Born in New York in 1933, Weinberg was the first of his family to attend university. His father would have preferred him to follow a career in medicine, but the hand-me-down chemistry set put paid to any medical future. To explain the behaviour of those chemicals meant understanding why atoms worked the way they did. Inspired by the popular science books of George Gamow and Sir James Jeans, Weinberg was drawn to study theoretical physics. "Just like any adolescent presented with a world of secrets, I felt I wanted to be on the in – to be privy to these secrets."
Weinberg does not see how we can solve these problems without new data – which means pushing the boundaries.
Our current technology, such as the Large Hadron Collider and the Planck microwave telescope can only take us so far. "The real problem will then be how we get government to build the next facility – these things have gotten so expensive I don't know how that's going to be possible. We really should begin that work now because it takes so long to get these things built that if we don't start now we're going to have a very long hiatus." Without the big experiments, Weinberg believes we will never get close to that universal textbook. "Rutherford's discovery of the atomic nucleus was done with a grant of £70. I don't think there's anything much in the way of learning more about the fundamentals that can be done with the equivalent of £70 now. The only thing that's cheap is theorists."
What is the most exciting field of science at the moment?
Of fields I follow, I'd say cosmology is now the most exciting, because in recent years it's been blessed by a flood of new data. Astronomers are encountering mysterious things, like dark matter that can't be identified with any kind of particle known to us, and a dark energy that pervades all space, which is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.
Do you believe in a god?
Has Cern been worth the money?
Sure. The thing that physicists care about most is that experiments at Cern make possible progress towards discovering the laws of nature. Apart from that, work at Cern has added new things to technology, such as the world wide web. And it's nice to see an example of international collaboration that really works.
What words of advice would you give to a teenager who wants a career in science?
Don't rely on your school for education. Do your own reading, especially (for physicists) in mathematics.
Oznake: cern, fizika delcev, J.Z.