David Weir. Photo provided by David Weir
David Weir. Photo provided by David Weir

David is a physicist who uses large-scale simulations to understand the very early universe. His personal homepage is at saoghal.net and he is on Twitter @davidjamesweir.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Night owl

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?


4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?


5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

Finnish, French, Norwegian, Scots Gaelic – in roughly decreasing order of proficiency

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

If I had any talent I would love to be a landscape photographer.

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Geology, or ecology, I think. Rocks or the trees that grow on them, or something in between.

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Inverness. I’d be going hiking in the Scottish Highlands.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

To quote Robert Burns: “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us!”

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Angela Saini’s books, Inferior and, most recently, Superior.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Read a book, cook some food, have a sauna, go for a walk.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Books, coffee, my laptop.

15 What beverage gives you life?

Finnish tap water, it tastes great!

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

Norman MacCaig’s poetry – although I hated it at the time, I have grown up with it and it has made me more observant of nature.

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

Either a botanist or something to do with computers.

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

Trying to make science a better, kinder place where everyone can contribute.

19 What got you excited in science?

There was never one particular moment that changed me. My parents always made sure I could go to the library as often as I wanted, and my curiosity led the way. Also, I remember being very curious about the geology and geography of the world from a very young age, when we were on vacation in Scotland.

20 What excites you about science now?

The discovery of the century – detecting gravitational waves from merging black holes – is just the beginning. Gravitational waves will let us explore both astrophysics and cosmology in new and exciting ways. I can’t wait to see what else we can find out with future gravitational wave detectors.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Pistachio ice cream

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

Making alternative plans if things go wrong when traveling. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

23 What is your favorite game?

Party games like Werewolf are a lot of fun.

24 What is the last book you read?

I recently finished Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine. I really enjoyed it!

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Travel broadens the mind. It’s true.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?


27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?


28 What is the best way to de-stress?

I read poetry or go for a walk in the forest.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

On the Basis of Sex. It was great!

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

A Pandrol clip, perhaps.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Saimaa ringed seal. They’re totally adorable!

32 What is your favorite book?

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Really good pizza marinara with some chili oil.

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Sometime around October 1st. – the students are coming back to university, the nights are getting cooler, leaves are turning red, and the air is full of possibility.

35 What is your favorite plant?

I keep an exotic vireya rhododendron on my desk at work. I dote over it.

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Gravitational wave experiments come in many shapes and sizes. The Cassini space mission was used to put limits on the cosmic gravitational wave background! I love it when one mission or experiment can be repurposed to tell us about something completely different.

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Decomposing poplar leaves on the ground in the autumn.

39 What is your favorite sound?

If I restrict myself to natural sounds, then it has to be wind in the trees.

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I don’t seem to lose my temper easily.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

Finnish, höpöttää, to talk nonsense or waffle. I once saw this used as the ‘translation’ for waffles (the edible kind) on the wall of a trendy cafe in Norway.

42 What is your proudest moment?

Watching the first PhD students I co-supervised defending their theses.

43 What kind of tree would you be?


44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Finland feels like a very safe country.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I nearly studied for a PhD in history of science.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Katerina Falk, @FalkKaterina