Steven Weinberg: Wikis


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Steven Weinberg

Steven Weinberg
Born May 3, 1933 (1933-05-03) (age 76)
New York City, New York, USA
Residence United States
Nationality United States
Ethnicity Ashkenazi Jewish
Fields Physics
Institutions MIT
Harvard University
University of Texas at Austin
Alma mater Cornell University
Princeton University
Doctoral advisor Sam Treiman
Doctoral students Orlando Alvarez
Claude Bernard
Lay Nam Chang
Bob Holdom
Ubirajara van Kolck
Rafael Lopez-Mobilia
John Preskill
Fernando Quevedo
Mark G. Raizen
Scott Willenbrock
Known for Electromagnetism and Weak Force unification
Weinberg-Witten theorem
Influenced Alan Guth
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1979)
He is married to the professor of law, Louise Weinberg.

Steven Weinberg (born May 3, 1933) is an American physicist and Nobel laureate in Physics for his contributions with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow to the unification of the weak force and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles.



Steven Weinberg was born in 1933 in New York City to Jewish immigrants Frederick and Eva Weinberg. He graduated from Bronx High School of Science in 1950 and received his bachelor's degree from Cornell University in 1954, living at the Cornell branch of the Telluride Association. He left Cornell and went to the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen where he started his graduate studies and research. After one year, Weinberg returned to Princeton University where he earned his Ph.D. degree in Physics in 1957, studying under Sam Treiman.

Academic career

After completing his Ph.D., Weinberg worked as a post-doc researcher at Columbia University (1957-1959) and University of California, Berkeley (1959) and then he was promoted to faculty at Berkeley (1960-1966). He did research in a variety of topics of particle physics, such as the high energy behavior of quantum field theory, symmetry breaking, pion scattering, infrared photons and quantum gravity.[1] It was also during this time that he developed the approach to quantum field theory that is described in the first chapters of his book The Quantum Theory of Fields[2] and started to write his textbook Gravitation and Cosmology. Both textbooks, perhaps especially the second, are among the most influential texts in the scientific community in their subjects.

In 1966, Weinberg left Berkeley and accepted a lecturer position at Harvard. In 1967 he was a visiting professor at MIT. It was in that year at MIT that Weinberg proposed his model of unification of electromagnetism and of nuclear weak forces (such as those involved in beta-decay and kaon-decay)[3]. This model is now known as the electroweak unification theory. An important feature of this model is the prediction of the existence of another interaction mechanism between leptons, known as neutral current and mediated by the Z boson. The experimental discovery of this Z boson was one verification of the electroweak unification. The paper by Weinberg in which he presented this theory was one of the highest cited theoretical works ever in high energy physics as of 2006[4].

After his 1967 seminal work on the unification of weak and electromagnetic interactions, Steven Weinberg continued his work in many aspects of particle physics, quantum field theory, gravity, supersymmetry, superstrings and cosmology, as well as a theory called Technicolor.

In the years after 1967, the full Standard Model of elementary particle theory was developed through the work of many contributors. In it, the weak and electromagnetic interactions already unified by the work of Weinberg, Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow, are further unified with the strong interactions, in one overarching theory. One of its fundamental aspects was the prediction of the existence of the Higgs boson. In 1973 Weinberg proposed a modification of the Standard Model which did not contain that model's fundamental Higgs boson.

Weinberg became Higgins Professor of Physics at Harvard University in 1973.

It is of special importance that in 1979 he pioneered the modern view on the renormalization aspect of quantum field theory that considers all quantum field theories as effective field theories and changed completely the viewpoint of previous work (including his own) that a sensible quantum field theory must be renormalizable[5]. This approach allowed the development of effective theory of quantum gravity[6], low energy QCD, heavy quark effective field theory and other developments, and it is a topic of considerable interest in current research.

In 1979, after the experimental discovery of the neutral currents—i.e. the discovery of the inferred existence of the Z boson --, Steven Weinberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics together with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow for developing their theory of electroweak unification.

In 1982 Weinberg moved to the University of Texas at Austin as the Jack S. Josey-Welch Foundation Regents Chair in Science and founded the Theory Group of the Physics Department.

There is current (2008) interest in Weinberg's 1976 proposal of the existence of new strong interactions[7] -- a proposal dubbed "Technicolor" by Leonard Susskind -- because of its chance of being observed in the LHC as an explanation of the hierarchy problem.

Steven Weinberg's influence and importance are confirmed by the fact that he is frequently among the top scientists with highest research impact indices, such as the h-index and the creativity index.[8]

Other intellectual legacy

Besides his scientific research, Steven Weinberg has been a prominent public spokesman for science, testifying before Congress in support of the Superconducting Super Collider, writing articles for the New York Review of Books[9], and giving various lectures on the larger meaning of science. His books on science written for the public combine the typical scientific popularization with what is traditionally considered history and philosophy of science and atheism.

Weinberg was a major participant in what is known as the Science Wars, standing with Paul R. Gross, Norman Levitt, Alan Sokal, Lewis Wolpert, and Richard Dawkins, on the side arguing for the hard realism of science and scientific knowledge and against the constructionism proposed by such social scientists as Stanley Aronowitz, Barry Barnes, David Bloor, David Edge, Harry Collins, Steve Fuller, and Bruno Latour.

Weinberg is also known for his support of Israel. While this is not extraordinary in itself, he, like many American Jews, supports Israel from a liberal point of view. He wrote an essay titled "Zionism and Its Cultural Adversaries" to explain his views on the issue.

Weinberg has canceled trips to universities in the United Kingdom because of British boycotts directed towards Israel. He has explained:

"Given the history of the attacks on Israel and the oppressiveness and aggressiveness of other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, boycotting Israel indicated a moral blindness for which it is hard to find any explanation other than antisemitism.[10]

His views on religion were expressed in a speech from 1999 in Washington, D.C.:

"With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion. "[11]

He has also said:

"The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless."[12]

He attended and was a speaker at the Beyond Belief symposium on November 2006.


He is married to Louise Weinberg and has one daughter, Elizabeth.

Famous Quotes

"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."[13]

"The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy."

Honours and awards

The honors and awards that Prof Weinberg received include

  • Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from a dozen institutions: University of Chicago, Knox College, University of Rochester, Yale University, City University of New York, Dartmouth College, Weizmann Institute, Clark University, Washington College, Columbia University, Bates College.
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences, elected 1968
  • National Academy of Sciences, elected 1972
  • J. R. Oppenheimer Prize, 1973
  • Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics, 1977
  • Steel Foundation Science Writing Award, 1977, for authorship of The First Three Minutes (1977)
  • Elliott Cresson Medal (Franklin Institute), 1979
  • Nobel Prize in Physics, 1979
  • Elected to American Philosophical Society, Royal Society of London (Foreign Honorary Member), Philosophical Society of Texas
  • James Madison Medal of Princeton University, 1991
  • National Medal of Science, 1991
  • Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, 1999.
  • 2002 Humanist of the Year, American Humanist Association
  • James Joyce Award, University College Dublin, 2009

Selected publications

Bibliography: books authored / coauthored

  • Gravitation and Cosmology: Principles and Applications of the General Theory of Relativity (1972)
  • The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977, updated with new afterword in 1993, ISBN 0-465-02437-8)
  • The Discovery of Subatomic Particles (1983)
  • Elementary Particles and the Laws of Physics: The 1986 Dirac Memorial Lectures (1987; with Richard Feynman)
  • Dreams of a Final Theory: The Search for the Fundamental Laws of Nature (1993), ISBN 0-09-922391-0
  • The Quantum Theory of Fields (three volumes: 1995, 1996, 2003)
  • Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries (2001, 2003, HUP)
  • Glory and Terror: The Coming Nuclear Danger (2004, NYRB)
  • Cosmology (2008, OUP)
  • Lake Views: This World and the Universe (2010), Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674035151.

Scholarly articles

Popular articles

  • A Designer Universe?, critically discussing the possibility of the intelligent design of the universe, is based on a talk given in April 1999 at the Conference on Cosmic Design of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

References and notes

  1. ^ A partial list of this work is: Weinberg, S. Phys. Rev. 118 838-849 (1960); Weinberg, S. Phys. Rev. 127 965-970 (1962); Weinberg, S. Phys. Rev. Lett. 17 616-621 (1966); Weinberg, S. Phys. Rev. 140 B516-B524 (1965).
  2. ^ Weinberg, S. Phys. Rev. 133, B1318-B1332 (1964); Weinberg, S. Phys. Rev. 134 B882-B896 (1964); Weinberg, S. Phys. Rev. 181 1893-1899 (1969)
  3. ^ Weinberg, S. Phys. Rev.Lett. 19 1264-1266 (1967).
  4. ^ SPIRES: Top Cited Articles of All Time (2006 edition)
  5. ^ Weinberg, S. Physica 96A, 327 (1979)
  6. ^ Donoghue, J. F. Phys. Rev. D 50, 3874 (1994)
  7. ^ Weinberg, S. Phys. Rev. D13 974–996 (1976).
  8. ^ In 2006 Weinberg had the second highest creativity index among physicists
  9. ^ His articles in the New York Review of Books
  10. ^ "Nobel laureate cancels London trip due to anti-Semitism". YNet News Jewish Daily. May 24, 2007.,7340,L-3404128,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-01. 
  11. ^ Steven Weinberg. "A Designer Universe?". Retrieved 2008-07-14. "A version of the original quote from address at the Conference on Cosmic Design, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C. in April 1999" 
  12. ^ "What do you get if you divide science by God?". BBC News. March 24, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-24. 
  13. ^ "The Constitution Guarantees Freedom From Religion". The New York Times. April 20, 1999. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things which lifts human life a little above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.

Steven Weinberg (born 3 May, 1933) is an American physicist. He was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics (with colleagues Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow) for combining electromagnetism and the weak force into the electroweak force. More recently, he has written some papers arguing that the smallness of the cosmological constant is due to the anthropic principle.


  • ... elementary particles are terribly boring, which is one reason why we're so interested in them.
    • Elementary particles and the laws of Physics, The 1986 Dirac Memorial Lectures (1987)
  • The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things which lifts human life a little above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.
    • The First Three Minutes (1993)
  • Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
    • Address at the Conference on Cosmic Design, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C. (April 1999) This comment is modified in a later article derived from these talks:
Frederick Douglass told in his Narrative how his condition as a slave became worse when his master underwent a religious conversion that allowed him to justify slavery as the punishment of the children of Ham. Mark Twain described his mother as a genuinely good person, whose soft heart pitied even Satan, but who had no doubt about the legitimacy of slavery, because in years of living in antebellum Missouri she had never heard any sermon opposing slavery, but only countless sermons preaching that slavery was God's will. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.
  • One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment.
    • Address at the Conference on Cosmic Design, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C. (April 1999)
  • If you have bought one of those T-shirts with Maxwell's equations on the front, you may have to worry about its going out of style, but not about its becoming false. We will go on teaching Maxwellian electrodynamics as long as there are scientists.
    • "The Revolution That Didn't Happen" in The New York Review of Books (1998) [1]
  • In trying to get votes for the Superconducting Super Collider, I was very much involved in lobbying members of Congress, testifying to them, bothering them, and I never heard any of them talk about postmodernism or social constructivism. You have to be very learned to be that wrong.
    • "Night Thoughts of a Quantum Physicist" (February 1995); republished in Facing Up: Science And Its Cultural Adversaries (2001)
  • Many people do simply awful things out of sincere religious belief, not using religion as a cover the way that Saddam Hussein may have done, but really because they believe that this is what God wants them to do, going all the way back to Abraham being willing to sacrifice Issac because God told him to do that. Putting God ahead of humanity is a terrible thing.
  • I'm offended by the kind of smarmy religiosity that's all around us, perhaps more in America than in Europe, and not really that harmful because it's not really that intense or even that serious, but just... you know after a while you get tired of hearing clergymen giving the invocation at various public celebrations and you feel, haven't we outgrown all this? Do we have to listen to this?
  • Maybe at the very bottom of it... I really don't like God. You know, it's silly to say I don't like God because I don't believe in God, but in the same sense that I don't like Iago, or the Reverend Slope or any of the other villains of literature, the god of traditional Judaism and Christianity and Islam seems to me a terrible character. He's a god who will... who obsessed the degree to which people worship him and anxious to punish with the most awful torments those who don't worship him in the right way. Now I realise that many people don't believe in that any more who call themselves Muslims or Jews or Christians, but that is the traditional God and he's a terrible character. I don't like him.
    • The Atheism Tapes (2005) Episode 2
  • I have a friend — or had a friend, now dead — Abdus Salam, a very devout Muslim, who was trying to bring science into the universities in the Gulf states and he told me that he had a terrible time because, although they were very receptive to technology, they felt that science would be a corrosive to religious belief, and they were worried about it... and damn it, I think they were right. It is corrosive of religious belief, and it's a good thing too.
    • The Atheism Tapes (2005) Episode 2
  • It seems that scientists are often attracted to beautiful theories in the way that insects are attracted to flowers — not by logical deduction, but by something like a sense of smell.
    • Physics Today (November 2005) page 35
  • There is one constant that seems to be fine tuned...and that is dark energy.
    • The Atheism Tapes

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