9 March 2023 • FacultySTEM Spector Offers Insight on Quantum Mechanics

Professor of Physics Donald Spector gave a keynote address at the annual meeting for the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts at Purdue University.

The annual meeting for the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts brought scholars together to discuss the nature of reading in the era of artificial intelligence. Professor of Physics Donald Spector joined the event as one of the 2022 Keynote Speakers. 

Contributing to SLSA’s theme “Reading Minds: Artificial Intelligence, Neural Networks, and the Reading Human,” Spector’s offered an address titled, “Quantum Mechanics as a Ritual of Ambivalence Listening to the Language of Particle Physics.” Spector began his research on the topic as a 2020-2021 Research Fellow for the Fisher Center for the Study of Gender and Justice.

“Within quantum mechanics, graphical depictions known as Feynman diagrams provide the standard method for analyzing and thinking about phenomena in particle physics. In this very precise mathematical framework, however, lies something else: a structure familiar to those who study rites of passage,” Spector introduces in his abstract. After an overview of Feynman diagrams, Spector’s talk goes on to pinpoint the “ontological misdirection” coded in their terminology, revealing how they turn “the tools of quantum mechanics into a means to express an ambivalence towards quantum mechanics itself.”

Spector’s research interests are focused on the foundations of space, time, and the parameters of nature from the mathematics of set theory. His extensive interdisciplinary work has examined links of physics to theatre, music and philosophy. In the past year, he published in the field of neuroscience for the first time.

Over the years, Spector has presented on the physics of Star Trek, including at the Northeast Trek Con and to a range of other popular audiences, and his rule of thumb for supernovas appears in Randall Munroe's book "What If?"

SLSA’s other keynote speakers included Anna Ridler, artist and researcher, and K Allado-McDowell, writer, speaker and musician. 

Members of the SLSA include experts in the sciences, engineering, technology, computer science, medicine, the social sciences, the humanities, the arts, and independent scholars and artists.