Steven Weinberg's four tips for aspiring scientists

Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg known not only for electroweak unification but also for his staunch atheistic worldview, dies aged 88.
steven weinberg nobel prize electroweak first three minutes

Steven Weinberg (1933-2021) was an American physicist who worked alongside Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam to unify electromagnetic and weak interactions in 1967. He shared the Nobel Prize in physics for the same work later on.

Weinberg was not only famous as a scientist but also for his outspokenness and elegant writings outside of science. He thus made important contributions to history as well as to politics. Following are his 4 advices for aspiring scientists.

1. You don't have to know everything

Weinberg's first golden lesson is specialization. He wrote for Nature in 2003: When I received my undergraduate degree, the physics still seemed to me a vast, unexplored ocean.

How could I begin any research of my own without knowing everything that had already been done? Weinberg recalled.

A lot of the times students are so overwhelmed or even excited by that vastness that they fail to go forward. Weinberg says: You don't have to know everything because I didn't when I got my PhD.

2. Aim for rough water

When Weinberg was a professor, a student came up to him and said that he would pick general relativity rather than the area Weinberg was working on - particle physics.

Obviously as the teacher Weinberg was disappointed. When asked to explain, the student replied: The principles of general relativity are well known, while the particle physics is an incoherent mess.

Weinberg quipped: That makes it all the more worthwhile because in particle physics creative work can still be done.

So, according to Professor Steven Weinberg, it would be a lot better to aim for the rough water especially while you are able to swim in that vast, unknown ocean. For who knows what might be out there?

3. Forgive yourself for wasting time

This is his most beautiful advice: Forgive yourself for your failures. Forgive yourself for wasting time on the wrong problems. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, but there will always be silver lining in the end.

Weinberg cites an example in history... When scientists were trying to prove existence of the Ether they didn't know that they were working on the wrong problem. It nonetheless helped Albert Einstein in 1905 to realize the right problem to work upon.

Weinberg adds: You will never be sure which are the right problems most of the time that you spend in the laboratory or at your desk. But if you want to be creative, then you will have to get used to wasting your time.

4. History of science

Final tip to aspiring scientists: Study the history of science as it will make your work seem more worthwhile to you. Because, a work in science may not yield immediate results, but to realize that it would be a part of history is a wondeful feeling.

As you will learn its rich history, you will come to see how time and time again - from Galileo through Newton and Darwin to Einstein - science has weakened the hold of religious dogmatism: Weinberg adds.

In one interview, when asked whether he believed in God, Weinberg replied... If by God you mean a personality who is concerned about human beings, who did all this out of love for human beings, who watches us and who intervenes, then I would have to say in the first place how do you know, what makes you think so?

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