SCIENTIFIC PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES

October 22, 2014
THE FIELDS INSTITUTE FOR RESEARCH IN MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES
20th ANNIVERSARY YEAR

Avner Magen Memorial Lecture
Friday, May 25, 2012 at 11AM
Fields Institute, Room 230 (map)

(coffee provided before the talk)

Avi Wigderson
Institute for Advanced Study
Randomness


Co-sponsored by the Fields Institute and Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto
Abstract
Is the universe inherently deterministic or probabilistic? Perhaps more importantly - can we tell the difference between the two?

Humanity has pondered the meaning and utility of randomness for millennia. There is a remarkable variety of ways in which we utilize perfect coin tosses to our advantage: in statistics, cryptography, game theory, algorithms, gambling... Indeed, randomness seems indispensable! Which of these applications survive if the universe had no randomness in it at all? Which of them survive if only poor quality randomness is available, e.g. that arises from "unpredictable" phenomena like the weather or the stock market?

A computational theory of randomness, developed in the past three decades, reveals (perhaps counter-intuitively) that very little is lost in such deterministic or weakly random worlds. In the talk I'll explain the main ideas and results of this theory.

The talk is aimed at a general audience, and no particular background will be assumed.