Freeman Dyson is Professor of Physics Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. (January 2020)


The Power of Morphological Thinking

Fritz Zwicky at the Schmidt telescope at Palomar Observatory, California, circa 1936

Zwicky: The Outcast Genius Who Unmasked the Universe

by John Johnson Jr.
Around the year 1935, a profound change occurred in the way humans imagine the universe. It was not sudden, but it was substantially complete within a few decades. Before the change, the universe was divided into earth and sky, the earth made of perishable stuff in constant turmoil, the sky …

The Key to Everything

Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, part of greater Mexico City, 2016

Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies

by Geoffrey West
Geoffrey West spent most of his life as a research scientist and administrator at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, running programs concerned not with nuclear weapons but with peaceful physics. After retiring from Los Alamos, he became director of the nearby Santa Fe Institute, where he switched from physics to a broader interdisciplinary program known as complexity science. The Santa Fe Institute is leading the world in complexity science, with a mixed group of physicists, biologists, economists, political scientists, computer experts, and mathematicians working together. Their aim is to reach a deep understanding of the complexities of the natural environment and of human society, using the methods of science.

The Big Bang

Freeman Dyson, Ithaca, New York, circa 1952
June 20, 1956: A group of us has been given the job of thinking up a nuclear reactor which shall be absolutely safe, so it can be played around with by untrained people and there can be no question of it blowing up. Such a reactor would be greatly in demand for hospitals and such places where they need a reactor but do not want to maintain a staff of physicists to take care of it. This is a clear enough assignment, and if we can do something along these lines, it will be exciting.

The Green Universe: A Vision

An illustration of Freeman Dyson’s vision of ‘Noah’s Ark culture’—a space operation in which, ‘sometime in the next few hundred years, biotechnology will have advanced to the point where we can design and breed entire ecologies of living creatures adapted to survive in remote places away from Earth.’ Spacecraft resembling ostrich eggs will bring ‘living seeds with genetic instructions’ to planets, moons, and other ‘suitable places where life could take root.’ A new species of warm-blooded plants, ‘kept warm by sunlight or starlight concentrated onto it by mirrors outside,’ will enable the Noah’s Ark communities to survive.

How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight

by Julian Guthrie

Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets

by Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R. Hendrix
Sometime in the next few hundred years, biotechnology will have advanced to the point where we can design and breed entire ecologies of living creatures adapted to survive in remote places away from Earth. I give the name Noah’s Ark culture to this style of space operation.

The Heritage of a Great Man

Fang Lizhi in his office at the University of Arizona, Tucson, August 1996

The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State

by Fang Lizhi, translated from the Chinese by Perry Link
Why did communism grow deep roots and survive in China, while it withered and died in Russia? This is one of the central questions of modern history. A plausible answer to the question is that communism in China resonated with the two-thousand-year-old Confucian tradition of the wise ruler governing a …



Star-forming nebula in the constellation Carina, 7,200 light-years from earth, 2006-2008

When we see things for the first time, the pictures are always a surprise. Nature’s imagination is richer than ours. We imagine things to be simple and Nature makes them complicated. In Expanding Universe, a magnificent selection of pictures taken by cameras on the Hubble Space Telescope, the big surprise is dust.