Probably, the first thing to do is merely to introduce myself. I am a theoretical physicist, working on particle physics and gravity and, in particular, on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe my research area, I say I’m a particle cosmologist.
I began blogging, initially at Orange Quark, and now here, for essentially three reasons. First, I wanted to make use of this relatively new medium as a way to help non-experts understand scientific questions in which they were interested. Second, I feel that the positive social role of the scientific method is vastly under-appreciated outside of the scientific community (even within academia) and I wanted to try to play my part in addressing this deficit. Finally, it seems to me that science in the United States is, to a certain extent, under attack. In some ways, this attack has been underway for many years and comes, predominantly, from members of the extreme religious right. These zealots persist in beliefs that are directly contradicted by concrete scientific evidence about reality and are bent on twisting and discrediting science to protect their belief system. However, in recent years, the attackers have become much fiercer, better organized and successful, because they are emboldened by a political leadership that is sympathetic to their views and, more practically, depends on their votes to stay in power. I don’t care which political party it comes from, misusing and censoring science to fit ideology does a great disservice to society, and I don’t want to sit back quietly and let it happen.
Science is so much more than the dry accumulation of facts. Rather it is the way we gather meaningful information about the universe in which we live and provides a coherent intellectual framework, based on critical thinking and the demands of evidence, which extends far beyond the boundaries of individual scientific disciplines. As a way of approaching reality, science therefore provides a methodology through which we can tackle difficult topics and decisions with reason rather than with superstition, dogma and irrationality.
I’m sure I’ll also talk about books, humor, gossip, what it’s like to be a scientist, and other intellectual, cultural and, indeed, trivial topics, but I think from the above you’ll get some kind of idea of the topics in which I will mainly be interested. I hope you enjoy Cosmic Variance. I’m certainly excited that we’re getting started and am delighted to be collaborating with Sean, JoAnne, Clifford and Risa – friends old and new. I hope that our group efforts will provide richer and more varied content than any one of us would be able to provide alone. Feel free to comment on our posts and tell your friends.