CERN Colloquium

The Practice and Sociology of Natural Science

by Prof. James Peebles (Princeton University)

Video only (CERN)

Video only



Lessons about research in the natural sciences can be drawn from the sociology of science. For example, in 1960 Einstein's general theory of relativity was standard and accepted physics, and elements of it were on the qualifying exam I wrote as a graduate student. But there was little empirical support for this theory; it was what sociologists could rightly term a social construction. That has changed, but now we have other social constructions in cosmology; consider the schematic model for dark matter. I will offer more lessons of this sort drawn from how physical cosmology grew from a social construction to a well-tested empirical construction.
Prof. James Peebles was born in St. Boniface, Canada. After attending the University of Manitoba, he continued his studies at Princeton University in the United States, receiving his doctorate there in 1962. He remained at Princeton University where he is now Professor Emeritus of Science.
James Peebles’ theoretical framework, developed since the mid-1960s, is the basis of our contemporary ideas about the universe. The cosmic background radiation is a remaining trace of the formation of the universe. Using his theoretical tools and calculations, James Peebles was able to interpret these traces from the infancy of the universe and discover new physical processes. The results showed us a universe in which just five per cent of its content is known matter. The rest, 95 per cent, is unknown dark matter and dark energy.

He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics 2019 for his theorical discoveries in physical cosmology.

Organized by

Sasha Zhiboedov (TH-SP)