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Tony Rothman: A Prolific Polymath

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Faculty Member Tony Rothman has written a dozen fiction and non-fiction books and hundreds of articles on topics ranging from the Great Siege of Malta to the life of the French mathematician Évariste Galois. His particular area of training and expertise is, however, theoretical physics: he specializes in general relativity and cosmology, with a focus on early universe and black hole physics and an occasional foray into quantum mechanics.

So far this year he has published two major features in the magazine American Scientist, with a third (on the famous invention of frequency hopping by Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil) in press.

One published piece, “The Secret History of Gravitational Waves,” is a colorful look at a science that has been in the news (or making waves, as one is naturally tempted to say) since 2016, when the scientists of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detected waves produced by the merger of two black holes more than a billion light years from Earth. (They took home the Nobel Prize in Physics the following year.) 

Rothman’s other American Scientist article, “The Forgotten Mystery of Inertia,” asserts that “despite a gyroscope’s utter simplicity — it is, after all, nothing more than a wheel on an axle — it remains the most fascinating and mysterious device ever created” and wonders why, “a century after Ernst Mach and Albert Einstein cast doubt on absolute space, we still don't know how a gyroscope stays pointed in a fixed direction.”

Written in an engaging, layperson-friendly manner, Rothman’s articles give the general public just a glimpse of the teaching style Tandon students are lucky enough to experience on a regular basis.