Demian Cho

Growing up in Seoul, Korea, I was introduced to physics by reading an article by a well-known gravitational physicist, Bryce DeWitt. The implication of quantum theory on the fundamental structure of spacetime – spacetime bubbles – fascinated me.

I eventually earned a B.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin (where Dr. DeWitt was) and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After a post-doctoral stint at Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, India, I have taught at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Kenyon College. Then, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota before came to Albion College in 2021.

I was trained as a theoretical gravitational physicist; I worked on various problems, from gravitational radiation reactions to quantum field theory on curved spacetime to quantum gravity in a higher-dimensional universe. My recent research focus, however, is computational neuroscience. It was AlphaGo beating Sedol Lee, the best Go-player in the world at the time, that convinced me of the fascinating possibility of general AI. I am collaborating with colleagues from Indianan University, Bloomington, on information processing in the cerebral cortex and the critical state of the brain. I am also interested in how efficiency in information processing and energy consumption can constrain the modular structure of brains.

I am still thinking hard about my childhood problem, though. Recently, there have been some fascinating works from the foundations of quantum theory and quantum information science on the possibility of an indefinite causal structure. That is, cause and effect are not absolute. This opens up a possible evasion of Stephen Hawking’s chronology protection conjecture – quantum theory prohibits the universe from having the possibility of time travel. I am still learning and digesting, but thinking about these abstract questions has been fun.

When I am not in my office looking at a computer screen, you can find me in the chapel’s basement trying to learn to play piano.