UMKC Physics and Astronomy Professor is a Consultant on the Stars

KCREP Constellations imageHow can actors become knowledgeable on complex subjects for their plays? They consult with a college professor, of course.

Mark Brodwin, Ph.D., professor in the UMKC Department of Physics and Astronomy, recently collaborated with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre on their current play, Constellations.

“I volunteered,” Brodwin said. “They wanted background on the physics topics, as well as insight into the female lead character.”

In layman’s terms, Brodwin explained specific physical laws or concepts contained in the script. Based upon the dialogue, Brodwin also gave his suspected theories the author was most likely emphasizing. He also described the likely biography and personality characteristics, such as the educational and employment background, skill set, worldview and passions of the kind of person who ends up being a cosmic microwave background (CMB) cosmologist.

“Dr. Brodwin was very helpful in explaining some of the more complicated theories mentioned in the play,” said Bree Elrod who plays the character of Marianne. “He talked about parallel universes, multiverses, string theory, determinism and quantum mechanics. Constellations is a fascinating play about love and loss, with some quantum mechanics sprinkled in, that I think everyone can relate to in some way. Come check it out!”

Brodwin is enthusiastic about the cosmology course he teaches. It is for upper division physics and astronomy students that includes a detailed description of Big Bang Cosmology including the CMB. He also teaches a Physics of Science Fiction course for sophomores and juniors that is open to all students. His research involves distant galaxy clusters that help determine the growth of the Universe over the past 14 billion years and how it will evolve into the very distant future.

This was the first time Brodwin has consulted on a play. “It was a lot of fun talking with the actors.” He only met with them for one hour, but said he could have kept talking to them all day. He’s also looking forward to seeing the play.

“We settled on two possibilities for the physics framework within which the writer was likely working,” Brodwin said. But to know what those are, you need to see the play. Constellations runs through April 2 on the Copaken Stage, 1 H & R Block Way, Kansas City, Mo.