Fundamental laws of the cosmos:

Puzzles to Unravel the Universe

Cumrun Vafa

BS MIT '81, PhD Theoretical Physics, Princeton '85

 Hollis Professor of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy, Harvard University

Please join us as Harvard Physics Professor Cumrun Vafa takes the curious-minded on an extremely exciting puzzle-ridden journey, to better understand the fundamental laws of the cosmos. No extensive background in mathematics or physics is required. This interactive session will feature a few of the hundred puzzles included in Vafa's critically acclaimed book Puzzles to Unravel the Universe, along with a discussion about their solutions and 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.

“Puzzles can unravel mysteries of the universe and illustrate the simplicity of physical laws and the elegance of mathematics,” says Vafa. “Mathematical puzzles are not only great fun to work on, but deeply satisfying because they capture some deeper meaning about physical reality, beyond just a puzzle.”

There will be time for audience questions.

Cosponsored by:
  • MIT Club of Washington DC
  • Harvard Club of Washington DC

Cumrun Vafa is the Hollis Professor of Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy in the Physics Department at Harvard University, where he does research and teaches theoretical physics since 1985. 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 is one of the founders of the duality revolution in string theory which has reshaped our understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe. He has uncovered mysteries of black holes using topological aspects of string theory and is the founder of `F-theory’ which is one of the most promising directions in connecting string theory solutions known as the `string landscape’ to particle physics. His ideas related to seemingly consistent, but ultimately inconsistent, theories of quantum gravity which he initiated in the `swampland’ project has helped narrow down the vast string landscape and is currently an active area of research with impacts on cosmology, as well as particle phenomenology.

Professor Vafa 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 the American Mathematical Society, as well as the American Physical Society. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He has given numerous public talks on the relation between string theory, physics, and geometry.


May 19, 2021 at 6:30pm - 8pm

Virtual meeting

Washington, DC
United States

Kambiz Rahnavardy

Dariela Almeda Lu Wan Linda Bishai
Sorry, this event is sold out.