Stuart Bale: University of California, Berkeley

The Sun’s “Dark Energy” Problem

Dr. Stuart Bale spoke to MSRI’s Math Lovers Forum ( in May 2019. In this video recording, Dr. Bale explains some of what we’ve learned about the sun’s structure and gives an overview of NASA’s ongoing Parker Solar Probe mission, including some exciting new results.

Math Lovers Forum at MSRI: Stuart Bale on “The Sun’s ‘Dark Energy’ Problem” from MSRI on Vimeo.

Stuart Bale is a University of California, Berkeley professor of physics, former director of the campus’s Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) and one of four principal investigators for the instruments aboard the Parker Solar Probe. In addition, his SSL research group participated in NASA’s STEREO mission studying the generation and evolution of Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) phenomena. Bale’s main research is focused on developing experiments to understand the role of plasma dynamics and magnetic fields in the large-scale evolution of astrophysical systems.

Moon Duchin: Tufts University

Random Walks and Gerrymandering

Markov chain Monte Carlo, or MCMC, is a powerful family of search algorithms that has applications all over science and engineering.  I’ll make the case that it gives us the material for a major breakthrough in the study of redistricting:  how do you decide when a map has been gerrymandered?

Math Lovers Forum at MSRI: Moon Duchin on “Random Walks and Gerrymandering” from MSRI on Vimeo.

DuchinMoon Duchin is an Associate Professor of mathematics at Tufts University and serves as director of Tufts’ interdisciplinary Science, Technology, and Society program. Her mathematical research is in geometric group theory, low-dimensional topology, and dynamics. She is also one of the leaders of the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group, a Tisch College-supported project that focuses mathematical attention on issues of electoral redistricting.

Duchin’s research looks at the metric geometry of groups and surfaces, often by zooming out to the large scale picture. Lately she has focused on geometric counting problems, in the vein of the classic Gauss circle problem, which asks how many integer points in the plane are contained in a disk of radius r. Her graduate training was in low-dimensional topology and ergodic theory, focusing on an area called Teichmüller theory, where the object of interest is a parameter space for geometric structures on surfaces.

Duchin has also worked and lectured on issues in the history, philosophy, and cultural studies of math and science, such as the role of intuition and the nature and impact of ideas about genius. She is involved in a range of educational projects in mathematics: she is a veteran visitor at the Canada/USA Mathcamp for talented high school students; has worked with middle school teachers in Chicago Public Schools, developed inquiry-based coursework for future elementary school teachers at the University of Michigan, and briefly partnered with the Poincaré Institute for Mathematics Education at Tufts.

Krzysztof Burdzy: University of Washington, Seattle

The least interesting philosophical theory of probability ever (but at least it makes sense)

I will present a new way to look at the scientific laws of probability. I will argue that:
(i) The existing philosophy of probability is a complete intellectual failure.
(ii) The two most popular philosophical theories of probability formalize
only those beliefs that were never disputed.
(iii) The non-formalized parts of probability are swept under the rug of absurdities.
(iv) Even the justifications of the non-controversial beliefs are nonsensical.
You can watch the event video below.

Continue reading “Krzysztof Burdzy: University of Washington, Seattle”

Event Blog: A Magical Journey into Imagination, Art, Math and Whimsy!

blog1On November 19, 2017, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) held a private event in Sonoma County for members of the Museion Society in partnership with Llisa Eames Demetrios, granddaughter of renowned designers Charles and Ray Eames, and her husband Mark Burstein, a lifelong, second-generation collector, president emeritus of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, and editor or introducer of, or contributor to fourteen books about Carroll, including The Annotated Alice: 150th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (W. W. Norton, 2015) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: 150th Anniversary Edition Illustrated by Salvador Dalí (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Friend of MSRI and Math Lovers Forum sponsor Ashok Vaish was in attendance at the event and shares the following reflections on the experience on his personal blog, reposted below.

Continue reading “Event Blog: A Magical Journey into Imagination, Art, Math and Whimsy!”

Alessandro Chiesa: University of California, Berkeley

Bitcoin, Its Privacy Problem and How to Fix It

Dr. Alessandro Chiesa will discuss the bitcoin privacy problem and how to fix it. He will introduce the main algorithmic ideas behind Bitcoin, the first decentralized crypto-currency to gain significant public trust and adoption.

Dr. Chiesa will further explain one of Bitcoin’s main limitations: its lack of privacy due to the fact that every payment is broadcast in plaintext. And he will conclude his discussion by explaining how to solve this problem with a beautiful cryptographic tool, zero knowledge proofs. This solution was recently deployed in the wild, as part of the cryptocurrency Zcash.
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Kannan Soundararajan, Stanford University

Primes Fall for the Gambler’s Fallacy

The gambler’s fallacy is the erroneous belief that if (for example) a coin comes up heads often, then in the next toss it is more likely to be tails. In Dr. Soundararajan’s recent work with Robert Lemke Oliver, they found that funnily enough, the primes exhibit a kind of gambler’s fallacy: for example, consecutive primes do not like to have the same last digit. Dr. Soundararajan will show some of the data on this, and explain what their research leads them to believe is happening.
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Bernd Sturmfels: University of California, Berkeley


Beyond Linear Algebra

Linear algebra is the foundation of scientific computing and its numerous applications. Yet, the world is nonlinear. In this lecture we argue that it pays off to work with models that are described by nonlinear polynomials, while still taking advantage of the power of numerical linear algebra. We offer a glimpse of applied algebraic geometry, by discussing current trends in tensor decomposition, polynomial optimization, and algebraic statistics. Continue reading “Bernd Sturmfels: University of California, Berkeley”

Manjul Bhargava, Princeton University

Ramanujan’s Gems

Ramanujan’s work has had a truly transformative effect on modern mathematics, and indeed continues to do so as we understand further lines from his letters and notebooks. Dr. Bhargava presented some of the accessible gems of Ramanujan, and described some of the ways in which they have fundamentally changed modern mathematics (and indeed influenced our own work). Continue reading “Manjul Bhargava, Princeton University”