Allan Adams

After discovering gravitational waves, we must dream even bigger.

Theoretical Physicist and TED Speaker

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Allan Adams | Theoretical Physicist and TED Speaker
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Allan Adams is a theoretical physicist working at the frontiers of space, time, and the very origins of the universe. His TED talks and MIT lectures on gravitational waves have been viewed millions of times, all for his infectious energy and cutting-edge insights. He makes the most exciting scientific discoveries meaningful for everyone—and reignites our desire to create, innovate, and imagine.

Allan Adams is a theoretical physicist at MIT. He studies everything from turbulence to colliding black holes to the quantum structure of spacetime—three ideas that turn out to be intimately connected. Adams is also passionate about the history of our cosmos and in the history of science. In addition to his research, Adams is deeply committed to teaching and to the public communication of science. As a dedicated educator and public speaker, his introductory lectures on quantum mechanics from MIT have been viewed nearly two million times, and his TED talks have been viewed more than that 3 million times. His TED talk about the LIGO discovery of Gravitational Waves was chosen as one of the top 10 TED Talks of 2016.


He is engaged in the intersection between science, technology, art, and conservation, and has worked with the New England Aquarium, the Boston Museum of Science, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the MIT Creative Arts Council to advance our understanding and protection of the world around us. In January of 2017, Adams opened the Future Ocean Lab at MIT, devoted to developing low-cost, low-power sensors and imaging technologies for marine research, and to using those technologies to document the world’s changing oceans.


Adams is also an avid sailplane pilot and a keen underwater photographer. He earned his AB from Harvard, his MA from Berkeley, and his PhD from Stanford before spending three years at Harvard as a Junior Fellow. Now, Adams is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at MIT.   



Speech Topics

New Discoveries Investigations into What We Know, and How We Know It
Allan Adams loves talking about science: from his research on black holes to the history and fate of the universe; from the meaning of quantum mechanics to how the shine of butterfly wings is leading to a revolution in solar cells. His lectures at MIT are already legendary, and his introductory lectures on Quantum Mechanics have been viewed over a million times in the last two years.

But more than anything, Adams loves talking about the latest discoveries in physics, cosmology, and science writ large, contextualizing them in the larger story of science and our understanding of the universe. In his keynotes, he explains not just what we know, but how we know it, making science both accessible and vitally important. He tells stories of unlikely innovation and incredible achievement. He shows how new research relies on public and private support, even as it often challenges the economic status quo. And he speaks, extemporaneously, in response to recent events—indeed, both of his TED talks were impromptu explanations of breaking discoveries, delivered days after their announcement. With expert insights, undeniable passion, and contagious enthusiasm, Adams shares the excitement of new discoveries, and reignites our curiosity for what’s possible.