Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

Steven Weinberg presents fourth Patrusky Lecture at ScienceWriters2016

Steven Weinberg, a pioneer of elementary particle physics and cosmology and one of the towering figures of science, presented the fourth Patrusky Lecture on October 30, 2016, at New Horizons in Science, CASW’s annual briefing on emerging research and issues in science.

Weinberg (shown at left in the photo, receiving his citation and commemorative sculpture from CASW President Alan Boyle), awarded the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his seminal work on the unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces, a cornerstone of the Standard Model of elementary particle theory, will ask “What’s the Matter with Quantum Mechanics?” In recent work, Weinberg and others have been looking for new solutions to conceptual problems with the quirky body of physical theory known as quantum mechanics. He told his audience he remained unsatisfied with attempts to explain away the problems of a theory that takes deterministic laws as inputs and explains the outputs in probabilistic terms.

He addressed several hundred writers gathered in San Antonio, Texas, for ScienceWriters2016, a conference that combines the New Horizons science program with the professional development workshops of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW).

In announcing the selection of the fourth Patrusky Lecturer, CASW President Alan Boyle, who is aerospace and science editor for GeekWire, said: "Dr. Weinberg is in the perfect position to survey the past and future frontiers of his field, which is the whole point of New Horizons in Science, and the Patrusky Lecture in particular. The fact that we're having this year's conference in the Lone Star State, his adopted home, makes it even better." 

Weinberg is Jack S. Josey–Welch Foundation Chair in Science and Regental Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, where he directs a Theory Group exploring physics at the most fundamental level. He previously spoke at New Horizons in Science briefings in 1977 and 2009.

He shared the 1979 prize with Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam and went on to do important work in quantum field theory, laying the groundwork for new theories in areas including quantum gravity and quantum chromodynamics. Weinberg has predicted a number of the phenomena that have since been observed in high-energy colliders.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Weinberg’s research has been honored with the National Medal of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society, the Dannie Heinemann Prize for Mathematical Physics, and numerous other awards. He has been elected to the National Academy of Science and Britain's Royal Society and other academies, and holds 16 honorary doctoral degrees. He has written more than 300 scientific articles along with six treatises on general relativity, quantum field theory, cosmology, and quantum mechanics.

 

Weinberg is also a prominent public spokesman for science and a lively expositor who enjoys talking to science writers; this will be his third appearance as a New Horizons in Science speaker. His latest book, To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, was published in 2015. Among his other books for general readers are Dreams of a Final Theory, The First Three Minutes, and two collections of published essays, Facing Up: Science and its Cultural Adversaries, and Lake Views: This World and the Universe. Many of these essays first appeared in The New York Review of Books. His essay writing has earned Weinberg the Lewis Thomas Award for the Scientist as Poet and other awards.

Educated at Cornell, Copenhagen, and Princeton, Weinberg taught at Columbia, Berkeley, MIT and Harvard, where he was Higgins Professor of Physics, before coming to Texas in 1982.

The Patrusky Lectures

The Patrusky Lectures were launched by CASW in 2013 to honor Ben Patrusky, executive director of CASW for 25 years and director of the New Horizons in Science program for 30 years. Patrusky continues his service to CASW as Director Emeritus. In remarks read to Weinberg before the lecture, Patrusky said he was "profoundly honored ... to have his name so directly associated with mine." 

The previous Patrusky Lectures were given by George M. Whitesides of Harvard University; Donald Johanson of the Institute of Human Origins; and Yale microbiologist Jo Handelsman, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Video recordings of all Patrusky Lectures may be found on the Patrusky Lectures page.