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Algorithms that design the New World

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Algorithms that design the New World

Mathematics is everywhere around us, and also within us. There is mathematics in the spread of epidemics – Covid teaches – and in changes in the weather. The equations of virus contagion date back to Vito Volterra and Alfred Lotka, who in the 1920s studied the prey / predator dynamics between fish species. The equations of modern meteorology were written in the 1960s by Edward Lorenz, the discoverer of the famous “butterfly effect”. And there is mathematics in the flood of a river, in the blood that flows inside the veins, in the wind that swells a sail, in the fluctuating stock prices, inside computers, cell phones, Artificial Intelligence. Even in the flavor of a coffee or a steak.

Equations of the heart
Yes, math is everywhere. Inside everything – be it a football match, the America’s Cup-winning Alinghi boat or kneading machines – are equations. But to see them you need a clear and safe guide like the one Alfio Quarteroni (photo above) will offer to the public of the Circolo dei Lettere di Torino (via Bogino 9) on May 5th at 6.30pm. Professor at the Polytechnic of Milan and Lausanne, an internationally recognized authority in the field of mathematical modeling, Quarteroni will entertain the audience on the topic “Algorithms for a new world“, which is also the title of the book that a few months ago he published at Dedalo Editions (85 pages, 11.50 euros). For those wishing to deepen the discussion, but always having fun and discovering the power of numbers, Quarteroni also wrote “The equations of the heart, rain and sails” (Zanichelli, 160 pages, 12 euros), where you can become familiar with mathematical models to simulate (and predict) the most varied phenomena of nature and predict their manifestations. “The equations of the models – writes Quarteroni – are objectives aimed at the future”, and the abstraction of mathematics is the most powerful tool to simulate reality, provided, of course, the starting data are correct,

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Models for reading nature
These two books are two perfectly complementary readings. The first, without giving up a “historical” approach, is more focused on recent developments in Artificial Intelligence, and therefore on neural networks, on “learning machines” and on the use of the enormous amount of data made available by the devices that we use the much talked about “Big Data” on a daily basis. The second, on the other hand, is aimed at explaining how mathematical models that can be “read” in reality are built and how they work, and therefore also “write” to represent it more or less precisely according to needs. There is some formula, but you just need to understand the fundamental concepts. You will discover projects such as Blue Brain, which studies the cognitive processes of sight, taste and smell; and technological challenges such as the Solar Impulse mission, a solar-powered plane that traveled around the world in 2015-2016.

Tools to understand
We all now use Artificial Intelligence tools, even without knowing it. We talk to Alexa and Siri, the car we drive reads road signs, Google translates from dozens of languages ​​and searches for the results that best fit our continuously updated user profile. All of this poses cultural, social and political problems that have yet to be largely addressed, but it cannot be denied that it is comfortable. But if we want to maintain dominance over these tools we need to understand how they work.

Machines that learn
At the Circolo dei Lettere Alfio Quarteroni will deal in particular with “machine learning”, that is the ability to learn computers based on training thanks to large sets of data, and computational science, that is, the use of mathematical models based on the fundamental principles of physics. That said, it seems something intangible and abstract, but in practice we will talk about medicine, epidemiology and competition sports. The football and volleyball coaches can confirm this.

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Science meets Turin
Quarteroni’s conference is part of the free admission cycle “Science meets Turin: Dialogues on Contemporary Mathematics” organized by the Department of Mathematics of the University of Turin in collaboration with the “Luigi Lagrange” association, and precisely by Michele Maoret, Susanna Terracini and Luigi Vezzoni. Susanna Terracini, director of the “Giuseppe Peano” Department of Mathematics, will participate in the meetings by outlining the objectives.

Waves around us
After Quarteroni, Michela Procesi, professor at the University of Roma Tre, will have to talk about “Order and chaos in the wave dynamics”. Many physical phenomena can be precisely described as wave propagation: the oscillating motions of the sea surface, the sound vibrations that propagate in the air, electromagnetic waves (visible light, ultraviolet, X rays, gamma rays, infrared radiation, radio waves ). Michela Procesi will illustrate the mathematical methods to study them in a popular way.

The most mysterious objects
Dario Martelli, professor at the University of Turin, will close the cycle with the conference “What are black holes?”. These cosmic phenomena are predicted and described by Einstein’s theory of general relativity (1916) in an elegant geometric language. For half a century considered more theoretical than real objects, “black holes” have now become one of the most relevant aspects for understanding the universe. The most massive stars become black holes when they collapse at the end of their life and gigantic black holes are found in the center of most galaxies. These space-time singularities, first studied indirectly, since 15 September 2015 are observed directly through the gravitational waves they generate in their collisions, detected with sophisticated “antennas” operating in the United States (Ligo) and Europe (Virgo, in Tuscany, near Pisa). More antennas are under construction in various parts of the world and in space. Thus a new “window” has opened from which to observe the most powerful and unusual phenomena of the universe.

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