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Director’s Innovation Speaker Series: How Looking at Genetics and Networks Led to Solving a Quantum Gravity Problem


April 26, 2022




In the middle of the 1990s, a physicist named Edward Witten proposed the existence of 'M-Theory' as a candidate for a theory of Quantum Gravity. A simplified version of this problem contains over 4.2 billion unknowns. For over 30 years, no solution was found. In 2020, a solution was found by using techniques inspired by networks in the context of genetics. Sylvester James Gates, Jr., Ph.D. ’s lecture presented the trajectory of this story.


Read the transcript.

About Dr. Gates

Dr. Gates is a theoretical physicist known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. Dr. Gates is currently the director of the Brown Theoretical Physics Center, Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, an Affiliate Mathematics Professor, and a faculty fellow, Watson Institute for International Studies and Public Affairs at Brown University.

About the Director’s Innovation Speaker Series

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) established the Director’s Innovation Speaker Series to encourage broad, interdisciplinary thinking in the development of scientific initiatives and programs, and to press for theoretical leaps in science over the continuation of incremental thought. Innovation speakers are encouraged to describe their work from the perspective of breaking through existing boundaries and developing successful new ideas, as well as working outside their primary area of expertise in ways that have pushed their fields forward. We encourage discussions of the meaning of innovation, creativity, breakthroughs, and paradigm-shifting.

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