Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Lake Views" by Steven Weinberg

This is a review of Steven Weinberg's latest collection of essay compiled in a book titled "Lake Views". Obviously, this will be another book that I will buy (enjoy the royalty money, Steven!) :)

Some of the essays might come off as too abstract for readers who don't particularly care about a given topic; in particular, a lengthy review of mathematics expert Stephen Wolfram's 2002 book, A New Kind of Science, requires a deep and abiding interest in cellular automata. (For the rest of us, that's a kind of modeling that studies how individual cells evolve through time depending on what the cells next to them are doing.)

In other pieces, though, Weinberg can, within several eloquent pages, distill the essence of why science is important. His 2003 commencement speech at Montreal's McGill University points out that while it isn't so important to know who was prime minister of Canada a century earlier, in 1903 Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy were at McGill figuring out how radioactivity worked – research that has profoundly shaped our knowledge of the natural world, including explaining why the Earth's core remains hot after billions of years.

Interestingly enough, I found a short interview with him that, without reading the book, somehow possibly revealing the origin of the title of the book.

Give us a glimpse into your writing routine. I do all my research and writing at home. If you see me on the UT campus, it’s because I’m giving a class or meeting with colleagues or students. But even when I’m at my desk at home, I often just spin my wheels, so I need something to keep me sitting there. My desk looks over Lake Austin, and I have a television set that I keep on while I’m working. Between watching old movies and enjoying the view of the lake, I generally manage to stay at my desk until I think of something worth doing.


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