UT professor and physics Nobel laureate talks about his life outside of physics

Christina Breitbeil

From a young age, Steven Weinberg preferred to read or play with chemicals instead of playing outside.

“Even now, I get a little pleasure when I look out the window, and it’s raining, and I know I don’t have to play outside,” Weinberg said.

Weinberg, Nobel laureate, theoretical physicist and a physics and astronomy professor, spoke about childhood and his life Tuesday evening at UT’s Cactus Cafe. Weinberg, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979, was the featured speaker in the “Views and Brews” series, hosted and produced by Rebecca McInroy, a reporter at KUT. McInroy said the purpose of the series is to give the community the opportunity to participate in unusual conversation.

“These are just basically to generate discussion people wouldn’t have the opportunity to discuss,” McInroy said. 

Weinberg, who McInroy called “one of the formidable thinkers of our time,” said he experienced a normal childhood.     

“We were your typical nuclear family, just the three of us,” Weinberg said.

According to Weinberg, the students at his high school took an unusual approach to gaining popularity. Because the school didn’t offer calculus, it was common for students to teach themselves.

“It was ‘cool’ in this school to, on your own, learn calculus,” Weinberg said. “That’s how you got social credit.”

Advertising graduate student Maria Ramirez said that listening to Weinberg speak about his life was a valuable experience she wanted to share.

“I brought my kids, and we’re hoping to get an interesting view on life and beliefs from a Nobel prize [laureate],” Ramirez said. “We watch [Weinberg on] ‘NOVA,’ and the kids can’t believe they get to hear him speak.”

Having grown up in New York City, Weinberg said he did not want to attend a college not in an urban environment and chose to attend Cornell University. 

“I wanted grass … and I don’t mean marijuana,” Weinberg said. “It was there at Cornell where I met [Louise Weinberg], whom I fell in love with long before she fell in love with me.” 

Louise, now Weinberg’s wife, decided to stay in New York while Weinberg completed his doctorate degree at Princeton University.

“I really still think I have the record of [the] fastest Ph.D. there,” Weinberg said. “I got it in a year and a half. I did the worst thesis probably in their history, but the most important thing is that I rejoined Louise.”