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Freeman Dyson

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Freeman Dyson
The facts of the matter
May the mass times acceleration be with you
Let's get physical!
Atoms trying to understand atoms

Freeman John Dyson (1923─2020) was a renowned British physicist and mathematician. He worked on quantum field theory, astronomy, solid-state physics, and nuclear engineering. He received numerous awards, but never a Nobel. Physicist Steven Weinberg said that Dyson was "fleeced" by the Nobel commission. He led the design team for the TRIGA nuclear reactor, which is in widespread use today, and was also known for his nuclear disarmament advocacy. He was the president of the Space Studies Institute before his death.

Unfortunately, he was also an occasional crank, and in another life would have succumbed to the Nobel disease.

Concepts in science and futurology[edit]

Dyson developed many concepts in scientific and futurist circles:

  • Dyson series: A byproduct in his work on quantum electrodynamics, unifying the approaches of Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomogana (operators) and Richard Feynman (path integrals).[1]
  • Dyson sphere:Wikipedia A theoretical structure to catch sunlight for energy that would eventually enclose an entire star.
  • Dyson tree:Wikipedia A theoretical genetically engineered plant capable of growing on a comet.
  • Theorized space colonies.
  • Astrochicken:Wikipedia A theoretical combination nanotech-biological spacecraft.
  • Dyson's transform: A technique later used to prove that every even integer is the sum of at most 6 primes.
  • Parasitic numbersWikipedia, as if you didn't have enough to worry about already.


Dyson considered himself a non-denominational Christian and believed in non-overlapping magisteria. Some of the material he had written on metaphysics, though, is much less Christian than it is reminiscent of various theories of quantum consciousness, panentheism, panpsychism, and other sorts of New Agey science woo.

Dyson succumbed to old age crank syndrome as well, becoming a global warming denier.[2] However, he never did any actual criticizing of climate science besides dismissing the models as flawed and saying that if it is a real problem, we can easily cook up some super-tree to suck the carbon dioxide out of the air. Dyson's support for deniers seems to have been the result of wanting to stick it to the scientific man:

My 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. I think that’s what upsets me.[3]

So… yeah, thanks for that.

External links[edit]