USC Sidney Harman Academy For Polymathic Study: POLYMATHICS: VALUES OF THE POLYMATH: Session 4: Pondering and Play

October 21, 2020
Online Event



What are the internal workings of a polymath?  What do they value?  Our founder Sidney Harman emphasized that to understand polymaths the focus should rest not on what they did, but how they did what they did.  Leonardo surrounded himself with those he sought to learn from; creativity for Maya Angelou was the connective heartbeat of the universe; and Marie Curie cherished childlike wonder as her entry point to understanding Nature.  Our fall 2020 series explores the pathways and insights from select faculty among us who employ these polymathic values and more in their scholarship and lives.  And to what end?  To learn how.

Session 4: Pondering and Play

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

When: 5:00 p.m. PT


“All through my life, the new sights of Nature made my rejoice like a child.”

--Marie Curie

Pondering, purposeful play, and wonder—what Curie experienced—are polymathic values that can free us up, and move things forward in ways that our hurried, pressured lives might cause us to miss. The qualities of marinating on ideas (even procrastinating sometimes); transcending our disciplinary siloes; and discovering joy and wonder in our academic lives are the kind of counter-intuitive polymathics that can unfetter our minds and illuminate the unfathomable.

Clifford Johnson, Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Clifford Johnson always wanted to be a physicist and astronomer.  His research focuses on the development of theoretical tools for the description of the basic fabric of Nature.  Johnson believes the tools and ideas often have applications in other areas of physics (and mathematics) too - unexpected connections are part of the fun of research and very polymathic!  Ultimately, Professor Johnson is trying to understand and describe the origin, past, present, and future of the Universe.  This involves trying to describe its fundamental constituents (and their interactions), as well as the Universe as a dynamical object in its own right. He mainly works on (super) string theory, gravity, gauge theory, and M-theory, which leads him to think about things like space-time, quantum mechanics, black holes, the big bang, extra dimensions, quarks, gluons, and so forth.  As a true polymathic practitioner, he is an accomplished musician. He also serves on the board of the Harman Academy.