Phil Anderson: ‘The Universe Speaks in Numbers’ podcast

Phil Anderson was one of the most creative theoretical physicists of the past century. A specialist in the science of solids, he made influential contributions to our understanding of magnetism, discovered the important phenomenon of Anderson localisation (the absence of diffusion waves in disordered media). He pioneered our understanding of symmetry breaking and paved the way to our modern understanding of weak and electromagnetic interactions, and the prediction of what became known as the Higgs boson. He did all this without state-of-the-art mathematics and was wary of mathematics-led approaches to our understanding of Nature.

In this interview, recorded on 31 July 2014, he talks with Graham about his early career – notably his debt to his thesis adviser John Van Vleck – and his suspicions of string theory. He also tells me what topics he would advise today’s bright young scientists to study.

This and the other interviews in the series – given to Graham by world-class mathematicians and physicists, and by other distinguished thinkers – are available on the podcast The Universe Speaks in Numbers. The podcast complements Graham’s eponymous book.