Donald Spector

Professor of Physics

Department of Physics

2005-2010 Philip J. Moorad '28 and Margaret N. Moorad Professor of Science

President, Zeta of New York (the HWS Phi Beta Kappa chapter)

Department of Physics, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY 14456 USA

Eaton Hall 106, x3594

I am proud to support the Alexander Zabusky Fund.

In memoriam Norman J. Zabusky.
I'm a fan of Cold Weather Boy! Listen on Spotify

I'm a fan of Pigeon People!

Alternative page: Instead of reading this web page, you can instead look at this page that has key details, some not included here, but in a streamlined, list-oriented fashion. If you want to contact me, just send a note to [ s p e c t o r (at) h w s . e d u ] . You can also find out how to contact me via the HWS Physics Department.

Letters of recommendation: If you are requesting a letter of recommendation from me, please note that you should ask if I can do this at least 4 weeks in advance; earlier is better. Once I have written a letter for some genre of activity (e.g., grad school in a particular field), then I am able to submit additional copies of such a letter with shorter notice. In determining whom to ask for a letter of recommendation, you want to look for people with whom you have interacted and thus who can write about you in a way that is meaningfully specific.
Engineering: If you want general information about our Engineering Program, you should consult HWS engineering joint degree programs. For specific information on course requirements for the Columbia program, you will need to consult with the liaison regarding which course requirements are in effect based on the year you enrolled at HWS. For specific information regarding Dartmouth's expectations on what you should take at HWS, read this.
Short Bio
Scientific and Popular Presentations
Anacapa Society
Additional Info

Short Bio
A.B. magna cum laude, Harvard University (1981, Physics; Phi Beta Kappa)
A.M., Harvard University (1983, Physics)
Ph.D., Harvard University (1986, Physics)
      Thesis: Consequences of Supersymmetry
      Adivsor: Howard Georgi
Summer Researcher, IBM Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights (1982)
Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer, Cornell University (1986-1988)
NSF-NATO Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Utrecht (1988-1989)
Professor, Physics Department, Hobart and William Smith Colleges (1989-present)
      I have served as coordinator of the Engineering Program at HWS for over two decades, and have served many years as Physics Department chair.

Lectures and Presentations
I have a range of lectures, technical and popular, that I am happy to give. Some samples:

The Anacapa Society
I am one of the founding members and also a current Board member of the Anacapa Society, a society dedicated to the support of theoretical physics research at primarily undergraduate institutions. If you want to learn more about this society or about theoretical physics at undergraduate colleges, check out the website of the Anacapa Society. There you can find out where our name comes from, how to join, and lots of other information.


Over the years, I have taught many courses at HWS. The full list is Physics through Star Trek, Classical and Quantum Information and Computing, Astronomy, Modern Physics, Mathematical Methods, Symbolic Computing, Optics, Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Thermal Physics, Light, Potpourri of Physics, Introductory Physics I (Mechanics and Waves), Introductory Physics II (Optics and Electromagnetism), and Contemporary Inquiries in Physics (advanced topics in theoretical physics, including symmetries, field theory, KdV equation, non-linear systems, supersymmetric quantum mechanics, and Monte Carlo methods), along with four first-year seminars: Reflecting Science (exploring how science actually gets done, the intersection of science and the arts, and the implications of science and public policy for each other), as well as Chaos, Black Holes, & Time Travel; Time Travel & Multiple Universes; and the latest course, Einstein, Relativity, & Time (all these look at exotic ideas of physics, both established and speculative, and a consideration of the impact of these ideas not just in science but in the arts, philosophy, politics, and society).

I have currently undertaken a research project exploring the use of the set theoretic notion of forcing to develop a transfinite theory of information, generalizing Shannon's work. This work incorporates the use of the notions of generic real numbers to generalize Jaynes's maximum entropy princple.

My research in theoretical physics has frequently focused on supersymmetry. This has led me to a consideration of supersymmetric quantum mechanics with a central charge, which provides a window into BPS and duality in new contexts, and in number theoretic approaches to the Hagedorn temperature. Other areas of interest of mine include Q-balls, exactly solvable systems, shape invariance, magnetic monopoles and other topological solitons, anyons, sigma models, exact results in supersymmetric field theories, p-adic string theories, the connections between supersymmetry and mathematics, and partial supersymmetry. I am especially interested in the application of supersymmetry to non-supersymmetric models. Additionally, I have supervised student research on such topics as time-dependent quantum mechanics, simulated annealing, and quantization of pseudoclassical systems .

My research activities also cover many cross-discplinary areas. With Antal Spector-Zabusky, I have developed and implemented a graphical halftoning algorithm that employs a maximum entropy principle. I am investigating the use of ideas from physics to provide analytical tools to the principles underlying computational complexity classes. I have also developed a systems analysis of weapons of mass destruction and an interpretation of Waiting for Godot that is based on the tension between the Copenhagen and Many Worlds Interpretations of quantum mechanics. More recently, I have turned my attention to music, looking at connections between the mathematical formulation of the vacuum and the music of John Cage, and examining various mathematical interpretations of Terry Riley's piece In C. In a lengthier work, I examine ways in which ideas from physics and the theory of information can inform philosophical questions associated with music, including ontological, aesthetic, and experiential aspects.

Additional Information
Here are some selected links about a few other aspects of my career:

Go to the Physics Department Home Page or head to the HWS home page.
This page was last updated 16 September 2021, in case you're keeping track.