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As usual when I see an article about asking about mathematicians, I cannot help to ask what about physics? Inspired by Literary works authored by mathematicians what are some physicist that also were involved in fiction and literature?

Please consider providing details about the author and the cited literary works, whenever possible. Please exclude popular science books.

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  • $\begingroup$ So you are looking for a long list of authors, with no definitive answer to accept? $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ @JonCuster this kind of request are not unusual in HSMSE. See examples. $\endgroup$
    – Mauricio
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 15:01

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Edited from Wikipedia:

Leo Szilard (February 11, 1898 to May 30, 1964) was a Hungarian-German-American physicist and inventor. He conceived the nuclear chain reaction in 1933, patented the idea of a nuclear fission reactor in 1934, and in late 1939 wrote the letter for Albert Einstein's signature that resulted in the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb.

In 1949 Szilard wrote a short story titled "My Trial as a War Criminal" in which he imagined himself on trial for crimes against humanity after the United States lost a war with the Soviet Union.

Szilard published a book of short stories, The Voice of the Dolphins (1961), in which he dealt with the moral and ethical issues raised by the Cold War and his own role in the development of atomic weapons. The title story described an international biology research laboratory in Central Europe. This became reality after a meeting in 1962 with Victor F. Weisskopf, James Watson and John Kendrew. When the European Molecular Biology Laboratory was established, the library was named The Szilard Library and the library stamp features dolphins.


I'm also fairly sure I have a short story of his in an old Analog SF anthology, which may or may not have been censored as it was believed to breach secrecy laws.

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Sir J. C. Bose was an Indian polymath specializing in Physics. He was also a writer and composed one of the first works in Bengali science fiction.

From Wikipedia:

In 1896, Bose wrote Niruddesher Kahini (The Story of the Missing One), a short story that was later expanded and added to Abyakta (অব্যক্ত) collection in 1921 with the new title Palatak Tuphan (Runaway Cyclone).

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SF, doubtless to no one's surprise, is littered with them:

  • Greg Benford: Dozens of SF novels and awards; PhD physics; Prof at UC Irving
  • Poul Anderson: Major SF writer from 1950-2000; BS in Physics
  • Sidney Coleman: Reviewed SF for F&SF; co-founder of Advent: Publishing; Harvard theoretical physics faculty, known as "the greatest American physicist who never won a Nobel Prize"
  • Fred Hoyle: Several SF novels; major British astrophysicist
  • John W. Campbell: Major early writer and the leading editor in SF; BS in physics
  • Alastair Reynolds: Twenty or so SF novels; PhD in astrophysics
  • Geoffrey A. Landis: Award-winning SF writer; PhD in physics, works for NASA
  • Milton A. Rothman: Wrote a number of SF stories under pseudonym of Lee Gregor; PhD Nuclear physicist
  • Dave Langford: Multiple Hugos including for for a story; Editor of the SF Encyclopedia; Nuclear physicist
  • Charles Sheffield: Multiple SF novels and short stories; Physicist and Chief Scientist of Earth Satellite Corporation

And if you allowed astronomers in, there'd be many more!

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Would you consider popular science book as literary work? While I would demarcate the two genres, what I like about the following instance is that the author beautifully explains modern physics through the eyes of the protagonist who moves through alternate universes in his dreams.

George Gamow, a Soviet/American physicist, wrote Mr. Tompkins.

From goodreads:

Mr Tompkins has become known and loved by many thousands of readers (since his first appearance over fifty years ago) as the bank clerk whose fantastic dreams and adventures lead him into a world inside the atom. George Gamow's classic provides a delightful explanation of the central concepts in modern physics, from atomic structure to relativity, and quantum theory to fusion and fission. Roger Penrose's new foreword introduces Mr Tompkins to a new generation of readers, and reviews his adventures in the light of current developments in physics today.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

Mr Tompkins' adventures begin when he chooses to spend the afternoon of a bank holiday attending a lecture on the theory of relativity. The lecture proves less comprehensible than he had hoped and he drifts off to sleep and enters a dream world in which the speed of light is a mere 4.5 m/s (10 mph). This becomes apparent to him through the fact that passing cyclists are subject to a noticeable Lorentz–FitzGerald contraction. Mr Tompkins becomes acquainted with the Professor delivering the lectures and ultimately marries the Professor's daughter, Maud.

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    $\begingroup$ I edited the question to exclude popular science books, but Mr. Tompkins deserves a mention. $\endgroup$
    – Mauricio
    Commented Apr 21, 2023 at 12:24
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Paolo Giordano is an Italian writer and physicist.

His first and most famous novel is La solitudine dei numeri primi (The solitude of prime numbers), published in 2008. The novel has sold over a million copies and was translated into thirty languages.

Paolo Giordano studied physics at the University of Turin and holds a PhD in theoretical particle physics. He worked at the Istituto nazionale di fisica nucleare (National Institute of Nuclear Physics), where he studied the properties of the quark bottom, in particular the decay of the meson B in the semileptonic channel and radioactive (from Italian Wikipedia).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Solitude_of_Prime_Numbers_(novel)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paolo_Giordano

https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paolo_Giordano_(scrittore)

Scientific Publications:

• Paolo Gambino, Paolo Giordano, Giovanni Ossola, Nikolai Uraltsev, Inclusive semileptonic B decays and the determination of |Vub|, Journal of High Energy Physics, n. 10, ottobre 2007, p. 58.

• Paolo Giordano, Inclusive semileptonic B decays and the determination of |Vub|, Journal of Physics: Conference Series, v. 110, 30 giugno 2008.

• Paolo Gambino, Paolo Giordano, Normalizing inclusive rare B decays, Physics Letter B, maggio 2008.*

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Tony Rothman is a retired physicist and author.

The first book he wrote is a science fiction novel, The World is Round, which I think is a truly great sci-fi novels. Some of the dialogue and the way some of the characters are developed are not that sophisticated (the fact that it's a first novel really shows), but the setting is unique and the sense of wonder and exploration is awesome.

Although the question doesn't want popular science titles, his second book is a very good one: Frontiers of Modern Physics, which I've read and re-read a few times over the years. I think it's got some of the best explanations of how black holes behave.

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