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Siegfried, Tom 1950-

SIEGFRIED, Tom 1950-

PERSONAL: Born December 23, 1950, in Lakewood, OH; son of Ivan T. and Marian (Griffin) Siegfried; married Anna Christine Beckelhymer, June 24, 1978. Education: Texas Christian University, B.A. (summa cum laude; journalism, chemistry, history), 1974; University of Texas, M.A. (journalism, physics), 1981.

ADDRESSES: Office—Dallas Morning News, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265-5237.

CAREER: Writer and editor. Fort Worth Press, Fort Worth, TX, business and science writer, 1974-75; Texas Christian University, journalism faculty, 1979-83; Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX, science editor, 1985—. Science Journalism Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, national advisory board, 1989-94; science journalist-in-residence, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1992; Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, member of board of directors, 1999—.

MEMBER: National Association of Science Writers.

AWARDS, HONORS: Award of Excellence, Society of Newspaper Design, 1985; Texas Headliners award for reporting, 1987; Westinghouse Science Journalism award for large daily paper, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989; Outstanding Achievement Award, Mental Health Association of Texas, 1989; James T. Grady/James H. Stack Award for interpreting chemistry for the public, American Chemical Society, 1993; Prism Award, Mental Health Association of Greater Dallas, 1994; media awards, Texas Mental Health Association, and Texas Alliance for the Mentally Ill, both 1996; Robert T. Morse Writer's Award, American Psychiatric Association, 1997.

WRITINGS:

The Bit and the Pendulum: From Quantum Computing to M Theory—The New Physics of Information, John Wiley and Sons (New York, NY), 2000.

Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas at the Frontiers of Space and Time, Joseph Henry Press (Washington, DC), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Tom Siegfried is well qualified as a science writer, having studied both science and journalism. While serving as the science editor of the Dallas Morning News, he wrote The Bit and the Pendulum: From Quantum Computing to M Theory—The New Physics of Information, in which he stresses that information is everything. Siegfried contends that everything from living organisms to black holes are constructed of nothing more than bits of information.

"Siegfried weaves a provocative and convincing argument, supported by a plethora of scientific and mathematical research," commented Joe J. Accardi in Library Journal. James Alexander wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "physical scientists are likely to meet this idea with a dismissive shrug; they are quite happy with energy as the foundation of everything. On the other hand, information scientists are likely to find the idea quite natural and intriguing." Alexander wrote that Siegfried's thesis "is that information is not a formal way of analyzing systems and their behavior. 'Information is real. Information is physical,' Siegfried writes. And later: 'Information is more than a metaphor—it is a new reality.' And the progression of events through time is computation, so the universe is essentially a huge, if mysterious, computer."

Tim Chapman reviewed the volume in Chemistry and Industry, saying that "thanks to the ubiquitous computer, information is the new 'superparadigm' for theorists. Just as Newtonian physics fed off the superparadigm of the clockwork Universe, and the steam engine inspired scientists to look at everything in terms of energy, the IT revolution has inspired scientists to see everything in terms of information. By information, physicists don't necessarily mean the mere data or knowledge systems of information technology, but a more fundamental yet nebulous property from which all things are made." Chapman said that Siegfried "writes in a slightly folksy journalistic style that ensures a relatively easy read."

"A tour de force," said Booklist's Bryce Christensen, "this book gives intellectual dilemmas a human face, while restoring grandeur and mystery to a universe still too richly intricate to fit within a computer protocol." Andrew Allentuck, who reviewed The Bit and the Pendulum for Globe Books online, called it "an accessible, even charming story of how physics may save the superheated world of computing from a literal meltdown."

Siegfried studies theorists past and present in Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas at the Frontiers of Space and Time. Calling the work "a light energetic introduction to cutting-edge physics and cosmology," Booklist's David Pitt said that Siegfried "writes about science like a pro." Subjects include string theory and supersymmetry. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Siegfried "does a superb job of explaining … 'prediscoveries,' from the existence of antimatter to the concept of an expanded universe." "Prediscoveries" is Siegfried's term for visions formed before the actual discoveries are made. He studies this concept as he deals with the atom, particle physics, and quantum mechanics, drawing on the research and writings of Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, and the lesser-known Carl Anderson and Paul Dirac. Siegfried also writes about alternate universes, mirror worlds, and the dimensions of time and space.

A Kirkus Reviews writer said that "what could have been a brutally dry exercise is enlivened by the author's ability to get inside the heads of those who made the discoveries."

Jon Turney, who reviewed Strange Matters in the New York Times Book Review, said that "theoretical physics has become a refined form of creative play, in which testing out wacky ideas mathematically continually outruns experiment. Sometimes it outruns experiment so far the ideas are barely testable even in principle, but that doesn't stop it being enormous fun for those intellectually equipped to play the game. Siegfried mostly makes it fun too. As he emphasizes by interweaving historical sketches with his tales of current work, there are plenty of past examples in which mathematical ideas pointed toward unsuspected aspects of the universe." Turney called Siegfried "an exceptionally knowledgeable guide, a science reporter who is on easy terms with all the leading players in physics, goes to their conferences and reads the journals. The picture he pieces together of a group of people stretching their imaginations to the limit to come up with ideas about how the universe might be built is persuasive."

Thomas Wilson reviewed the book for Salon.com, calling it "one of the most stimulating popular science works published in the last few years. Not only does Siegfried lead us through the tangled web of science at the outer limits with an appealingly breezy manner, but the book is worth picking up just to revisit it twenty years from now to see which conjectures have proved to be prediscoveries and which have fizzled out over time. Until then, we can revel in all the exciting, unproven possibilities."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 15, 2000, Bryce Christensen, review of The Bit and the Pendulum: From Quantum Computing to M Theory—The New Physics of Information, p. 1063; August, 2002, David Pitt, review of Strange Matters: Undiscovered Ideas at the Frontiers of Space and Time, p. 1902.

Chemistry and Industry, December 18, 2000, Tim Chapman, review of The Bit and the Pendulum, p. 815.

Choice, June, 2000, J. Beidler, review of The Bit and the Pendulum, p. 1849.

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002, review of Strange Matters, p. 942.

Library Journal, February 15, 2000, Joe J. Accardi, review of The Bit and the Pendulum, p. 193; August, 2002, Jack W. Weigel, review of Strange Matters, p. 136.

New York Times Book Review, February 25, 2001, James Alexander, review of The Bit and the Pendulum, p. 21; September 29, 2002, Jon Turney, review of Strange Matters, p. 22.

Physics Teacher, January, 2002, Philippe M. Binder, review of The Bit and the Pendulum, p. 59.

Publishers Weekly, January 31, 2000, review of TheBit and the Pendulum, p. 98; July 1, 2002, review of Strange Matters, p. 67.

ONLINE

Globe Books Web site,http://www.globebooks.com/ (January 31, 2002), Andrew Allentuck, review of The Bit and the Pendulum.

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (September 24, 2002), Thomas Wilson, review of Strange Matters.

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