I was born in New York City and shortly afterward moved to Toronto, spending my childhood in Canada. I received undergraduate degrees in mathematics and physics from Carleton University, and my Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982.
After a stint in the Harvard Society of Fellows, I became an assistant professor at Yale University in 1985 and Associate Professor in 1988. I moved in 1993 to become Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics, professor of astronomy, and Chairman of the Physics Department at Case Western Reserve University In August 2008 I joined the faculty at Arizona State University as Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Director of the University's Origins Initiative. In 2009 we inaugurated this this initiative with the Origins Symposium [www.origins.asu.edu] in which 80 of the world's leading scientists participated, and 3000 people attended.
My research focuses on the beginning and end of the Universe. Among my contributions to the field of cosmology, I helped lead the search for dark matter, and first proposed the existence of dark energy in 1995.
I write regularly for national media, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, the Wall St. Journal, Scientific American (for which I wrote a regular column), and other magazines, as well as doing extensive work on radio and television (I have a monthly science segment on Arizona PBS Horizon), and most recently in feature films. I co-starred in The Unbelievers, with Richard Dawkins, a film I also co-produced. Most recently I appear in Werner Herzog's Lo and Behold, and as a villain in the upcoming Salt and Fire. I also appeared in every episode of How the Universe Works over its past 5 seasons.
I am strongly committed to public understanding of science, and have helped lead the national effort to preserve sound science teaching, including the teaching of evolution, for which I was awarded the National Science Board's Award for the Public Understanding of Science. I also served on Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign science policy committee. I am honored to be Chair of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and in 2010 was elected to the Board of Directors of the Federation of American Scientists.
I became a scientist in part because I read books by other scientists, such as Albert Einstein, George Gamow, Sir James Jeans, etc, when I was a child, and my popular writing returns the favor. One of my greatest joys is when a young person comes up to me and tells me that one of my books motivated them to become a scientist.
I believe science is not only a vital part of our culture, but is fun, and I try and convey that in my books and lectures. I am honored that Scientific American referred to me as a rare scientific public intellectual, and that all three three major US Physics Societies: the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics, have seen fit to honor me with their highest awards for research and writing.
My newest book, The Greatest Story Ever Told..So Far, describes the largely unheralded revolution in our thinking about the universe on its most fundamental scales that has driven particle physics for the past 50 years, and also has important implications for our understanding of our own place in the universe. But I am particularly excited about it at the current time because it also describes how effectively science can permeate beneath the surface, to uncover illusions and make sense of reality, even when the reality is not what we might like it to be. I believe this has important application right now in the public arena, where fake news, ideology, and demagoguery pose real threats to a functioning democracy.
When not writing or doing research or relaxing at home with my family, I love to mountain bike, fly fish, and scuba dive. I spend a tremendous amount of time on planes now, alas, and enjoy flying, but hate airports..