The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone
And I must follow if I can.

Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it meets some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
  And whither then? I cannot say.

                            - J.R.R. Tolkien


I'm a professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Southern California. My work involves research and teaching, primarily, but you may have seen me out there giving public talks, on TV, or online, talking about science, art, movies, and other related topics. I teach both undergraduates and postgraduates. Find out more about those activities by following the links to the far left. USC is located on the University Park Campus right in the centre of the city of Los Angeles, in California. It is one of the most vibrant cities on the planet, where you can find pretty much everything!

I've a new book out!

It's a graphic novel style non-fiction science book for non-experts. I've been writing and drawing it for many years and it is finally a physical object you can hold in your hands. So far, everyone agrees it is rather beautiful, and as a bonus, an engaging read.

You can find out more here.


My research (as a member of the Theory Group) focuses on the development of theoretical tools for the description of the basic fabric of Nature. The tools and ideas often have applications in other areas of physics (and mathematics) too - unexpected connections are part of the fun of research! Ultimately I (and the international community of which I am a part) am trying to understand and describe the origin, past, present and future of the Universe. This involves trying to describe its fundamental constituents (and their interactions), as well as the Universe as a dynamical object in its own right. I mainly work on (super)string theory, gravity, gauge theory and M-theory right now, which lead me to think about things like space-time, quantum mechanics, black holes, the big bang, extra dimensions, quarks, gluons, and so forth. Look on my blog under the "research" category (here), and also look at
the research page for more.

I'm told that I'm supposed to mention things like international prizes and recognition here. So, briefly, I've been awarded the National Science Foundation's CAREER Award (1997), the Institute of Physics' Maxwell Medal and Prize (2005), a Simons Foundation Fellowship (2016), and a lovely book on music theory for winning an essay competition when I was maybe ten or eleven. I wish I could remember what it was about.

I spend a lot of time talking about science with members of the public in various venues, from public talks and appearances, various intersections with the arts and media (you might catch me on TV and web shows like The Universe, Big History, Screen Junkies, or Fail Lab), to just chatting with someone on the subway. I love helping artists, filmmakers, writers, and other shapers of our culture include science in their work in some way. Yes, I do an lot of consulting as a scientist for movies and TV. You're probably seen some of the results. Check out my blog for more about those things, including links to interviews, and occasional upcoming events. Get in touch if you are interested in having me appear at an event, or if I can help you with the science in your artistic endeavour.

I have a personal blog called Asymptotia, and I write very regularly there about many of the things I do (research and other work, play - among other things). You're welcome to have a look, and even to join in (or start) some of the ongoing conversations with me and/or the community of other readers. There are social media links there if you want to follow. (@asymptotia is usually the handle.) You can jump to some of the posts by clicking on the photographs on the right.

Thanks for visiting! -cvj

Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0484, U.S.A.
Tel: 1-213-821-1772
Fax: 1-213-740-6653
e-mail: johnson1 at

picture of Doheny Library on USC campus
working at the board
scenes from USC campus
food from Hollywood Farmer's Market
extract from a page of my forthcoming book
sleeping in the shade at a festival