conversations with the astronomer Peter Coles on this topic when he was a colleague here at Nottingham. […]

  39. Delighted to have found your blog.

    Regards Thom

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