Assistive Technologies

A Serious Man

1hr 46mins
Directed by
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Michael Stuhlbarg,
Richard Kind,
Sari Lennick,
Fred Melamed

Before the film, Harvard physicist Dr. Jacob Barandes will discuss the physics and epistemology of the Coen Brothers’ film A Serious Man.

A Serious Man is a metaphysical dark comedy filled with references to important ideas from physics: the uncertainty principle, the wavelike nature of matter, Schrödinger's cat, quantum entanglement, and action-reaction, to name a few. The film is also a brutally honest portrayal of the human condition. We're born, many things happen to us for reasons that we mostly can't discern, and then we die. We're often frustrated and want answers, but we're not entitled to them. Even with all our culture and history and traditions, we can't figure out the most important things we need to know, and yet we'll still be responsible for all of it on the midterm exam. So what should we physically and epistemically limited beings do? Let's have a good talk.

About the Speaker

Jacob Barandes is a theoretical physicist and philosopher of science at Harvard University. He did his undergraduate work at Columbia University in physics and mathematics, and then completed his PhD in theoretical physics at Harvard. Dr. Barandes currently serves as Lecturer and Co-Director of Graduate Studies for the physics PhD program at Harvard, where he teaches courses on the fundamentals of theoretical physics, classical electromagnetism, general relativity, and the history and philosophy of quantum mechanics. He is also a Faculty Affiliate of the Harvard Black Hole Initiative. His research publications span the foundations of quantum theory, philosophy of science, and quantum field theory. Dr. Barandes also organizes an international workshop series on physics and philosophy. 

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