APB is a Global Speaker, Celebrity & Entertainment Agency

Speaking to the World

Boston | Chicago | San Diego | Atlanta

Leonard  Mlodinow

Leonard Mlodinow

Physicist & Best-Selling Author of Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Constantly Changing World


Leonard Mlodinow is a theoretical physicist and author, recognized for groundbreaking discoveries in physics, and as the author of five best-selling books. His most recent book is Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change. His book The Grand Design, co-authored with Stephen Hawking, reached #1 on the New York Times best-seller list; his book Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, won the 2013 PEN/E.O. Wilson award for literary science writing; and his book The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives was chosen as a New York Times notable book, and short-listed for the Royal Society book award. Dr. Mlodinow is also known through his many public lectures and media appearances on programs such ranging from Morning Joe, to Through the Wormhole, and for debating Deepak Chopra on ABC's Nightline. Read More >

Dr. Mlodinow was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1954. Both of his parents were holocaust survivors. His father was a leader in the Jewish underground in Czestochowa, Poland, until he was shipped to the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944. He was liberated by General Patton on April 11, 1945. At the time, he weighed 80 pounds. His mother was in a labor camp, also in Poland. They met in Brooklyn, New York, in 1948.

Dr. Mlodinow started his college education at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., in 1972, but dropped out when the Yom Kippur War began in the Fall of 1973, traveling to Israel to work on a kibbutz. While there, he fell in love with physics after reading some of Richard Feynman's books, which were the only English books in the kibbutz He returned to Brandeis the next school year and added a physics major to his double major in chemistry and math. He graduated in 1976, and in 1981 received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of California at Berkeley. His advisor was Eyvind Wichmann, who worked on axiomatic quantum field theory. His dissertation was on a subject that was more practical, at least if you are a physicist – Nikos Papanicolaou and Dr. Mlodinow developed a new approximation method in which you solve a problem in infinite dimensions, and then calculate corrections to account for the fact that we live in only three.

After graduating, Dr. Mlodinow obtained a faculty position at the California Institute of Technology as Bantrell Research Fellow in Theoretical Physics. He then became an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at the Max-Planck-Institute for Physics and Astrophysics in Munich, Germany. In this period he was interested in quantum field theories inside dielectrics. At the time, people created quantum theories of electromagnetic interactions in dielectrics by simply carrying over certain mathematical constructs from the vacuum, or empty-space, theory. With Mark Hillery, he showed that this is incorrect, and developed the correct procedure.

In 1985 Dr. Mlodinow was bitten by the Hollywood bug and moved back to Los Angeles with $6000, a screenplay in his pocket, and no job. He managed to sell his first script six months later. At the time he had $110 left in the bank. Over the next several years he wrote for television series such as: Hunter, MacGyver, Star Trek: the Next Generation, and the comedy series Night Court, as well as for many others that he would mostly like to forget. Meanwhile he has continued to conduct physics research as a hobby.

In 1993 Dr. Mlodinow joined those leaving the television and film business for computer gaming, and became producer, executive producer and designer of several award-winning games created in conjunction with Stephen Speilberg, Robin Williams, and the Walt Disney Company. Among the awards won by his games are the Consumer Electronics Software Showcase Award; Home PC Magazine Editor's Choice Award; and the National Association of Parenting Publications Gold Medal (twice). In 1997 he moved to New York, and between 1997 and 2003 he was Vice President for Software Development and then Vice President and Publisher for Math Education at Scholastic Inc., the New York publisher of the Harry Potter series. As head of Scholastic software, he created a children's games division and built it into one of the top five in the United States.

While at Scholastic he wrote his first popular science books, Euclid's Window: The story of geometry from parallel lines to hyperspace, which has now appeared in 16 languages. He also had the misfortune of being at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, when the terrorists' planes flew into the buildings.

His book The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, was a New York Times editor’s choice and a New York Times notable book of the year and won the Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical thinking and the Liber Press (Spain) Award for the Popularization of Science, in addition to being short-listed for the Royal Society book award. The Grand Design, co-authored with Stephen Hawking, was a #1 best seller, and was made into a three-part documentary on the Discovery Channel. He is also the co-author, with Deepak Chopra, of War of the Worldviews: Science and Spirituality, and three other books, which have appeared in 25 languages.

In addition, Dr. Mlodinow has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Nature, Discover Magazine, Wired, The New York Review of Books, Psychology Today, and other mass-market publications. He has appeared in films such as Jeff Bridges’ documentary Living in the Future’s Past, and on numerous television programs including Morning Joe, and Through the Wormhole. He has also created several award-winning video games, including one in conjunction with Steven Spielberg, and one starring Robin Williams, and has written for network television, including the series MacGyver, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the comedy Night Court. He is a popular international speaker who has given invited lectures on four continents, at universities such as Caltech and Harvard, and corporations ranging from Google and Microsoft to Pepsi and Major League baseball. He received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley and was on the faculty of the California Institute of Technology. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

TEDx: The Crazy History of Quantum Mechanics

TEDx: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behaviour

Leonard Mlodinow on Larry King

Speech at Google

Speech Topics

Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change

Drawing on cutting-edge research, Mlodinow takes the audience on an illuminating journey through the mechanics of our minds as we navigate the rapidly changing landscapes around us. Out of the exploratory instincts that allowed our ancestors to prosper hundreds of thousands of years ago, humans developed a cognitive style that Mlodinow terms elastic thinking, a unique set of talents that include neophilia (an affinity for novelty), schizotypy (a tendency toward unusual perception), imagination and idea generation, and divergent and integrative thinking. These are the qualities that enabled innovators from Mary Shelley to Miles Davis, from the inventor of jumbo-sized popcorn to the creators of Pokémon Go, to effect paradigm shifts in our culture and society. In our age of unprecedented technological innovation and social change, it is more important than ever to encourage these abilities and traits. Read More >

How can we train our brains to be more comfortable when confronting change and more adept at innovation? How do our brains generate new ideas, and how can we nurture that process?  Why can diversity and even discord be beneficial to our thought process? With his keen acumen and quick wit, Mlodinow gives audiences the essential tools to harness the power of elastic thinking in an endlessly dynamic world. Read Less ^

The Grand Design

When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? Leonard Mlodinow, the physicist/author behind The Drunkard’s Walk, explores his collaborative work with Stephen Hawking in their #1 bestseller, The Grand Design. Created for any lay audience, this speech presents the most recent scientific thinking about the mysteries of the cosmos, and describes the current theories of the fundamental forces of nature and the origin and evolution of the universe Read More >

In a very interesting, detailed, thought provoking and often humorous way, Mlodinow discusses why some of life’s biggest questions can be answered by science and scientific theory, including: Why is there something rather than nothing? Is the apparent “grand design” of our universe evidence of a benevolent creator who set things in motion – or does science offer another explanation? The theories he expounds upon are sometimes old and sometimes groundbreakingly new, but all will either surprise you, educate you, or both. This is a presentation that is not to be missed. Read Less ^

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives

This irreverent and illuminating presentation explores how random events shape the world and how human intuition fights that fact. Although Mlodinow explains that things are more random than people realize, his talk is not about giving up due to that, but rather, about how to avoid being misled by randomness. Read More >

Although our brains naturally want to see patterns and order, life doesn’t necessarily work like that. Mlodinow shares how an understanding of randomness reveals a tremendous amount about our daily lives, our investments and our business decisions. He analyzes examples from business and the financial markets, revealing how successes and failures are often attributed to clear and obvious causes, when in actuality they are more profoundly influenced by chance. 

As he discusses the basics of probability and statistics, Mlodinow provides wonderful illustrations from fields as wide-ranging as sports, medicine, psychology and the stock market. Clear, accessible, very friendly, engaging and often very witty, this speech can be enjoyed by absolutely everyone (including the math-phobic) with the aim of changing the way people view their lives, their business dealings and the world around them.

  Read Less ^

Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior

Everyday we make personal, financial and business decisions, confident that we have properly weighed all the important factors and acted accordingly — and that we know how we came to those decisions. But in recent years it has become increasingly clear that the way we experience the world — our perceptions, behavior, memory and social judgment — is largely driven by the mind's subliminal processes and not by the conscious ones, as we have long believed. Although our unconscious mind thus plays a critical role in our perceptions, feelings and thoughts, we are unaware of its influence. As a result, our view of ourselves, our motivations and society is like a puzzle with most of the pieces missing. Read More >

In this talk Mlodinow will explore how the past two decades of revolutionary neurological research shows that our view of ourselves is far less accurate than we may believe, creating a new, modern understanding of the commanding role the unconscious mind plays in our conscious thoughts. Presenting vivid interactive demonstrations and striking examples, he will discuss some of the many ways the unconscious mind influences how we misperceive our relationships with family, friends, and business associates; and how we misremember important events — along the way, changing our view of ourselves and the world around us. Read Less ^

Combatting Cognitive Illusions & Mental Barriers for Optimal Decision-Making

By overcoming cognitive illusions and mental barriers, Mlodinow believes anyone can obtain optimal risk assessment and decision-making. Focusing on psychological barriers and barriers arising from misguided intuition about probabilities and chance, he begins his talk with interactive exercises that will illustrate how the brain constructs reality from the data it takes in, rather than simply recording it.  Read More >

Mlodinow addresses a range of barriers that affect us all, such as how the presentation of facts, or added detail, can influence the perception of likelihood or truth; how people have great trouble accurately judging the risk or probability of certain events; how the memory works, why people can have clear memories of things that didn’t happen, or didn’t happen as they recall; and how and why people have trouble objectively assessing data or situations when they would prefer a certain conclusion. Providing expert tips on taking control and achieving desired outcomes, Mlodinow shares how understanding our behaviors in relation to our brains can result in more productive negotiations and decisions. Read Less ^