October 20, 2021

Stephon Alexander

Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome cosmologist STEPHON ALEXANDER for a discussion of his latest book, Fear of a Black Universe: An Outsider's Guide to the Future of Physics. He will be joined in conversation by C. BRANDON OGBUNU, Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University.


Years ago, cosmologist Stephon Alexander received life-changing advice: to discover real physics, he needed to stop memorizing and start taking risks. In Fear of a Black Universe, Alexander shows that great physics requires us to think outside the mainstream—to improvise and rely on intuition.

His approach leads him to three principles that shape all theories of the universe: the principle of invariance, the quantum principle, and the principle of emergence. Alexander uses them to explore some of physics' greatest mysteries, from what happened before the big bang to how the universe makes consciousness possible. Drawing on his experience as a Black physicist, he makes a powerful case for diversifying our scientific communities. Compelling and empowering, Fear of a Black Universe offers remarkable insight into the art of physics.

About Author(s)

Stephon Alexander is a professor of theoretical physics at Brown University, an established jazz musician, and an immigrant from Trinidad who grew up in the Bronx. He is the 2020 president of the National Society of Black Physicists and a founding faculty Director of Brown University's Presidential Scholars program, which supports research and academic excellence for underrepresented students. In addition to his academic achievements, he was the scientific consultant to Ava DuVernay for the feature film A Wrinkle in Time. His work has been featured by the New York Times, the Wall Street JournalWIRED, and many other outlets. He has been a guest on Nova, the Brian Lehrer Show, and Neil deGrasse Tyson's StarTalk, among much else.

C. Brandon Ogbunu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University. His work utilizes a range of methods, from experimental evolution, to biochemistry, applied mathematics, and evolutionary computation all towards a refined understanding of complex systems and disease phenomena. In addition, he runs a parallel research program at the intersection of science, society, and culture. In this capacity, he explores technical questions about the role of society and culture on complex biological phenomena. He is currently a contributing editor at RadioLab, an Ideas contributor at Wired, and has written for a range of publications including Scientific AmericanThe UndefeatedUndark, and the Boston Review.