Physicist Freeman Dyson, of ‘Dyson Sphere’ fame, dies at 96

Space Science
Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson. (Image by Setreset / CC BY-SA)

MYSTERY WIRE — Forward-thinking and interested in just about every scientific discipline, Freeman Dyson was best known for his work in quantum electrodynamics, Project Orion and a theoretical structure known as the Dyson Sphere. He died Friday at 96 after a short illness, his daughter Mia told National Public Radio.

Late in life, he was known as a “contrarian” on global warming, saying only that humans were affecting climate conditions, but withholding judgment while most of the scientific community clamored for action.

READ: Physicist and iconoclastic thinker Freeman Dyson dies at 96

The concept that carries his name, the Dyson Sphere, still spurs discussion that such a structure may have already been built somewhere else in the universe, and we should be looking for intelligent life by trying to spot evidence of these kinds of structures. As astronomers observe the “dimming” of stars, could it be the evidence?

Dyson has said that the Orion Project — nuclear propulsion for spacecraft — was a high point in his studies, even though the project was never actually built. His daughter said the 1969 moon landing actually disappointed Dyson because his dreams reached farther into space.

When Orion was abandoned, Dyson said, “This is the first time in modern history that a major expansion of human technology has been suppressed for political reasons.”

Dyson’s lasting contribution to science came during his work with physicist Richard Feynman, when they worked together to reconcile two competing theories of quantum electrodynamics, the study of how sub-atomic particles and light interact.

Robbert Dijkgraaf, director for the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., where Dyson worked, called Dyson “a great unifier of physics.”

“The current model of elementary particle physics is written in the language that Dyson helped develop,” he told NPR.

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