Stephon Alexander, Ph.D.Brown University
IDEA Scholar, 2020-2021, Flatiron Institute
Stephon Alexander is a theoretical physicist, musician and author whose work is at the interface between cosmology, particle physics and quantum gravity. He works on the connection between the smallest and largest entities in the universe, pushing Einstein’s theory of curved space-time to extremes, beyond the big bang with subatomic phenomena.
Alexander is a professor of physics at Brown University and the president of the National Society of Black Physicists. He had previous appointments at Stanford University, Imperial College, Pennsylvania State University, Dartmouth College and Haverford College. Alexander is a specialist in the field of string theory and 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.’ He also co-pioneered a modified theory of general relativity based on Chern-Simons theory. This Chern-Simons general relativity has applications in gravitational wave physics, cosmology and astrophysics.
In his critically acclaimed book The Jazz of Physics, Alexander revisits the ancient interconnection between music and the evolution of astrophysics and the laws of motion. He explores new ways music, in particular jazz, mirrors modern physics, such as quantum mechanics, general relativity and the physics of the early universe. He also discusses ways that innovations in physics have been and can be inspired from ‘improvisational logic’ exemplified in jazz performance and practice. Alexander is also a professional touring jazz musician.