The Past, Present, and Future of Prediction

Blakesley Burkhart
T Th 3:30-4:40
SRN 401

Index# 03721

Will NOT count toward SAS - Physics & Astronomy Major

Will NOT count toward SAS - Physics & Astronomy Minor

The ability to predict the future, from weather patterns to disease propagation, is essential to our modern lives. In fact, humans have always sought to know their own future. How do humans attempt to see the future and how have our methods changed over the centuries? This Honor's Seminar will be a discussion-based course focused on the nature of prediction, including its philosophical and practical implications. Our exploration of prediction will span ancient religions through modern computer simulations, including the current revolution in machine learning and artificial intelligence. We will address and discuss:

● How humans have transitioned from “pre-scientific” prediction systems, ranging from ancient Chinese bone burning to the Oracle of Delphi, to prediction systems based on the scientific method.

● Why humans, unlike other creatures in the animal kingdom, have an innate need to predict the future.

● Numerical simulations applied to climate change, astrophysics and other topics.

● Artificial intelligence and machine learning.

● Deterministic and randomized processes and basic probability theory

About Professor Burkhart

BLAKESLEY BURKHART is currently an assistant professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers University and an associate research scientist at the Flatiron Center for Computational Astrophysics in New York City. Previously, she was an Einstein Fellow and a joint ITC/SMA Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC). Her research is focused on understanding the nature of magnetic turbulence at all scales in the universe.  This includes the solar wind, the diffuse and star forming interstellar medium (ISM), the turbulent nature of nearby galaxies. Towards cosmological scales, her research also investigates the effects of turbulence on the hot ionized gas in galaxy clusters and on the diagnostics of the Lyman alpha forest.