Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson

Overview
Freeman John Dyson FRS (born December 15, 1923) is a British-born American theoretical physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 and mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

, famous for his work in quantum field theory
Quantum field theory
Quantum field theory provides a theoretical framework for constructing quantum mechanical models of systems classically parametrized by an infinite number of dynamical degrees of freedom, that is, fields and many-body systems. It is the natural and quantitative language of particle physics and...

, solid-state physics
Solid-state physics
Solid-state physics is the study of rigid matter, or solids, through methods such as quantum mechanics, crystallography, electromagnetism, and metallurgy. It is the largest branch of condensed matter physics. Solid-state physics studies how the large-scale properties of solid materials result from...

, astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 and nuclear engineering
Nuclear engineering
Nuclear engineering is the branch of engineering concerned with the application of the breakdown as well as the fusion of atomic nuclei and/or the application of other sub-atomic physics, based on the principles of nuclear physics...

. Dyson is a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a nontechnical online magazine that covers global security and public policy issues, especially related to the dangers posed by nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction...

. Dyson has lived in Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton is a community located in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States. It is best known as the location of Princeton University, which has been sited in the community since 1756...

, for over fifty years.

Dyson's father was the English composer Sir George Dyson
George Dyson (composer)
Sir George Dyson KCVO was a well-known English musician and composer. His son is the physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson and among his grandchildren are the science historian George Dyson and Esther Dyson...

;
his mother was trained as a lawyer but after Dyson was born worked as a social worker. Despite sharing a last name, he is not related to the early 20th century astronomer Frank Watson Dyson
Frank Watson Dyson
Sir Frank Watson Dyson, KBE, FRS was an English astronomer and Astronomer Royal who is remembered today largely for introducing time signals from Greenwich, England, and for the role he played in testing Einstein's theory of general relativity.- Biography :Dyson was born in Measham, near...

, but as a small boy Freeman Dyson was aware of Frank Watson Dyson.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Freeman Dyson'
Start a new discussion about 'Freeman Dyson'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Recent Discussions
Quotations

I am acutely aware of the fact that the marriage between mathematics and physics, which was so enormously fruitful in past centuries, has recently ended in divorce.

Missed Opportunities (1972)

The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming.

As quoted in The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986) by John D. Barrow|John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler|Frank J. Tipler, p. 318

The bottom line for mathematicians is that the architecture has to be right. In all the mathematics that I did, the essential point was to find the right architecture. It's like building a bridge. Once the main lines of the structure are right, then the details miraculously fit. The problem is the overall design.

"Freeman Dyson: Mathematician, Physicist, and Writer". Interview with Donald J. Albers, The College Mathematics Journal, vol 25, no. 1, (January 1994)

The progress of science requires the growth of understanding in both directions, downward from the whole to the parts and upward from the parts to the whole. A reductionist philosophy, arbitrarily proclaiming that the growth of understanding must go only in one direction, makes no scientific sense. Indeed, dogmatic philosophical beliefs of any kind have no place in science.

"The Scientist as Rebel" in New York Review of Books (25 May 1995)

The laws of nature are constructed in such a way as to make the universe as interesting as possible.

Imagined Worlds (1997)

There is a great satisfaction in building good tools for other people to use.

Encyclopedia
Freeman John Dyson FRS (born December 15, 1923) is a British-born American theoretical physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 and mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

, famous for his work in quantum field theory
Quantum field theory
Quantum field theory provides a theoretical framework for constructing quantum mechanical models of systems classically parametrized by an infinite number of dynamical degrees of freedom, that is, fields and many-body systems. It is the natural and quantitative language of particle physics and...

, solid-state physics
Solid-state physics
Solid-state physics is the study of rigid matter, or solids, through methods such as quantum mechanics, crystallography, electromagnetism, and metallurgy. It is the largest branch of condensed matter physics. Solid-state physics studies how the large-scale properties of solid materials result from...

, astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

 and nuclear engineering
Nuclear engineering
Nuclear engineering is the branch of engineering concerned with the application of the breakdown as well as the fusion of atomic nuclei and/or the application of other sub-atomic physics, based on the principles of nuclear physics...

. Dyson is a member of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a nontechnical online magazine that covers global security and public policy issues, especially related to the dangers posed by nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction...

. Dyson has lived in Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton is a community located in Mercer County, New Jersey, United States. It is best known as the location of Princeton University, which has been sited in the community since 1756...

, for over fifty years.

Personal


Dyson's father was the English composer Sir George Dyson
George Dyson (composer)
Sir George Dyson KCVO was a well-known English musician and composer. His son is the physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson and among his grandchildren are the science historian George Dyson and Esther Dyson...

;
his mother was trained as a lawyer but after Dyson was born worked as a social worker. Despite sharing a last name, he is not related to the early 20th century astronomer Frank Watson Dyson
Frank Watson Dyson
Sir Frank Watson Dyson, KBE, FRS was an English astronomer and Astronomer Royal who is remembered today largely for introducing time signals from Greenwich, England, and for the role he played in testing Einstein's theory of general relativity.- Biography :Dyson was born in Measham, near...

, but as a small boy Freeman Dyson was aware of Frank Watson Dyson. Freeman credits the popularity of an astronomer with the same last name with inadvertently helping to spark his interest in science.

Dyson has six children, two of them (Esther
Esther Dyson
Esther Dyson is a former journalist and Wall Street technology analyst who is a leading angel investor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and commentator focused on breakthrough innovation in healthcare, government transparency, digital technology, biotechnology, and space...

 and George
George Dyson (science historian)
George Dyson is a scientific historian, the son of Freeman Dyson and Verena Huber-Dyson, brother of Esther Dyson, and the grandson of Sir George Dyson. He is the father of Lauren Dyson. When he was sixteen he went to live in British Columbia in Canada to pursue his interest in kayaking and...

) with his first wife, mathematician Verena Huber-Dyson, and the other four with his second wife, Imme Dyson, a masters runner
Masters athletics (track and field)
Masters athletics is a class of the sport of athletics for veteran athletes in the events of track and field, road running and cross country running. The competitions feature five-year age groups beginning at age 35. Men as old as 104 and women in their 100s have competed in running, jumping and...

 who married him in 1958. Due to issues with some of his children not being recognized as British citizens he abjured his allegiance to Britain, and became a naturalized American citizen.

His eldest daughter Esther
Esther Dyson
Esther Dyson is a former journalist and Wall Street technology analyst who is a leading angel investor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and commentator focused on breakthrough innovation in healthcare, government transparency, digital technology, biotechnology, and space...

 is a digital technology consultant. His son George
George Dyson (science historian)
George Dyson is a scientific historian, the son of Freeman Dyson and Verena Huber-Dyson, brother of Esther Dyson, and the grandson of Sir George Dyson. He is the father of Lauren Dyson. When he was sixteen he went to live in British Columbia in Canada to pursue his interest in kayaking and...

 is a historian of science
History of science
The history of science is the study of the historical development of human understandings of the natural world and the domains of the social sciences....

, one of whose books is Project Orion: The Atomic Spaceship 1957–1965.

Friends and colleagues describe him as shy and self-effacing with a contrarian streak that his friends find refreshing but his intellectual opponents find exasperating. "I have the sense that when consensus is forming like ice hardening on a lake, Dyson will do his best to chip at the ice," physics Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg is an American theoretical 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....

 said of him. His friend, the neurologist and author Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks
Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE , is a British neurologist and psychologist residing in New York City. He is a professor of neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University, where he also holds the position of Columbia Artist...

, said: "A favorite word of Freeman's about doing science and being creative is the word subversive. He feels it's rather important not only to be not orthodox, but to be subversive, and he's done that all his life." Dyson was sharply criticized by biologist Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

 in his book The God Delusion
The God Delusion
The God Delusion is a 2006 bestselling non-fiction book by British biologist Richard Dawkins, professorial fellow of New College, Oxford, and inaugural holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.In The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that...

for accepting the Templeton Prize
Templeton Prize
The Templeton Prize is an annual award presented by the Templeton Foundation. Established in 1972, it is awarded to a living person who, in the estimation of the judges, "has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical...

 in 2000.

Career


Although Dyson has won numerous scientific awards, he has never won a Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

, which has led Nobel physics laureate Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg is an American theoretical 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....

 to state that the Nobel committee
Norwegian Nobel Committee
The Norwegian Nobel Committee awards the Nobel Peace Prize each year.Its five members are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament and roughly represent the political makeup of that body.-History:...

 has "fleeced" Dyson. Dyson has said that “I think it’s almost true without exception if you want to win a Nobel Prize, you should have a long attention span, get hold of some deep and important problem and stay with it for 10 years. That wasn’t my style.”

Dyson was a Scholar at the renowned Winchester College
Winchester College
Winchester College is an independent school for boys in the British public school tradition, situated in Winchester, Hampshire, the former capital of England. It has existed in its present location for over 600 years and claims the longest unbroken history of any school in England...

 from 1936 to 1941. He was received (as one of 20 distinguished Old Wykehamists) on 4 May 2011 at the Ad Portas celebration, the highest honour that the College bestows. After leaving Winchester he joined the operational research section at RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

, where he remained for the rest of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. After the war, he obtained a BA
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in mathematics from the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 (1945) and was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

 from 1946 to 1949. In 1947 he moved to the US, on a fellowship at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 and thence joined the faculty there as a physics professor in 1951 without a PhD
PHD
PHD may refer to:*Ph.D., a doctorate of philosophy*Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*PHD finger, a protein sequence*PHD Mountain Software, an outdoor clothing and equipment company*PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

. In 1953, he took up a post at the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States, is an independent postgraduate center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner...

 in Princeton, NJ. In 1957, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

Dyson is best known for demonstrating in 1949 the equivalence of the formulations of quantum electrodynamics
Quantum electrodynamics
Quantum electrodynamics is the relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics. In essence, it describes how light and matter interact and is the first theory where full agreement between quantum mechanics and special relativity is achieved...

 that existed by that time–Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman
Richard Phillips Feynman was an American physicist known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics...

's diagrams and the operator method developed by Julian Schwinger
Julian Schwinger
Julian Seymour Schwinger was an American theoretical physicist. He is best known for his work on the theory of quantum electrodynamics, in particular for developing a relativistically invariant perturbation theory, and for renormalizing QED to one loop order.Schwinger is recognized as one of the...

 and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga
Sin-Itiro Tomonaga
was a Japanese physicist, influential in the development of quantum electrodynamics, work for which he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 along with Richard Feynman and Julian Schwinger.-Biography:...

. Dyson was the first person (besides Feynman) to appreciate the power of Feynman diagrams, and his 1949 paper (written in 1948) was the first paper using them. He said in that paper that Feynman diagrams were not just a computational tool, but a physical theory. He developed rules for the diagrams that completely solved the renormalization
Renormalization
In quantum field theory, the statistical mechanics of fields, and the theory of self-similar geometric structures, renormalization is any of a collection of techniques used to treat infinities arising in calculated quantities....

 problem. Dyson's paper and also his lectures presented Feynman's theories of QED (quantum electrodynamics) in a form that other physicists could understand and undoubtedly facilitated the physics community's acceptance of Feynman's work. Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Oppenheimer
Julius Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Along with Enrico Fermi, he is often called the "father of the atomic bomb" for his role in the Manhattan Project, the World War II project that developed the first...

, in particular, was persuaded by Dyson that Feynman's new theory was as valid as Schwinger's and Tomonaga's. Oppenheimer rewarded Dyson with a lifetime appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study, "for proving me wrong," Oppenheimer said. {Disturbing the Universe, Freeman Dyson.}

The same year, in related work, Dyson invented the Dyson series
Dyson series
In scattering theory, the Dyson series, formulated by British-born American physicist Freeman Dyson, is a perturbative series, and each term is represented by Feynman diagrams. This series diverges asymptotically, but in quantum electrodynamics at the second order the difference from...

. It was this Dyson paper that inspired John Ward
John Clive Ward
John Clive Ward , was a British-Australian physicist. His most famous creation was the Ward-Takahashi identity, originally known as "Ward Identity" . This celebrated result, in quantum electrodynamics, was inspired by a conjecture of Dyson and was disclosed in a one-half page letter typical of...

 to derive his celebrated Ward identity.
Ward–Takahashi identity
In quantum field theory, a Ward-Takahashi identity is an identity between correlation functions that follows from the global or gauged symmetries of the theory, and which remains valid after renormalization....



Dyson also did work in a variety of topics in mathematics, such as topology, analysis, number theory and random matrices. There is an interesting story involving his knowledge of random matrices. The number theorist Hugh Montgomery was visiting the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States, is an independent postgraduate center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner...

 and had just conjectured a formula for the distance between consecutive zeros of the Riemann zeta function. He showed the formula to the mathematician Atle Selberg
Atle Selberg
Atle Selberg was a Norwegian mathematician known for his work in analytic number theory, and in the theory of automorphic forms, in particular bringing them into relation with spectral theory...

 who said it looked like something in mathematical physics and he should show it to Dyson who recognized it as the formula for the eigenvalues of a random Hermitian matrix. This suggests that there might be a connection between the distribution of primes 2,3,5,7,11,... and quantum mechanics. {cf the Book: Prime Obsession, John Derbyshire, 2004}.

From 1957 to 1961 he worked on the Orion Project
Project Orion (nuclear propulsion)
Project Orion was a study of a spacecraft intended to be directly propelled by a series of explosions of atomic bombs behind the craft...

, which proposed the possibility of space-flight using nuclear pulse propulsion
Nuclear pulse propulsion
Nuclear pulse propulsion is a proposed method of spacecraft propulsion that uses nuclear explosions for thrust. It was first developed as Project Orion by DARPA, after a suggestion by Stanislaw Ulam in 1947...

. A prototype was demonstrated using conventional explosives, but a treaty
Partial Test Ban Treaty
The treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, often abbreviated as the Partial Test Ban Treaty , Limited Test Ban Treaty , or Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a treaty prohibiting all test detonations of nuclear weapons...

 which he was involved in and supported, banned the testing of nuclear weapons other than underground, and this caused the project to be abandoned.

In 1958 he led the design team for the TRIGA
TRIGA
TRIGA is a class of small nuclear reactor designed and manufactured by General Atomics. The design team for TRIGA was led by the physicist Freeman Dyson.TRIGA is the acronym of Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics.-Design:...

, a small, inherently safe nuclear reactor used throughout the world in hospitals and universities for the production of isotopes.

A seminal work by Dyson came in 1966 when, together with Andrew Lenard and independently of Elliott H. Lieb
Elliott H. Lieb
Elliott H. Lieb is an eminent American mathematical physicist and professor of mathematics and physics at Princeton University who specializes in statistical mechanics, condensed matter theory, and functional analysis....

 and Walter Thirring
Walter Thirring
Walter Thirring is an Austrian physicist after whom the Thirring model in quantum field theory is named. He is son of the physicist Hans Thirring, co-discoverer of the Lense-Thirring frame dragging effect in general relativity....

, he proved rigorously that the exclusion principle
Pauli exclusion principle
The Pauli exclusion principle is the quantum mechanical principle that no two identical fermions may occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. A more rigorous statement is that the total wave function for two identical fermions is anti-symmetric with respect to exchange of the particles...

 plays the main role in the stability of bulk matter. Hence, it is not the electromagnetic repulsion between electrons and nuclei that is responsible for two wood blocks that are left on top of each other not coalescing into a single piece, but rather it is the exclusion principle applied to electrons and protons that generates the classical macroscopic normal force
Normal force
In mechanics, the normal force F_n\ is the component, perpendicular to the surface of contact, of the contact force exerted on an object by, for example, the surface of a floor or wall, preventing the object from penetrating the surface.The normal force is one of the components of the ground...

. In condensed matter physics, Dyson also did studies in the phase transition of the Ising model in 1 dimension and spin waves.

Around 1979, Dyson worked with the Institute for Energy Analysis
Oak Ridge Associated Universities
Oak Ridge Associated Universities is a consortium of American and British universities headquartered in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, with an office in Washington, D.C., and staff at several other locations across the country.- History :...

 on climate studies
Climatology
Climatology is the study of climate, scientifically defined as weather conditions averaged over a period of time, and is a branch of the atmospheric sciences...

. This group, under the direction of Alvin Weinberg, pioneered multidisciplinary climate studies, including a strong biology group. Also during the 1970s, Dyson worked on climate studies conducted by the JASON defense advisory group.

In 1998, Dyson joined the board of the Solar Electric Light Fund
Solar Electric Light Fund
The Solar Electric Light Fund is an international development aid organization working to end global poverty by bringing solar power and Internet access to the world's poorest people in remote rural areas...

. , Dyson is the president of the Space Studies Institute
Space Studies Institute
Space Studies Institute is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1977 by the late Princeton University Professor Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill. The stated mission is to "open the energy and material resources of space for human benefit within our lifetime"...

, the space research organization founded by Gerard K. O'Neill. Dyson is a long-time member of the JASON defense advisory group.

Dyson is a regular contributor to New York Review of Books. He published there 47 articles (correct March 2011).

Honors and awards


In 1952 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society

Dyson was awarded the Lorentz Medal
Lorentz Medal
Lorentz Medal is a prize awarded every four years by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. It was established in 1925 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the doctorate of Hendrik Lorentz. This solid gold medal is given for important contributions to theoretical physics, though...

 in 1966, Max Planck medal
Max Planck medal
The Max Planck medal is an award for extraordinary achievements in theoretical physics. It is awarded annually by the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft , the world's largest organization of physicists.-List of recipients:...

 in 1969 and the Harvey Prize
Harvey Prize
The Harvey Prize is awarded by the Technion in Haifa, Israel. It is awarded in different disciplines of Science, Technology, Human Health, and Contributions to Peace in the Middle East. Two awards - each of $75,000 - are given away annually...

 in 1977.

In 1977, Dyson supervised Princeton undergraduate John Aristotle Phillips
John Aristotle Phillips
-"A-Bomb Kid":Phillips was born in August 1955 to Greek immigrant parents and raised in North Haven, Connecticut In 1976, while attending Princeton University as a junior undergraduate, he designed a nuclear weapon using publicly-available books and papers...

 in a term paper that outlined a credible design for a nuclear weapon. This earned Phillips the nickname The A-Bomb Kid.

In the 1984–85 academic year he gave the Gifford lectures
Gifford Lectures
The Gifford Lectures were established by the will of Adam Lord Gifford . They were established to "promote and diffuse the study of Natural Theology in the widest sense of the term — in other words, the knowledge of God." The term natural theology as used by Gifford means theology supported...

 at Aberdeen
University of Aberdeen
The University of Aberdeen, an ancient university founded in 1495, in Aberdeen, Scotland, is a British university. It is the third oldest university in Scotland, and the fifth oldest in the United Kingdom and wider English-speaking world...

, which resulted in the book Infinite In All Directions
Infinite In All Directions
Infinite In All Directions is a book on a wide range of subjects, including history, philosophy, research, technology, the origin of life and eschatology, by theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson. Published in 1988, this book is based on the author's Gifford Lectures delivered in Aberdeen in 1985...

.

In 1989, Dyson taught at Duke University
Duke University
Duke University is a private research university located in Durham, North Carolina, United States. Founded by Methodists and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity in 1838, the school moved to Durham in 1892. In 1924, tobacco industrialist James B...

 as a Fritz London
Fritz London
Fritz Wolfgang London was a German theoretical physicist. His fundamental contributions to the theories of chemical bonding and of intermolecular forces are today considered classic and are discussed in standard textbooks of physical chemistry.With his brother Heinz, he made a significant...

 Memorial Lecturer. In the same year, he was elected as an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

Dyson has published a number of collections of speculations and observations about technology, science, and the future. In 1996 he was awarded the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science
Lewis Thomas Prize
The Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, named for its first recipient, Lewis Thomas, is an annual literary prize awarded by Rockefeller University to scientists deemed to have accomplished a significant literary achievement: it "recognizes scientists as poets"...

.

In 1993, Dyson was given the Enrico Fermi Award
Enrico Fermi Award
The Enrico Fermi Award is an award honoring scientists of international stature for their lifetime achievement in the development, use, or production of energy. It is administered by the U.S. government's Department of Energy...

.

In 2000, Dyson was awarded the Templeton Prize
Templeton Prize
The Templeton Prize is an annual award presented by the Templeton Foundation. Established in 1972, it is awarded to a living person who, in the estimation of the judges, "has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical...

 for Progress in Religion.

In 2003, Dyson was awarded the Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology in Telluride, Colorado.

Biotechnology and genetic engineering


Dyson cheerfully admits his record as a prophet is mixed, but "it is better to be wrong than to be vague."

"To answer the world's material needs, technology has to be not only beautiful but also cheap."

Dyson sphere


In 1960 Dyson wrote a short paper for the journal Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

, entitled "Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation". In it, he theorized that a technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilization might completely surround its native star with artificial structures in order to maximize the capture of the star's available energy. Eventually, the civilization would completely enclose the star, intercepting electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space...

 with wavelengths from visible light downwards and radiating waste heat outwards as infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 radiation. Therefore, one method of searching for extraterrestrial civilizations
SETI
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is the collective name for a number of activities people undertake to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. Some of the most well known projects are run by the SETI Institute. SETI projects use scientific methods to search for intelligent life...

 would be to look for large objects radiating in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum
Electromagnetic spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. The "electromagnetic spectrum" of an object is the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object....

.

Dyson conceived that such structures would be clouds of asteroid
Asteroid
Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

-sized space habitat
Space habitat
A space habitat is a space station intended as a permanent settlement rather than as a simple waystation or other specialized facility...

s, though science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 writers have preferred a solid structure: either way, such an artifact is often referred to as a Dyson sphere
Dyson sphere
A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical megastructure originally described by Freeman Dyson. Such a "sphere" would be a system of orbiting solar power satellites meant to completely encompass a star and capture most or all of its energy output...

, although Dyson himself used the term "shell". Dyson says that he used the term "artificial biosphere" in the article meaning a habitat, not a shape. The general concept of such an energy-transferring shell had been advanced decades earlier by author Olaf Stapledon
Olaf Stapledon
William Olaf Stapledon was a British philosopher and author of several influential works of science fiction.-Life:...

 in his 1937 novel Star Maker
Star Maker
-External links:*...

, a source that Dyson has credited publicly.

Dyson tree


Dyson has also proposed the creation of a Dyson tree, a genetically-engineered
Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

 plant capable of growing on a comet
Comet
A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are both due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet...

. He suggested that comets could be engineered to contain hollow spaces filled with a breathable atmosphere, thus providing self-sustaining habitats for humanity in the outer solar system
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

.

Space colonies


Dyson has been interested in space travel since he was a child, reading such science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 classics as Olaf Stapledon
Olaf Stapledon
William Olaf Stapledon was a British philosopher and author of several influential works of science fiction.-Life:...

's Star Maker
Star Maker
-External links:*...

. As a young man, he worked for General Atomics
General Atomics
General Atomics is a nuclear physics and defense contractor headquartered in San Diego, California. General Atomics’ research into fission and fusion matured into competencies in related technologies, allowing the company to expand into other fields of research...

 on the nuclear-powered Orion
Project Orion (nuclear propulsion)
Project Orion was a study of a spacecraft intended to be directly propelled by a series of explosions of atomic bombs behind the craft...

 spacecraft. He hoped Project Orion would put men on Mars by 1965, Saturn by 1970. He's been unhappy for a quarter-century on how the government conducts space travel:
He still hopes for cheap space travel, but is resigned to waiting for private entrepreneurs to develop something new—and cheap.
Dyson also has proposed the use of bioengineered space colonies to colonize the Kuiper Belt on the outer edge of our Solar System. He proposed that habitats could be grown from space hardened spores. The colonies could then be warmed by large reflector plant leaves that could focus the dim, distant sunlight back on the growing colony. This was illustrated by Pat Rawlings on the cover of the National Space Society's Ad Astra magazine.

Space exploration



Dyson's transform



Dyson also has some credits in pure mathematics. His concept "Dyson's transform" led to one of the most important lemma
Lemma (mathematics)
In mathematics, a lemma is a proven proposition which is used as a stepping stone to a larger result rather than as a statement in-and-of itself...

s of Olivier Ramaré
Olivier Ramaré
Olivier Ramaré is a French mathematician who teaches at the Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille.In 1995, he sharpened earlier work on Schnirelmann's theorem by proving that every even number is a sum of at most six primes. This result may be compared with Goldbach's conjecture, which...

's theorem that every even integer can be written as a sum of no more than six primes.

Dyson series


The Dyson series, the formal solution of an explicitly time-dependent Schrödinger equation
Schrödinger equation
The Schrödinger equation was formulated in 1926 by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Used in physics , it is an equation that describes how the quantum state of a physical system changes in time....

 by iteration, and the corresponding Dyson time-ordering operator an entity of basic importance in the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics
Mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics
The mathematical formulations of quantum mechanics are those mathematical formalisms that permit a rigorous description of quantum mechanics. Such are distinguished from mathematical formalisms for theories developed prior to the early 1900s by the use of abstract mathematical structures, such as...

, are also named after Dyson.


Metaphysics


Dyson has suggested a kind of cosmic metaphysics of mind. In his book Infinite in All Directions
Infinite In All Directions
Infinite In All Directions is a book on a wide range of subjects, including history, philosophy, research, technology, the origin of life and eschatology, by theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson. Published in 1988, this book is based on the author's Gifford Lectures delivered in Aberdeen in 1985...

he is writing about three levels of mind: "The universe shows evidence of the operations of mind on three levels. The first level is the level of elementary physical processes in quantum mechanics. Matter in quantum mechanics is [...] constantly making choices between alternative possibilities according to probabilistic laws. [...] The second level at which we detect the operations of mind is the level of direct human experience. [...] [I]t is reasonable to believe in the existence of a third level of mind, a mental component of the universe. If we believe in this mental component and call it God, then we can say that we are small pieces of God's mental apparatus" (p. 297).

Global warming


Dyson agrees that anthropogenic global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 exists, and has written that "[o]ne of the main causes of warming is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from our burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal and natural gas." However, he has argued that existing simulation models of climate fail to account for some important factors, and hence the results will contain too much error to reliably predict future trends:
He is among signatories of a letter to the UN criticizing the IPCC
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a scientific intergovernmental body which provides comprehensive assessments of current scientific, technical and socio-economic information worldwide about the risk of climate change caused by human activity, its potential environmental and...

 and
has also argued against the ostracization of scientists whose views depart from the acknowledged mainstream of scientific opinion on climate change
Scientific opinion on climate change
The predominant scientific opinion on climate change is that the Earth is in an ongoing phase of global warming primarily caused by an enhanced greenhouse effect due to the anthropogenic release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases...

, stating that "heretics" have historically been an important force in driving scientific progress. "[H]eretics who question the dogmas are needed... I am proud to be a heretic. The world always needs heretics to challenge the prevailing orthodoxies."

More recently, he has endorsed the now common usage of "global warming" as synonymous with global anthropogenic climate change, referring to recent "measurements that transformed global warming from a vague theoretical speculation into a precise observational science."

He has, however, argued that political efforts to reduce the causes of climate change distract from other global problems that should take priority:
Since originally taking interest in climate studies in the 1970s, Dyson has suggested that carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 levels in the atmosphere could be controlled by planting fast-growing trees. He calculates that it would take a trillion trees to remove all carbon from the atmosphere.

Dyson is well-aware that his "heresy" on global warming has been strongly criticized. In reply, he notes that "[m]y objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have."

Nuclear winter


From his 1988 book Infinite in All Directions
Infinite In All Directions
Infinite In All Directions is a book on a wide range of subjects, including history, philosophy, research, technology, the origin of life and eschatology, by theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson. Published in 1988, this book is based on the author's Gifford Lectures delivered in Aberdeen in 1985...

, he offered some criticism of then current models predicting a devastating nuclear winter
Nuclear winter
Nuclear winter is a predicted climatic effect of nuclear war. It has been theorized that severely cold weather and reduced sunlight for a period of months or even years could be caused by detonating large numbers of nuclear weapons, especially over flammable targets such as cities, where large...

 in the event of a large-scale nuclear war:

Warfare and weapons


On hearing the news of the bombing of Hiroshima
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

:
Freeman Dyson, in his capacity as a military adviser, may have prevented the US from using nuclear weapons in the Vietnam war. When a general said in a meeting "We should throw in a nuke once in a while to keep the other side guessing," Dyson became alarmed and obtained permission to write an objective report discussing the pros and cons of using such weapons from a purely military point of view. His report, declassified from SECRET in 2002, was sufficiently objective that both sides in the debate based their arguments on the report. Dyson says that the report showed that even from a narrow military point of view the US was better off not using nuclear weapons. Dyson has stated on the Dick Cavett show that the use of nuclear weaponry was a bad idea for the US at the time because "our targets were big and theirs were small."

At the British Bomber Command, Dyson and colleagues proposed ripping out two gun turrets from the RAF Lancaster bombers, to cut the catastrophic losses to German fighters in the Battle of Berlin. A Lancaster without turrets could fly 50 mile per hour faster and be much more maneuverable.
Dyson opposed the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, and the invasion of Iraq. He supported Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 in the 2008 US presidential election and The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

has described him as a political liberal.

The role of failure



On English academics



Science and religion


Dyson strongly opposes reductionism
Reductionism
Reductionism can mean either an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can...

. He is a non-denominational Christian and has attended various churches from Presbyterian to Roman Catholic. Regarding doctrinal or Christological issues, he has said "I am neither a saint nor a theologian. To me, good works are more important than theology."
Dyson disagrees with the famous remark by his fellow physicist Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg
Steven Weinberg is an American theoretical 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....

 that "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."

On Wikipedia



See also

  • A.I. Shlyakhter
  • Astrochicken
    Astrochicken
    Astrochicken is the name given to a thought experiment expounded by theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson. In his book Disturbing the Universe , Dyson contemplated how humanity could build a small, self-replicating automaton that could explore space more efficiently than a manned craft could...

  • Dyson conjecture
    Dyson conjecture
    In mathematics, the Dyson conjecture is a conjecture about the constant term of certain Laurent polynomials, proved by Wilson and Gunson. Andrews generalized it to the q-Dyson conjecture, proved by Zeilberger and Bressoud and sometimes called the Zeilberger–Bressoud theorem...

  • Dyson's eternal intelligence
    Dyson's eternal intelligence
    Dyson's eternal intelligence is a concept that states an intelligent being would be able to think an infinite number of thoughts in an open universe....

  • Dyson number
  • List of science and religion scholars
  • The 2005 Global Intellectuals Poll
    The 2005 Global Intellectuals Poll
    The Top 100 Public Intellectuals Poll was conducted in November 2005 and June 2008 by Prospect Magazine and Foreign Policy on the basis of responding readers' ballot...

  • The Day After Trinity
    The Day After Trinity
    The Day After Trinity is a 1980 documentary film directed and produced by Jon H. Else in association with KTEH public television in San Jose, California. The film tells the story of J...

    (1980)

Works

  • Symmetry Groups in Nuclear and Particle Physics, 1966 (Academic-oriented text)
  • Interstellar Transport, 1968
  • Disturbing the Universe, 1979, ISBN 0060111089. Review
  • Weapons and Hope, 1984 (Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award). Review
  • Origins of Life, 1986. Second edition, 1999. Review
  • Infinite in All Directions
    Infinite In All Directions
    Infinite In All Directions is a book on a wide range of subjects, including history, philosophy, research, technology, the origin of life and eschatology, by theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson. Published in 1988, this book is based on the author's Gifford Lectures delivered in Aberdeen in 1985...

    , 1988, ISBN 014014482X. Review
  • From Eros to Gaia, 1992
  • Selected Papers of Freeman Dyson, 1996
  • Imagined Worlds, Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press
    Harvard University Press is a publishing house established on January 13, 1913, as a division of Harvard University, and focused on academic publishing. In 2005, it published 220 new titles. It is a member of the Association of American University Presses. Its current director is William P...

     1997, ISBN 978-0-674-53908-2. Review
  • The Sun, the Genome and the Internet
    The Sun, the Genome and the Internet
    The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet is a non-fiction scientific book by renowned physicist Freeman J. Dyson, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University in the U.S.A...

    , 1999. Review
  • L'mportanza di essere imprevedibile, Di Renzo Editore, 2003
  • The Scientist as Rebel
    The Scientist as Rebel
    The Scientist as Rebel is a 2006 book by the renowned prize-winning theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson. A few of the twenty-nine chapters in this book deals with the interactions of religion and science....

    , 2006. Review
  • Advanced Quantum Mechanics, World Scientific, 2007, ISBN 978-981-270-661-4. Freely available at: arXiv:quant-ph/0608140. (Dyson's 1951 Cornell lecture notes transcribed by David Derbes)
  • A Many-Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe, University of Virginia Press, 2007. Review

Books about Dyson

  • Brower, Kenneth, 1978. The Starship and the Canoe, Holt Rinehart and Winston.
  • Schweber, Sylvan S., 1994. QED and the Men Who Made It: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga. Princeton University Press: chpt. 9. ISBN 978-0-691-03327-3.

By Dyson


About Dyson

  • "The Civil Heretic ", profile at the New York Times Magazine by Nicholas Dawidoff
    Nicholas Dawidoff
    Nicholas Dawidoff is an American writer.Dawidoff was born in New York City, and grew up in New Haven, Connecticut with his mother and sister....

    , March 25, 2009
  • Interview, June 4, 2009, Dyson comments on the misleading overemphasis of his climate-change views in the NYT profile., biography, circa 2000
  • Dyson biographical outline, circa 2005
  • Dyson author page and archive, from The New York Review of Books
    The New York Review of Books
    The New York Review of Books is a fortnightly magazine with articles on literature, culture and current affairs. Published in New York City, it takes as its point of departure that the discussion of important books is itself an indispensable literary activity...

  • "The Scientist as Rebel", 2005 interview at Wild River Review
    Wild River Review
    Wild River Review is an online magazine that publishes in-depth reporting, works of literature, art, visual art, reviews, interviews, and columns by and about contemporary artists, photographers, and writers. Founded in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the magazine has been operating since 2006 under...

  • NPR interview of Freeman Dyson, audio, All Things Considered
    All Things Considered
    All Things Considered is the flagship news program on the American network National Public Radio. It was the first news program on NPR, and is broadcast live worldwide through several outlets...

    , November 2, 2004
  • Google video: interviewer: Robert Wright, video, 44:55, June 30, 2001
  • Freeman Dyson wins $1m religion prize, 9 May 2000
  • "Freeman Dyson's Brain", interview by Stewart Brand
    Stewart Brand
    Stewart Brand is an American writer, best known as editor of the Whole Earth Catalog. He founded a number of organizations including The WELL, the Global Business Network, and the Long Now Foundation...

     at Wired
    Wired (magazine)
    Wired is a full-color monthly American magazine and on-line periodical, published since January 1993, that reports on how new and developing technology affects culture, the economy, and politics...

    , 1998
  • Oral History interview transcript with Freeman J. Dyson 17 December 1986, American Institute of Physics
    American Institute of Physics
    The American Institute of Physics promotes science, the profession of physics, publishes physics journals, and produces publications for scientific and engineering societies. The AIP is made up of various member societies...

    , Niels Bohr Library and Archives
  • "Disturbing the Universe": BBC interview with Freeman Dyson, audio, 18 January 1980
  • To Mars by A-bomb. BBC
    BBC
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

     Airdate 8 February 2006.