Wolfgang Pauli Lectures 2012 (III)

Wolfgang Pauli Lectures 2012

The Wolfgang Pauli Lectures are an annual lecture series that is devoted alternatingly to Physics, Mathematics and Biology. They are named after the great theoretical physicist and Nobel laureat Wolfgang Pauli, who was professor at ETH Zürich from 1928 until his death in 1958. The first Wolfgang Pauli Lectures were given in 1962 by Max Delbrück, and over the years there have been many eminent speakers, including a number of Nobel laureats.

The Wolfgang Pauli Lectures 2012 are dedicated to mathematics.

Lecture III

Randomness - the Utility of Unpredictability

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 ran domness 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 sur vive 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 i n 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.

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