Gheorghe Curelet-Balan Blog

Saturday, May 31, 2008

What's probable?

To be or not to be. This week local news about the performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet play at the Stratford Festival reminded me of the past PI lecture "The Curious World of Probabilities" presented by Professor Jeffrey Rosenthal from University of Toronto.

Probabilities are about scientific discovery based on sampling or past experiences. If you think that studying them cannot be fun then watch the lecture to convince yourself of the contrary.

Probabilities could be evil for those that dare to bet against "the house" in the long run. The law of large numbers (the more experiments you make the closer you are to the true probability of the phenomenon) explains why only few win at casinos. Watch the video animation of playing the Craps game for a sample of the law of large numbers in action.

Probabilistic thinking is useful though in our daily life as it can alleviate worries in different bad situations. For example: airplane crashes, terrorist attacks and homicides are quite unlikely. Professor Rosenthal gives us a sample of stay cool probabilistic thinking when he received the bad news of a lupus test.

Designing computer games or medical studies, assigning seats during exams, forecasting political elections are all examples where randomness is needed.

The lecture ends with a funny video animation of Monte Carlo sampling, a useful technique used to solve complicated problems when no other deterministic approach could be used.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Big Bang in Waterloo.

It was 2 weeks ago when the international acclaimed personality Neil Turok became the new Executive Director of Perimeter Institute (PI).

Neil Turok, Professor at Cambridge University (and collaborator with the living legend of theoretical physics, Stephen Hawking) gained international fame for his theoretical research of the Big Bang. He became known in the Waterloo Region just few months ago during his PI lecture "What Banged" about which I talked here.

What a great achievement for PI that gets one more time international recognition in the universe of theoretical physics research proving that it is indeed a beacon for scientific progress, as characterized last year by PI founder, Mike Lazaridis.

At such a crucial PI milestone maybe it is the time to reflect at PI odissey, at its evolution from a visionary dream to reality and what it is today (read about it in the "Leaps of faith" article on this link).

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Enthralled by Water's Thirst.

Unusual, provocative, intriguing, uplifting. These are the usual attributes of most of Perimeter Institute (PI) cultural events.

Last week Pushing the Perimeter event "Reaching for Nothing: Water's Thirst" was no exception.

From the unconventional stage setup, the diversity of performance types (incorporating science elements), sound and visual effects and the power to transcend and immerse the audience into the artistic fantasy of the alternating space/time perceptions, everything was at the perimeter of cultural expression.

There is something magic about water and its relation with space and time. Maybe its dual spatial and temporal nature creates the back and forth perception of space shifting into time and back into space.

The show had the power to convey this feeling.

Kudos to NUMUS and PI for this great world premiere.

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