MODERATOR: Keith Devlin
PARTICIPANTS: Raphael Bousso, Philip Clayton, Steven Strogatz, W. Hugh Woodin
PROGRAM DATE: Friday, May 31, 2013

“The infinite! No other question has ever moved so profoundly the spirit of man,” said David Hilbert, one of the most influential mathematicians of the 19th century. A subject extensively studied by philosophers, mathematicians, and more recently, physicists and cosmologists, infinity still stands as an enigma of the intellectual world. Thinkers clash over questions such as: Does infinity exist? Can it be found in the physical world? What types of infinity are there? Through an interdisciplinary discussion with some of the world’s leading thinkers, this program will delve into the many facets of infinity and address some of the deepest questions and controversies that mention of the infinite continues to inspire.

This program is part of the Big Ideas Series.

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Known as the “Math Guy” on National Public Radio and author of 30 books and over 80 published research articles, Keith Devlin is a recognized mathematician. In 2003, he was lauded by the California State Assembly for his “innovative work and longtime service in the field of mathematics and its relation to logic and linguistics.” Today, Devlin’s research focuses on designing information and reasoning systems for intelligence analysis, and utilizing different media to teach and communicate mathematics to diverse audiences. His other research interests include the theory of information, models of reasoning, applications of mathematical techniques in the study of communication, and mathematical cognition.

The co-founder and executive director of Stanford University’s H-STAR Institute, co-founder of Stanford’s Media X research network, and a senior researcher at CSLI, Devlin is also a World Economic Forum Fellow and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Additionally, he is a recipient of the Pythagoras Prize, the Peano Prize, the Carl Sagan Award, and the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award.

Photo credit – Juan Rodrigo



Raphael Bousso is recognized for discovering the general relation between the curved geometry of space-time and its information content, known as the “covariant entropy bound.” This allowed for a precise and general formulation of the holographic principle, which is believed to underlie the unification of quantum theory and Einstein’s theory of gravity. Bousso is also one of the discoverers of the landscape of string theory, which explains the small but non-vanishing value of the cosmological constant (or “dark energy”). His work has led to a novel view of cosmology, the multiverse of string theory. Bousso is currently professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Philosopher, Theologian

Philip Clayton is the dean of Claremont School of Theology (CST) and provost of Claremont Lincoln University. He also holds the Ingraham Chair at CST. Clayton earned a joint Ph.D. in religious studies and philosophy from Yale University and has held visiting appointments at Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich. He has published over 20 books and hundreds of academic and popular articles.

Over the course of 25 years of teaching and researching, Clayton’s interests migrated gradually from philosophy through the science-religion debate to constructive theology. Clayton then moved into a variety of leadership positions in the international debate on the science-religion relationship, including principal investigator of the Science and the Spiritual Quest program. He has been an outspoken advocate for multi-cultural and multi-religious approaches to the field. Clayton has written or edited over a dozen books in this field and spoken on the topic in almost every continent. Recent works include Adventures in the Spirit, In Quest of Freedom, The Predicament of Belief (with Steven Knapp), and Religion and Science: The Basics.


Steven Strogatz is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. He studied at Princeton, Cambridge, and Harvard and taught at MIT before moving to Cornell in 1994. A renowned teacher and one of the world’s most highly cited mathematicians, he has blogged about math for the New York Timesand has been a frequent guest on RadioLab. His honors include a Presidential Young Investigator Award; MIT’s highest teaching prize; a lifetime achievement award for the communication of mathematics to the general public; and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos, Sync, and The Calculus of Friendship. His latest book is The Joy of x.


William Hugh Woodin is a set theorist at University of California, Berkeley. He has made many notable contributions to the theory of inner models and determinacy. His recent work on Ω-logic suggests an argument that the continuum hypothesis is false. A type of large cardinal, the Woodin cardinal, bears his name. He earned his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1984 under Robert M. Solovay. His dissertation title was “Discontinuous Homomorphisms of C(Omega) and Set Theory”.