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Tue, May 07

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Merrimans' Playhouse

The Jazz of Physics

Prof. Stephon Alexander of Brown University, esteemed theoretical cosmologist and particle physicist and jazz saxophonist and author of "The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe."

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The Jazz of Physics
The Jazz of Physics

Time & Location

May 07, 2024, 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Merrimans' Playhouse, 401 E Colfax Ave, Suite 135, South Bend, IN 46617, USA

Guests

About the Event

FREE

Prof. Alexander is also a saxophone player and will join the Jazz Open Session that evening after the lecture, at 7:30 pm. The Lecture is free, the open session has a suggested donation of $5.

We have ventured into a new partnership with UND and starting a Lecture Series. This will be our first: This science outreach opportunity highlights the interaction of physics and physicists with culture and the arts. Please join us as we and UND Science Dept. host Prof. Stephon Alexander of Brown University, esteemed theoretical cosmologist and particle physicist and jazz saxophonist and author of "The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe." 

Our Lecture Series presents: Stephon Alexander - The Physics of Jazz

BACKGROUND:

The Alexander group explores the interconnection between the smallest and largest entities in the cosmos by using experimental data in cosmology and particle physics to test, constrain and improve on theories of quantum gravity and beyond the standard model of cosmology and particle physics.  Some questions we investigate are:

  • What happened at and before the big bang singularity?
  • What is the identity and nature of dark matter and dark energy?
  • Why does vacuum energy not gravitate (the cosmological constant problem)?
  • What is the origin of matter over anti-matter in the universe?
  • Can we use gravitational wave physics to probe fundamental physics?
  • What is the origin of large scale structure in the universe?

STEPHON ALEXANDER 

stephon_alexander [at] brown.edu

Stephon Alexander is a Professor of Physics at Brown University and former President of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP). Alexander has had previous appointments at Stanford University, Imperial College, Penn State, Dartmouth College, and Haverford College. He is a specialist in the field of string cosmology, where the physics of superstrings are applied to address longstanding questions in cosmology. In 2001, he co-invented the model of inflation based on higher dimensional hypersurfaces in string theory called D-Branes. In such models, the early universe emerged from the destruction of a higher dimensional D-brane which ignites a period of rapid expansion of space often referred to as cosmic inflation.

Alexander was born in Trinidad and moved to the United States when he was eight. He grew up in the Bronx, New York City and attended DeWitt Clinton High School where his physics teacher Daniel Kaplan inspired him to study physics.

Alexander is a scientist and a jazz saxophonist who ponders links, including sound, between small and big things in the universe that go beyond Einstein's curved space-time and big bang theory.

Einstein's field equation being his favorite equation, his publication The Jazz of Physics is an autobiographical reflection of his research and theories. Involved with cosmology as a professional physicist, he is also a jazz saxophonist and a student of the works of John Coltrane, among other musicians interested in cosmology. At DeWitt Clinton High School in 10th grade, Alexander's mentor was his physics teacher Daniel Kaplan, who was the reason behind diverting Alexander's mind towards physics when discussing velocity and friction. In 2006, Alexander was named as one of the eight National Geographic inquisitive experimenters and explorers.

In 2023 the American Humanist Association gave Alexander their 2023 Isaac Asimov award.

Career 

After receiving his doctoral degree, Alexander was a research physicist at Imperial College, London, as well as at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University. Alexander has held faculty positions at Penn State, Haverford College, and Dartmouth College before joining the faculty at Brown University.[14] Alexander was the president of the National Society of Black Physicists.[15] He is also the executive director of Science and Arts Engagement New York Inc. (SAENY).

 

Academic life 

Alexander started his academic career as a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College, London, (2000-2002) and later on went to be a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University's SLAC and Institute for Theoretical Physics (2002-2005). In 2005, he became an assistant professor of physics at Penn State University. In 2008, he served at Haverford College as an associate professor of physics leading to his positions of Ernest Everett Just 1907 Associate Professor of Natural Sciences and associate professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College.

Alexander also works as a professor at Brown University and has spent much of his career as a first generation advocate. He also advocates for historically under-represented groups in the sciences. He is a member of the editorial board of Universe.

Research 

In June 2012, Alexander co-authored a paper that reinterpreted Hořava–Lifshitz gravity. The paper, Hořava-Lifshitz theory as a fermionic aether in Ashtekar gravity described how the HL theory could be naturally occurring. The authors also theorized that HL gravity could be interpreted as a time-like current that fills space-time.

In December 2012, Alexander was the co-author of the paper "Gravitational origin of the weak interaction's chirality". Focusing on the Lorentz group, the authors studied the unification of the electroweak and gravitational interactions and the space-time connection. The authors theorized, in ways similar to Plebanski and Ashtekar, how those weak interactions on the right-handed chiral half in space-time connection could explain the weak interaction.

The theory devised by Alexander and his co-authors was broken down into two phases. The first is a parity symmetric phase, similar to the studies and workings of Speziale. The next phase depends on whether the parity is broken or not. Under the breaking, it shows a Dirac fermion expressing itself as a chiral neutrino.

Around the same time, Alexander co-authored another paper that focused on the study of electric time in quantum cosmology. The paper formulated and studied new possibilities of the quantum behavior of space-time.

Alexander has mainly worked to extend Einstein's general theory of relativity curved space-time, taking it to extremes in the connection between the smallest and largest entities in the universe.

Alexander has worked as the director of Dartmouth College's EE Just STEM Scholars Program, volunteered for public speaking in inner city schools, taught mathematics in prisons and monitors activities relevant to his scholarship.

 

Media 

In February 2013, Alexander wrote in The New York Times about the need for black academics to set a positive trend for the next generation. In the article, he called upon a number of personal experiences from his own education and life.

Alexander has been interviewed or quoted in media sources such as the Tavis Smiley Show, Forbes Magazine, NPR, Brian Lehrer Show, Science Salon/Skeptic Society, Downbeat Magazine,[30] and Mercury News.

 

Music 

His album with Rioux was Here Comes Now. Alexander and bassist Melvin Gibbs formed a group that they named God Particle. Alexander is also the author of The Jazz of Physics, a book that discusses the link between music and the structure of the universe.

On a Nova documentary, Alexander was featured discussing his life as a jazz saxophonist, while also working as a physicist during the day.

 See also 

 Publications 

  • 2016 The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe.
  • 2021 Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider's Guide to the Future of Physics.

 Awards 

Concerts and events made possible, in part, with support from the Wells Fargo Philanthropic Services Private Trust Foundations, which include grants from the Stanley A. and Flora P. Clark Memorial Community Trust Foundation (2020-2021; 2022-2023 seasons), the John, Anna, and Martha Jane Fields Memorial Trust Foundation (2021-2022; 2022-2023 seasons), and the Florence V. Carroll Charitable Trust (2021-2022; 2022-2023; 2023-2024 seasons). Special concert event support provided by the Arts Midwest Grow, Invest, Gather (GIG) Fund grant (2022-2023 season). Activities are made possible in part by the Arts Organization Support (AOS), Indiana Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency (2023-2024 season).

Concerts and events made possible, in part, with support from The Esther and George Jaruga Charitable Foundation (2020-2023 seasons). The Student and Home Grown Series concerts made possible, in part, with support from the ArtsEverywhere Grant from the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, and the Arts Project Support Grant and the Arts Recovery Grant through the Indiana Arts Commission.

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