The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has selected Richard Panek, a visiting professor for the Manhattan track of Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature, as the winner of this year’s AIP Science Communication Award in the Science Writing category for his book The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality.
“The mysteries of cosmology easily capture the imagination,” said Catherine O’Riordan, AIP vice president for Physics Resources. “This particular book presents the underlying physics of dark matter and dark energy in a way that draws the reader in and tells an engaging story of researchers at the frontiers of discovery.”
Panek will receive a $3,000 honorarium, an inscribed Windsor chair and a certificate of recognition at the 221st Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), to be held January 6 to January 10, 2013, in Long Beach, California.
In recent years, a radically new vision of the universe has emerged: Only four percent of it consists of the matter that makes up you, me, and every planet, star and galaxy. The rest — 96 percent — is completely unknown. Through extensive on-site reporting and hundreds of interviews, Panek offers an intimate, behind-the-scenes portrait of the bitter rivalries and fruitful collaborations, the blind alleys and the eureka moments, that have redefined science and reinvented the universe.
Panek’s background is not in science; it’s in journalism and fiction. By combining the exploratory sensibility of journalism with the storytelling techniques of fiction, he writes to illuminate and humanize the history and philosophy of science for all readers — especially those who, like himself before he began writing about science, might know little or nothing about the subject. His books have been translated into 14 languages.
Panek, who lives in New York City, has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (in Science Writing) and the New York Foundation for the Arts (in Literary Nonfiction), as well as an Antarctic Artists and Writers grant from the National Science Foundation. The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality was long-listed for the 2012 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
Panek’s books also include The Invisible Century: Einstein, Freud, and the Search for Hidden Universes and Seeing and Believing: How the Telescope Opened Our Eyes and Minds to the Heavens.
The AIP Science Communication Awards aim to promote effective science communication in print and new media in order to improve the general public’s appreciation of physics, astronomy and allied science fields. The awards are presented at venues that best highlight the science covered in the publications.
The AIP is an organization of 10 physical science societies representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers and educators. As one of the world’s largest publishers of scientific information in physics, AIP employs innovative publishing technologies and offers publishing services for its member societies. Through its Physics Resources Center, AIP also delivers valuable services and expertise in education and student programs, science communications, government relations, career services for science and engineering professionals, statistical research, industrial outreach, and the history of physics and other sciences.