Nobel prize winner Giorgio Parisi: ‘There’s a lack of trust in science – we need to show how it’s done’

June 25, 2023
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The Italian physicist puts the fiendishly tricky theory of complex systems in terms of birds and bus rides, as his new book aims to make his branch of science accessible to all

The multi-prize-winning theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi was born in Rome in 1948. He studied physics at the Sapienza University in the city, and is now a professor of quantum theories there. A researcher of broad interests, Parisi is perhaps best known for his work on “spin glasses” or disordered magnetic states, contributing to the theory of complex systems. For this work, together with Klaus Hasselmann and Syukuro Manabe, he won the Nobel prize in physics in 2021. His first popular science book, In a Flight of Starlings: The Wonder of Complex Systems, which charts some of the highlights of his life’s work and makes a passionate case for the value of science, is published on 11 July.

How did you get interested in physics?
As a young child, I was interested in numbers – my mother told me I learned to read numbers aged three. On the street we’d be waiting for a tram and I’d say, here comes the number six. When it was time to go to university, I pondered if I should do physics or maths, but in the end I went for physics. Maybe because there were more popular books on physics than mathematics, which is so abstract that it’s difficult to describe.

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