October 6, 2020

Cumrun Vafa

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome CUMRUN VAFA—Professor of Physics and the the Hollis Professor of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy at Harvard University—for a discussion of his latest book, Puzzles to Unravel the Universe.


Beneath all of the complex and formidable mathematical structures that formulate physical laws rest simple but deep nuggets of truth. It is these simple truths, and not the complicated technical details, that scientists strive for when uncovering the laws of nature. Fortunately, these core ideas can often be illustrated with simple mathematical puzzles. These puzzles are so simplified that one can tackle them and appreciate their meaning without using any complicated math. This book aims to take the reader on a journey to unravel the laws of the universe through fun puzzles.

This book includes over a hundred puzzles and their solutions, along with discussion about how they relate to deep ideas in physics and math. Examples are drawn from classical physics, such as Newton's laws and Einstein's theory of relativity, as well as from modern physics, including black holes and string theory. This book is designed for the general public, and it does not require extensive background in mathematics or physics—just a sense of curiosity!

About Author(s)

Cumrun Vafa is a Professor of Physics at Harvard University and holds the Hollis Professor of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy chair. Born in Iran in 1960, he moved to the US for higher education where he received his B.S. in math and physics from MIT before moving to Princeton University, where he received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics. Professor Vafa is world-renowned for his groundbreaking work in string theory and the mathematical technology needed to explore this field. He has received numerous prizes and recognitions for his work on theoretical physics including the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the 2008 Dirac Medal of ICTP and prizes for his work on mathematical physics from American Mathematical Society, as well as American Physical Society.