Research News

Future of the Parable of the Lost Sheep

Robert Scherrer
Vanderbilt physicist Robert Scherrer supplements his scientific research with writing science fiction stories.

Bob Scherrer is bicultural: Not only is he a practicing theoretical physicist, but the chairman of Vanderbilt’s physics department is also a published author of science fiction.

Several years ago we did a story about his split personality.

Normally, Scherrer keeps his physics and science fiction efforts separate. So far he has published eight science fiction stories in Analog magazine. But in January a short story of his titled Inculturation appeared in the scientific journal Nature, which has an on-again, off-again history of supplementing its main fare of scientific articles with occasional science fiction stories.

“My father in law prompted me to submit the story,” said Scherrer. “He is a regular reader of Nature and urged me to send them one of mine.”

The idea for the story he submitted came to him one Sunday morning in church. The sermon was based on the parable of the lost sheep and the preacher explained that it was very difficult for people today to understand the real meaning of the parable because they don’t have any direct experience with sheep.

“That raised the question of what it would be like to explain the parable of the sheep to people in the future if they didn’t have any experience with other aspects of the parable like theft, sleep and death,” he said.