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Alice asked, “What is the matter? Have you pricked your finger?”
“I haven’t pricked it yet,” the Queen said, “but I soon shall—oh, oh, oh!”
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
The late Stephen Hawking said, “nothing cannot exist forever.” One might have to read this a few times to grasp his meaning, but the line leads one to reflect on the expanding universe. For our fall 2018 opening event, physics and astronomy professor Clifford Johnson, theoretical physicist Sean Carroll, and literary scholar Kate Flint are entering our own polymathic universe to expand our understanding of the malleable and mysterious concept, time. Multiverses, string theory, representations of time, flashes, and infinity are just a sampling of the topics that will be explored, as we grapple with historical, artistic, and theoretical approaches to time and its various meanings. Thus, we are starting out our Polymathic Pizza series on TIME as a multivalent framework for life with a bang, and a big bang at that!
Sean Carroll, Author & Research Professor of Physics at CalTech
Sean Carroll is a physicist and author. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1993, and is now on the faculty at the California Institute of Technology, where his research focuses on fundamental physics and cosmology. With broad intellectual commitments and a strong belief in public outreach, Carroll is the author of From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time, and The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World. Sean’s latest book is The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. He has written for Scientific American, New Scientist, Sky & Telescope, and other publications. His blog Cosmic Variance, hosted by Discover magazine, features a wide range of topical commentary and ideas. He has been an invited speaker at conferences and activities devoted to philosophy, theology, engineering, medicine, design, paleontology, education, politics, media, film, art, and literature. Carroll has been featured on television shows such as The Colbert Report, National Geographic's Known Universe, and Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. He has also served as an informal science consultant for several movies and TV shows, including Tron: Legacy, Bones, and Thor.
Kate Flint, Provost Professor of Art History and English
Kate Flint, Provost Professor of Art History and English, joined the University of Southern California in July 2011. Prior to this, she taught at Bristol and Oxford Universities. Her research spans the 19th and 20th centuries and is both interdisciplinary and transatlantic. Trained at Oxford University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, she wrote her dissertation on the British reception of contemporary painting, 1870-1910. Her areas of specialization include Victorian and early twentieth-century cultural, visual, and literary history; the history of photography from its inception to now; women's writing, and transatlantic studies. Professor Flint's new book, Flash! Photography, Writing, and Surprising Illumination was published by Oxford University Press in 2018. She has also published The Transatlantic Indian 1776-1930 (Princeton University Press, 2008), which looks at the two-way relations between Native Americans and the British in the long 19th century, and explores the intersections of modernity, nationhood, performance, and popular culture; The Victorians and The Visual Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and The Woman Reader, 1837-1914 (Oxford University Press, 1993), both of which won the British Academy’s Rose Mary Crawshay prize.
Clifford Johnson, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at USC
Clifford Johnson always wanted to be a physicist and astronomer. His research focuses on the development of theoretical tools for the description of the basic fabric of Nature. Johnson believes the tools and ideas often have applications in other areas of physics (and mathematics) too - unexpected connections are part of the fun of research. Ultimately, Professor Johnson is trying to understand and describe the origin, past, present, and future of the Universe. This involves trying to describe its fundamental constituents (and their interactions), as well as the Universe as a dynamical object in its own right. He mainly works on (super) string theory, gravity, gauge theory, and M-theory, which leads him to think about things like space-time, quantum mechanics, black holes, the big bang, extra dimensions, quarks, gluons, and so forth. Johnson’s newly released The Dialogues: Conversations About the Nature of the Universe is a graphic novel style non-fiction science book for non-experts, with his own illustrations that he has been working on for years. A true polymath, Johnson is also an accomplished musician.