The Schmooze

Physicist Steven Weinberg, Not Just Another Lady of Shalott

A high point of this year’s World Science Festival will be the June 4 lecture by American Jewish physicist Steven Weinberg, “The Future of Big Science” at the NYU Kimmel Center. Predicting the future is always parlous, but Weinberg, 1979 Nobel Prize co-laureate for, as the Nobel Committee put it, “contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alla the prediction of the weak neutral current,” is uniquely qualified to do so.

No weak force himself, Weinberg lectures in a resonant baritone, delivering his ideas with powerful imagery and literary force. Weinberg’s father Frederick was a New York court stenographer, which may have influenced his son’s solidly enunciated public speaking voice, as if dictating patiently for transcription. A graduate of The Bronx High School of Science, Weinberg is something of an Anglophile, and likens himself to “some lakeside Lady of Shalott” as he sits at home in Texas, overhearing noisy pleasure boat traffic on Lake Austin. The aforementioned reference to a celebrated Tennyson poem is in Weinberg’s “Lake Views: This World and the Universe,” out in 2010 from Harvard University Press, and due out in paperback on November 30.

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Physicist Steven Weinberg, Not Just Another Lady of Shalott

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