Session 4: Pondering and Play

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October 20, 5 p.m.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
When: 5:00pm
Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 17:00

“All through my life, the new sights of Nature made my rejoice like a child.”

--Marie Curie

Pondering, purposeful play, and wonder—what Curie experienced—are polymathic values that can free us up, and move things forward in ways that our hurried, pressured lives might cause us to miss. The qualities of marinating on ideas (even procrastinating sometimes); transcending our disciplinary siloes; and discovering joy and wonder in our academic lives are the kind of counter-intuitive polymathics that can unfetter our minds and illuminate the unfathomable.

Clifford Johnson, Professor of Physics and Astronomy


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 and very polymathic!  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.  As a true polymathic practitioner, he is an accomplished musician. He also serves on the board of the Harman Academy.