The Quest for Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2019 - 3:00pm to 4:30pm

The Jacob Marschak Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Mathematics in the Behavioral Sciences at UCLA

Speaker: John Harte, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management; University of California Berkeley

Faculty Host: Dan Blumstein, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA

The combination of "big data" and big computers to process big data offers promise that our understanding of very complex systems might be hugely advanced if sufficient data are crunched sufficiently rapidly using sufficiently clever algorithms. The recent success of the chess program "alpha zero" supports that hope. Using the example of ecosystems, Harte will argue that for truly complex systems there is a smarter, simpler, and more transparent approach. He will show how a simple, predictive theory of complexity is emerging - one built upon the foundation of basic ideas hailing back to the founders of statistical physics and thermodynamics.

Harte received his BA from Harvard University and a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Wisconsin. His research investigates the effects of human actions on and the linkages among biogeochemical processes, ecosystem structure and function, biodiversity, and climate.

Light refreshments will be served. RSVP is requested.