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Very rubin observatory, Credit: Rubin Obs/NSF/AURA

Math meets music: the surprising symmetry of string theory and Schoenberg

On June 4, join Dr. S. James Gates Jr. on a journey down the path that links one of the most challenging concepts in theoretical physics to the works of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg.

What do the works of an early 20th century composer have in common with the theoretical physics concept of supersymmetry?

Let Dr. S. James Gates Jr., string theorist and science advisor to President Barack Obama, fill you in.

On Wednesday June 4, 2014, as part of Perimeter Institute’s Public Lecture Series presented by Sun Life Financial, Gates will take live and online audiences on a journey “From the Mathematics of Supersymmetry to the Music of Arnold Schoenberg.” The talk will help demystify supersymmetry – a core theory of fundamental physics – by drawing an unexpected analogy to the dodecaphony technique invented by Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg.

Gates is the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, the Director of the String and Particle Theory Center, and a Distinguished Visiting Research Chair at Perimeter Institute (PI). He is known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory, as well as his numerous appearances on NOVA PBS programs, including “The Elegant Universe” and “The Fabric of the Cosmos.”

In addition to his research, Gates serves on the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and previously served on the Maryland State Board of Education, Society for Science & the Public’s board of trustees, and as president of the National Society of Black Physicists.

In 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the first African-American physicist so recognized in its 150-year history. Also in 2013, President Obama awarded Gates the National Medal of Science, the highest award given to American scientists.

Gates’ PI Public Lecture will be webcast live on Wednesday June 4, 2014 at 7:00 PM ET. Online viewers can pose questions to Gates by tweeting @Perimeter using the hashtag #piLIVE. Click here to sign up to receive an email reminder about the live webcast.

You can view past PI Public Lectures and events online, and find further details about PI’s research, training, and outreach activities at


About PI

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement. 

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