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Janna Levin

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Janna J. Levin (born 1967) is an American theoretical cosmologist. She earned a PhD in theoretical physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993, and a Bachelor of Science in astronomy and physics with a concentration in philosophy at Barnard College in 1988, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa[1]. Much of her work deals with looking for evidence to support the proposal that our universe might be finite in size due to its having a nontrivial topology.[2] Other work includes black holes and chaos theory. Since January 2004, she has been a professor of astronomy and physics at Barnard College of Columbia University.


Levin is the author of the popular science book How the Universe Got Its Spots: diary of a finite time in a finite space. In 2006, she published A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, a novel of ideas recounting the lives and deaths of Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing.[3]

Levin has written a series of essays to accompany exhibitions at several galleries in England, including the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art and the Hayward Gallery.[4] Levin was featured on Talk of the Nation on July 12, 2002.[5] She appeared as a guest on Stephen Colbert's Comedy Central show The Colbert Report on August 24, 2006.[6] She also appeared as the featured guest on the Speaking of Faith radio show on February 22, 2009, where she discussed her book A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines with the show's host Krista Tippett.[7] Levin presented "The sound the universe makes" on on March 1, 2011.[8] She was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2012.[9]

Her book Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space was published in March, 2016. The book is about the history of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and the 2015 discovery of gravitational waves. In a review of the book published in the Wall Street Journal, British astrophysicist John Gribbin wrote, "This is a splendid book that I recommend to anyone with an interest in how science works and in the power of human imagination and ability."[10]

Personal life

Levin is the parent of two children, a son born in 2004 and a daughter born in 2007. Levin did not officially graduate from high school, as she was in a serious car accident and hospitalized for a time.[9]


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  2. ^ Levin, Janna. "In space, do all roads lead to home?". Plus Magazine. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Myerson, Sylvie (September 2007). "Janna Levin in conversation with Sylvie Myerson". Brooklyn Rail. 
  4. ^ "The Office of Janna Levin: Art". Janna Levin. Archived from the original on 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2012-08-10. 
  5. ^ "The Office of Janna Levin: Video + Audio". Janna Levin. Archived from the original on 2012-09-03. Retrieved 2012-08-10. 
  6. ^ "Janna Levin – The Colbert Report". Comedy Central. Viacom. 2006-08-24. Retrieved 2012-08-10. 
  7. ^ "Mathematics, Purpose, and Truth | On Being". Speaking of Faith. 2012-05-31. Archived from the original on 2010-07-05. Retrieved 2012-08-10. 
  8. ^ "The sound the universe makes: Janna Levin on". TED Blog. 2011-03-15. Retrieved 2012-08-10. 
  9. ^ a b "The Office of Janna Levin: Bio + Photos". Janna Levin. Archived from the original on 2012-05-29. Retrieved 2012-09-20. 
  10. ^ Gribbin, John (March 25, 2016). "A Billion Year-Old Postcard: The collision of two black holes produced more than a trillion times the power of a billion Suns.". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 25, 2016. 

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