Winner of 2012 AIP Science Communication Awards for Science Writing

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Author Richard Panek honored for The 4% Universe

College Park, Md., Oct. 10, 2012 – The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has selected author Richard Panek as 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 selection committee praised the book for its excellent writing and accurate depictions of the process of scientific investigation.

“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 Jan. 6-10, 2013, in Long Beach, Calif.

The 4% Universe
book four percentIn 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. The 4% Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality tells the dramatic story of how astronomers reached this cosmos-shattering conclusion, and how they are currently inventing ways to try to find dark matter and something even more bizarre called dark energy, which is speeding up the expansion of the universe – the discovery that was recognized by the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. 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.

Richard PanekRichard Panek 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.  His background is not in science; it’s in journalism and fiction. But by combining the exploratory sensibility of journalism with the storytelling techniques of fiction, he tries to illuminate and humanize the history and philosophy of science even for readers who, like himself before he began writing about science, would know little or nothing about the subject. His books have been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in New York City.

About the AIP Science Communication Awards
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.

For more information, contact Charles Blue (cblue [at] or visit the AIP website (

About AIP
The American Institute of Physics (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. AIP's suite of publications includes 15 journals, three of which are published in partnership with other organizations; magazines, including its flagship publication Physics Today; and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. 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.

Charles E. Blue
American Institute of Physics
+1 301-209-3091 (office)
+1 202-236-6324 (cell)
cblue [at]