Professor of Physics Donald Spector recently traveled to Seoul to visit the Korea Institute for Advanced Study (KIAS) and to attend the 2014 Bridges Conference on mathematics and the arts.
At KIAS, the flagship for basic science in South Korea, Spector met with the Transdisciplinary Group on Information and presented a lecture on his recent research results on the application of set theory to physics.
His seminar, “Genericity in Set Theory Information and Physics,” showed that, at a deep level, theoretical and experimental physicists are using different subclasses of numbers to describe the real world. Spector’s work demonstrating this relies on incorporating ideas from mathematical logic that have not heretofore found relevance in physics or indeed in any applied realm.
Spector also presented a framework for how set theoretic ideas might be used to resolve this discrepancy and lead to a consistent transfinite theory of information. Spector’s work in this area is funded by a grant from FQXi: the Foundational Questions Institute.
While in Seoul, Spector also was an active participant at this year’s Bridges Conference, an international annual gathering of scholars and practitioners to explore the intersection of mathematics and the arts. His lecture, “Three Mathematical Views of ‘In C'” — which is published in the refereed conference proceedings — showed that Terry Riley’s composition ‘In C,’ widely viewed as the piece that launched the minimalist movement in music, provides a musical representation of mathematical ideas that are often inaccessible to the non-expert, namely diffeomorphisms, functional integrals, and finite state automata.
During the Bridges Conference, Spector worked with mathematician Steve Kennedy, a professor at Carleton College, on the initial workshop production of Kennedy’s first play (an examination of the moral dilemmas that arise from the applications of mathematical research), advising on the script and performing in the play.
A faculty member at Hobart and William Smith Colleges since 1989, Spector brings his expertise on information and physics into the classroom through his course on quantum computing. He has held awards from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, and has received several National Science Foundation grants. Spector is the coordinator of the HWS engineering program. He received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Harvard University.