Richard Panek

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Richard Panek
OccupationAuthor, Science Communicator
EducationB.S., Journalism, Northwestern University
M.F.A., fiction, University of Iowa
Genrenon-fiction, popular science
SubjectSpace, the universe, gravity, autism
Years active1995–present
Notable works
Notable awardsNew York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship

Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship

Antarctic Artists and Writers Program Grant

American Institute of Physics 2012 Science Communication Award for Journalism
SpouseMeg Wolitzer

Richard Panek is an American popular science writer, columnist, and journalist who specializes in the topics of space, the universe, and gravity. He has published several books and has written articles for a number of news outlets and scientific organizations, including Scientific American, WIRED, New Scientist, and Discover.

Education and career[edit]

Born in Chicago, Panek received his Bachelor's of Science in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and then a Master of Fine Arts in fiction from the University of Iowa's Iowa Writers' Workshop. His writing career began with his short fiction publications in papers like the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times.[1]

He went on to be a faculty adviser for Goddard College for their Master's Creative Writing program[2] and also taught creative writing classes at Barnard College.[3] He is also a frequent speaker and presenter at writing seminars for Johns Hopkins University.[4]

In 2003 Panek donated the writing material for his first book, Waterloo Diamonds, to be a special collection at the University of Northern Iowa.[1]

He was one of three screenwriters for the giant-screen 2015 film Robots.[5]

The Last Word On Nothing[edit]

Panek first joined the multi-author blog known as The Last Word On Nothing after being invited as a contributor by Ann Finkbeiner.[6]

Awards and grants[edit]

For his early short fiction work in various newspapers, Panek was given the PEN Award for Syndicated Fiction in 1989, leading to him delivering readings of his work at the Library of Congress.[7] In 2007, he received a Fellowship for science writing from the New York Foundation for the Arts.[2] It was in 2008 that he received an additional fellowship for the same, but from the Guggenheim Foundation,[3] along with a grant from the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program as awarded by the National Science Foundation.[8] The American Institute of Physics gave Panek the 2012 Science Communication Award for Journalism after the publication of his book The 4 Percent Universe.[9] The Goodreads Choice Awards for 2013 in Nonfiction was given to Panek and his co-author Temple Grandin for their book The Autistic Brain.[10]


  • — (2019). The Trouble with Gravity: Solving the Mystery Beneath Our Feet. HMH Books. ISBN 9780544568297.[11]
  • —; Grandin, Temple (2013). The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780547636450.
  • — (2011). The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780618982448.[2][12]
  • — (2004). The Invisible Century: Einstein, Freud, and the Search for Hidden Universes. Viking Press. ISBN 9780143035527.[13]
  • — (1999). Seeing and Believing: How the Telescope Opened Our Eyes and Minds to the Heavens. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140280616.
  • — (1995). Waterloo Diamonds: A Midwestern Town and Its Minor League Team. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312132095.[14][15]
  • Richard Panek, "The Cosmic Surprise: Scientists discovered dark energy 25 years ago. They're still trying to figure out what it is", Scientific American, vol. 329, no.5 (December 2023), pp. 62–71.


  1. ^ a b "Richard Panek Papers, 1983–1995". Special Collections & University Archives. University of Northern Iowa. 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Oakes AI (December 2012). "Review: The 4 Percent Universe". The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 106 (6): 259. ISSN 0035-872X. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Fellows – Richard Panek". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  4. ^ "Weekly Calendar: Discussion/Talks". The JHU Gazette. September 29, 2008. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  5. ^ "'Robots': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. June 9, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  6. ^ Zivkovic, Bora (November 29, 2011). "Scienceblogging: a Q&A with the crew of The Last Word on Nothing". Scientific American. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  7. ^ McClung, James W. (September 30, 1989). Annual Report of the Library of Congress 1989 (PDF). Library of Congress. p. 62.
  8. ^ "Past Participants". Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. National Science Foundation. 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020. Richard Panek, Writer, 2008. Traveling to Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station he visited the South Pole Telescope (SPT) site and interviewed scientists working on project. The South Pole Telescope is an integral component of a book that he is writing called, Let There Be Dark: At the Dawn of the Next Universe; a comprehensive account of dark matter, dark energy, and the revolution in our understanding of the universe. Award #: 0739893
  9. ^ "2012 Science Communication Award – Richard Panek". American Institute of Physics. 2012. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  10. ^ "Goodreads Choice Awards Announce Their "Best Books of 2013"". December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  11. ^ Panek, Richard (2019). "Episode 32: Brian Keating Interviews Richard Panek About The Trouble With Gravity". Into The Impossible (Interview). Interviewed by Brian Keating. Arthur C. Clarke Center For Human Imagination. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  12. ^ Panek, Richard (January 19, 2011). "Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Universe". The Leonard Lopate Show (Interview). Interviewed by Leonard Lopate. WNYC-FM. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  13. ^ Panek, Richard (July 14, 2004). "Richard Panek". The Leonard Lopate Show (Interview). Interviewed by Leonard Lopate. WNYC-FM. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  14. ^ Siegel, Ben; Halio, Jay L.; Friedman, Melvin J., eds. (1999). American Literary Dimensions: Poems and Essays in Honor of Melvin J. Friedman. University of Delaware Press. pp. 202–216. ISBN 9780874136869.
  15. ^ Blades, John (August 7, 1995). "America's Past Time". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 11, 2020.