The acclaimed mathematician and author Steven Strogatz interviews some of the world’s leading scientists about their lives and work.
Melanie Mitchell Takes AI Research Back to Its Roots
Melanie Mitchell, a professor of complexity at the Santa Fe Institute and a professor of computer science at Portland State University, acknowledges the powerful accomplishments of “black box” deep learning neural networks. But she also thinks that artificial intelligence research would benefit most from getting back to its roots and exchanging more ideas with research into cognition in living brains. This week, she speaks with host Steven Strogatz about the challenges of building a general intelligence, why we should think about the road rage of self-driving cars, and why AIs might need good parents. Read more at https://www.quantamagazine.org/melanie-mitchell-takes-ai-research-back-to-its-roots-20210419/.
Trachette Jackson Fights Cancer With Math
The term “mathematical biology” might have been considered an oxymoron more than a few decades ago: How could mathematics enrich the largely descriptive disciplines of biology? But Trachette Jackson of the University of Michigan has become a pioneer in this area, bringing deep mathematical insights to cancer therapeutics. In this episode, Jackson tells host Steve Strogatz how a tumor resembles a box of pencils, and how she came to appreciate the usefulness of mathematics for piercing biological mysteries. Read more at https://www.quantamagazine.org/trachette-jackson-fights-cancer-with-math-20210412/. Production and original music by Story Mechanics.
Rediet Abebe on Using Algorithms for Social Justice
Can algorithms make society more equitable? Rediet Abebe, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that data-driven machine learning can help to optimize the results of social and economic strategies. In this week’s episode, host Steven Strogatz speaks with Abebe about how her Ethiopian upbringing helps her see discrimination in the U.S. in a different light, and why her research interests and here concerns with poverty, inclusion and diversity are inseparable. This episode was produced by Dana Bialek. Read more at https://www.quantamagazine.org/rediet-abebe-on-using-algorithms-for-social-justice-20210405/. Production and original music by Story Mechanics.
Federico Ardila on Math, Music and the Space of Possibilities
Federico Ardila, born in Colombia and now a professor mathematics at San Francisco State University, is an expert in the field of combinatorics, the study of all the possible configurations of finite systems. This week, Ardila talks with host Steven Strogatz about the importance of feelings in mathematics, the music of collaboration, imagining higher dimensional spaces, and the art and science of exploring “the space of possibilities.” This episode was produced by Dana Bialek. Read more at https://www.quantamagazine.org/federico-ardila-on-math-music-and-the-space-of-possibilities-20210329/. Production and original music by Story Mechanics.
Sharon Glotzer’s Deep Curiosity About Order From Chaos
Sharon Glotzer, a computational physicist and professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, uses statistical mechanics to probe how the properties of materials emerge from the dynamics of their countless constituent particles. This week, she speaks with host Steven Strogatz about how a broken oil pump changed her life, how entropy is all about choices, and how she is driven to find the simple rules that explain the universe’s complexity. This episode was produced by Dana Bialek. Read more at https://www.quantamagazine.org/sharon-glotzers-deep-curiosity-about-order-from-chaos-20210322/. Production and original music by Story Mechanics.
Frank Wilczek on the Strong Force, Quarks and Dark Matter
Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is responsible for some of the greatest accomplishments in theoretical physics over the past hundred years, including an explanation for the strong nuclear force and key contributions to our understanding of quantum chromodynamics. This week, Wilczek talks with host Steven Strogatz about how he made those discoveries, what is still missing from the standard theory, and a possible explanation for dark matter. This episode was produced by Dana Bialek. Read more at https://www.quantamagazine.org/frank-wilczek-on-the-strong-force-quarks-and-dark-matter-20210315/. Production and original music by Story Mechanics.