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The Physicist as Novelist

1844th Stated Meeting - Cambridge
Speaker: Alan Lightman (MIT) Commentator: Philip Morrison (MIT)
March 14, 2001

At the March Stated Meeting in Cambridge, Alan Lightman discussed some of his experiences as a physicist and writer and consider the nature of the two communities of scientists and writers—the similarities and differences in their ways of working and thinking and in their approaches to truth. In particular, he focused on the importance of naming or not naming things; framing problems in terms of questions and answers; certainty versus uncertainty; the role of invention in science and in art; the different kinds of truth; and the nature of the creative moment.

Lightman's work in astrophysics focuses on the fundamental radiation processes and gravitational dynamics in space. His literary writings deal primarily with the human and artistic dimensions of science. Among his most recent works are three novels: The Diagnosis, Good Benito, and Einstein's Dreams and a collection of essays and fables, Dance for Two. His books have been translated into thirty languages. In 1996, he received the Andrew Gemant Award of the American Institute of Physics for linking science to the humanities.

Philip Morrison is a theoretical physicist who has worked to advance the public understanding of science through print, film, and television. For more than thirty years, he served as the regular book reviewer for Scientific American; he and his wife, Phylis, coauthored Powers of Ten and write a monthly column, "Wonders," for Scientific American.

For more information please call (617) 576-5047.

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