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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > Steven Weinberg Quotes

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Steven Weinberg
(3 May 1933 - )

American nuclear physicist.


Science Quotes by Steven Weinberg (21 quotes)

Even in the dark times between experimental breakthroughs, there always continues a steady evolution of theoretical ideas, leading almost imperceptibly to changes in previous beliefs.
— Steven Weinberg
In Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1989), 'Conceptual Foundations of the Unified Theory of Weak and Electromagnetic Interactions.'
Science quotes on:  |  Belief (400)  |  Breakthrough (13)  |  Change (291)  |  Dark (49)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Experiment (543)  |  Idea (440)  |  Imperceptible (5)  |  Previous (8)  |  Theorist (24)  |  Theory (582)  |  Time (439)

How strange it would be if the final theory were to be discovered in our lifetimes! The discovery of the final laws of nature will mark a discontinuity in human intellectual history, the sharpest that has occurred since the beginning of modern science in the seventeenth century. Can we now imagine what that would be like?
— Steven Weinberg
In Dreams of a Final Theory (1992), 235.
Science quotes on:  |  17th Century (10)  |  Beginning (114)  |  Discontinuity (3)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Final (33)  |  History (302)  |  Human (445)  |  Imagine (40)  |  Intellect (157)  |  Law Of Nature (52)  |  Lifetime (19)  |  Like (18)  |  Modern Science (10)  |  Occurrence (30)  |  Sharp (12)  |  Strange (61)  |  Theory (582)

How then did we come to the “standard model”? And how has it supplanted other theories, like the steady state model? It is a tribute to the essential objectivity of modern astrophysics that this consensus has been brought about, not by shifts in philosophical preference or by the influence of astrophysical mandarins, but by the pressure of empirical data.
— Steven Weinberg
In The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977), 9.
Science quotes on:  |  Astrophysics (12)  |  Consensus (5)  |  Data (100)  |  Empiricism (16)  |  Essential (87)  |  Influence (110)  |  Modern (104)  |  Objectivity (9)  |  Philosophy (213)  |  Preference (18)  |  Pressure (31)  |  Shift (21)  |  Standard Model (2)  |  Steady State (3)  |  Supplanting (2)  |  Theory (582)  |  Tribute (4)

I do not think it is possible really to understand the successes of science without understanding how hard it is—how easy it is to be led astray, how difficult it is to know at any time what is the next thing to be done.
— Steven Weinberg
…...
Science quotes on:  |  Astray (6)  |  Difficult (62)  |  Easy (56)  |  Hard (70)  |  Know (321)  |  Lead (101)  |  Next (23)  |  Possible (100)  |  Really (50)  |  Science (1699)  |  Success (202)  |  Think (205)  |  Time (439)  |  Understand (189)

I suppose that I tend to be optimistic about the future of physics. And nothing makes me more optimistic than the discovery of broken symmetries. In the seventh book of the Republic, Plato describes prisoners who are chained in a cave and can see only shadows that things outside cast on the cave wall. When released from the cave at first their eyes hurt, and for a while they think that the shadows they saw in the cave are more real than the objects they now see. But eventually their vision clears, and they can understand how beautiful the real world is. We are in such a cave, imprisoned by the limitations on the sorts of experiments we can do. In particular, we can study matter only at relatively low temperatures, where symmetries are likely to be spontaneously broken, so that nature does not appear very simple or unified. We have not been able to get out of this cave, but by looking long and hard at the shadows on the cave wall, we can at least make out the shapes of symmetries, which though broken, are exact principles governing all phenomena, expressions of the beauty of the world outside.
— Steven Weinberg
In Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1989), 'Conceptual Foundations of the Unified Theory of Weak and Electromagnetic Interactions.' Nobel Lectures: Physics 1971-1980 (1992), 556.
Science quotes on:  |  Beauty (171)  |  Cave (12)  |  Experiment (543)  |  Expression (82)  |  Eye (159)  |  Limitation (20)  |  Outside (37)  |  Phenomenon (218)  |  Plato (47)  |  Principle (228)  |  Prisoner (7)  |  Reality (140)  |  Shadow (35)  |  Shape (52)  |  Symmetry (26)  |  Understanding (317)  |  Vision (55)  |  Wall (20)  |  World (667)

If history is any guide at all, it seems to me to suggest that there is a final theory. In this century we have seen a convergence of the arrows of explanation, like the convergence of meridians toward the North Pole.
— Steven Weinberg
In Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature (1992), 232.
Science quotes on:  |  20th Century (25)  |  Arrow (13)  |  Convergence (3)  |  Explanation (161)  |  Final (33)  |  Guide (46)  |  History (302)  |  Meridian (3)  |  North Pole (3)  |  Theory (582)

If there is no solace in the fruits of our research, there is at least some consolation in the research itself. Men and women are not content to comfort themselves with tales of gods and giants, or to confine their thoughts to the daily affairs of life; they also build telescopes and satellites and accelerators and sit at their desks for endless hours working out the meaning of the data they gather.
— Steven Weinberg
In The First Three Minutes (1977), 154-155.
Science quotes on:  |  Accelerator (7)  |  Comfort (42)  |  Consolation (7)  |  Data (100)  |  Desk (10)  |  Endless (20)  |  Fruit (63)  |  Giant (28)  |  God (454)  |  Meaning (87)  |  Research (517)  |  Satellite (22)  |  Solace (5)  |  Tale (12)  |  Telescope (74)  |  Work (457)

In the beginning there was an explosion. Not an explosion like those familiar on earth, starting from a definite center and spreading out to engulf more and more of the circumambient air, but an explosion which occurred simultaneously everywhere, filling all space from the beginning, with every particle of matter rushing apart from every other particle. ‘All space’ in this context may mean either all of an infinite universe, or all of a finite universe which curves back on itself like the surface of a sphere. Neither possibility is easy to comprehend, but this will not get in our way; it matters hardly at all in the early universe whether space is finite or infinite. At about one-hundredth of a second, the earliest time about which we can speak with any confidence, the temperature of the universe was about a hundred thousand million (1011) degrees Centigrade. This is much hotter than in the center of even the hottest star, so hot, in fact, that none of the components of ordinary matter, molecules, or atoms, or even the nuclei of atoms, could have held together. Instead, the matter rushing apart in this explosion consisted of various types of the so-called elementary particles, which are the subject of modern high­energy nuclear physics.
— Steven Weinberg
The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977), 5.
Science quotes on:  |  Atom (251)  |  Atomic Bomb (101)  |  Comprehension (51)  |  Confidence (32)  |  Explosion (24)  |  Fact (609)  |  Hottest (2)  |  Infinite (88)  |  Matter (270)  |  Mean (63)  |  Million (89)  |  Nucleus (30)  |  Particle Physics (9)  |  Space (154)  |  Star (251)  |  Temperature (42)  |  Universe (563)

It appears that anything you say about the way that theory and experiment may interact is likely to be correct, and anything you say about the way that theory and experiment must interact is likely to be wrong.
— Steven Weinberg
In Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature (1992), 128.
Science quotes on:  |  Anything (8)  |  Appearance (77)  |  Correct (53)  |  Experiment (543)  |  Interaction (28)  |  Likely (23)  |  Must (2)  |  Say (126)  |  Theory (582)  |  Way (36)  |  Wrong (116)

It is almost irresistible for humans to believe that we have some special relation to the universe, that human life is not just a more-or-less farcical outcome of a chain of accidents reaching back to the first three minutes, but that we were somehow built in from the beginning.
— Steven Weinberg
The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977), 154.
Science quotes on:  |  Accident (54)  |  Belief (400)  |  Chain (38)  |  Farce (4)  |  Human Life (25)  |  Minute (25)  |  Relationship (59)  |  Special (51)  |  Universe (563)

It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.
— Steven Weinberg
The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977, 1993), 154.
Science quotes on:  |  Big Bang (38)  |  Comprehension (51)  |  Extinction (55)  |  Future (229)  |  Pointless (3)  |  Universe (563)

Nothing in physics seems so hopeful to as the idea that it is possible for a theory to have a high degree of symmetry was hidden from us in everyday life. The physicist's task is to find this deeper symmetry.
— Steven Weinberg
In American Scientist (1977) (as cited in The Atlantic (1984), 254, 81.) As an epigraph in Crystal and Dragon: The Cosmic Dance of Symmetry and Chaos in Nature, Art and Consciousness (1993), 139.
Science quotes on:  |  Degree (48)  |  Everyday Life (4)  |  Hidden (34)  |  High (78)  |  Hope (129)  |  Idea (440)  |  Nothing (267)  |  Physics (301)  |  Possibility (96)  |  Seem (89)  |  Symmetry (26)  |  Theory (582)

One of the things that makes the history of science so endlessly fascinating is to follow the slow education of our species in the sort of beauty to expect in nature.
— Steven Weinberg
In Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature (1992), 158.
Science quotes on:  |  Beauty (171)  |  Education (280)  |  Endless (20)  |  Fascinating (17)  |  Follow (66)  |  History Of Science (53)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Slow (36)

Our job in physics is to see things simply, to understand a great many complicated phenomena in a unified way, in terms of a few simple principles.
— Steven Weinberg
In Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1989), 'Conceptual Foundations of the Unified Theory of Weak and Electromagnetic Interactions.'
Science quotes on:  |  Complication (20)  |  Phenomenon (218)  |  Physics (301)  |  Principle (228)  |  Seeing (48)  |  Simplicity (126)  |  Theorist (24)  |  Understanding (317)  |  Unification (9)

Quantum field theory, which was born just fifty years ago from the marriage of quantum mechanics with relativity, is a beautiful but not very robust child.
— Steven Weinberg
In Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1989), 'Conceptual Foundations of the Unified Theory of Weak and Electromagnetic Interactions.'
Science quotes on:  |  Beauty (171)  |  Birth (81)  |  Child (189)  |  Fifty (15)  |  Marriage (31)  |  Quantum Field Theory (2)  |  Quantum Mechanics (31)  |  Relativity (50)  |  Robust (5)  |  Year (214)

Quantum mechanics and relativity, taken together, are extraordinarily restrictive, and they therefore provide us with a great logical machine. We can explore with our minds any number of possible universes consisting of all kinds of mythical particles and interactions, but all except a very few can be rejected on a priori grounds because they are not simultaneously consistent with special relativity and quantum mechanics. Hopefully in the end we will find that only one theory is consistent with both and that theory will determine the nature of our particular universe.
— Steven Weinberg
…...
Science quotes on:  |  A Priori (16)  |  Both (52)  |  Consist (22)  |  Consistent (10)  |  Determine (45)  |  End (141)  |  Exploration (93)  |  Find (248)  |  Great (300)  |  Ground (63)  |  Interaction (28)  |  Kind (99)  |  Logical (20)  |  Machine (133)  |  Mind (544)  |  Mythical (3)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Number (179)  |  Particle (90)  |  Particular (54)  |  Possible (100)  |  Provide (48)  |  Quantum Mechanics (31)  |  Reject (21)  |  Relativity (50)  |  Restrictive (4)  |  Simultaneous (12)  |  Special Relativity (3)  |  Theory (582)  |  Together (48)  |  Universe (563)

The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.
— Steven Weinberg
In The First Three Minutes (1977), 155.
Science quotes on:  |  Effort (94)  |  Farce (4)  |  Grace (13)  |  Human (445)  |  Life (917)  |  Lift (17)  |  Tragedy (19)  |  Understanding (317)  |  Universe (563)

The most important thing accomplished by the ultimate discovery of the 3 °K radiation background (Penzias and Wilson, 1965) was to force all of us to take seriously the idea that there was an early universe.
— Steven Weinberg
In The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977, 1993), 131-132.
Science quotes on:  |  Accomplishment (57)  |  Background Radiation (2)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Early (39)  |  Idea (440)  |  Important (124)  |  Arno Penzias (2)  |  Serious (37)  |  Ultimate (61)  |  Universe (563)  |  Robert Woodrow Wilson (5)

There is now a feeling that the pieces of physics are falling into place, not because of any single revolutionary idea or because of the efforts of any one physicist, but because of a flowering of many seeds of theory, most of them planted long ago.
— Steven Weinberg
In 'The Forces of Nature', Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Jan 1976), 29:4, 14.
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This is often the way it is in physics—our mistake is not that we take our theories too seriously, but that we do not take them seriously enough. It is always hard to realize that these numbers and equations we play with at our desks have something to do with the real world.
— Steven Weinberg
In The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe (1977, Rev. ed. 1993), 131-132.
Science quotes on:  |  Desk (10)  |  Equation (69)  |  Mistake (107)  |  Number (179)  |  Physics (301)  |  Play (60)  |  Real World (8)  |  Realize (43)  |  Seriously (13)  |  Theory (582)

We have simply arrived too late in the history of the universe to see this primordial simplicity easily ... But although the symmetries are hidden from us, we can sense that they are latent in nature, governing everything about us. That's the most exciting idea I know: that nature is much simpler than it looks. Nothing makes me more hopeful that our generation of human beings may actually hold the key to the universe in our hands—that perhaps in our lifetimes we may be able to tell why all of what we see in this immense universe of galaxies and particles is logically inevitable.
— Steven Weinberg
Quoted in Nigel Calder, The Key to the Universe: A Report on the New Physics (1978), 185.
Science quotes on:  |  Excitement (33)  |  Galaxy (38)  |  Generation (111)  |  Governing (4)  |  Hidden (34)  |  Hope (129)  |  Inevitability (8)  |  Key (38)  |  Latent (9)  |  Lifetime (19)  |  Logic (187)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Particle (90)  |  Sense (240)  |  Simplicity (126)  |  Symmetry (26)  |  Universe (563)


See also:
  • 3 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Weinberg's birth.
  • The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe, by Steven Weinberg. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Steven Weinberg.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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