Santa Fe Institute

Video: Jordan Ellenberg on the power of uncertainty and contradiction

Oct. 19, 2016 4:12 p.m.

Math is often thought of as a discipline of certainty and consistency — of black and white, zeroes and ones. In reality, mathematics is full of uncertainty and contradiction.

During an October 18 SFI Community Lecture in Santa Fe, mathematician and author Jordan Ellenberg showed how this gray area offers powerful tools for thinking about the seemingly non-mathematical, uncertain, and often contradictory matters that dominate our lives. Using wide-ranging examples — weather, disease modeling, Nate Silver, irrational numbers, and Theodore Roosevelt, to name a few — Ellenberg explored math’s hidden powers.

Watch the talk (64 minutes)

Hear KSFR's radio interview with Ellenberg (3 minutes)

Ellenberg is the John D. MacArthur Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in 2015 was named a Guggenheim Fellow. His work has been featured in major newspapers including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Boston Globe, and he has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered. Ellenberg’s 2014 book How Not to be Wrong was a New York Times bestseller, and his novel, The Grasshopper King, was a finalist for the 2004 Young Lions Fiction Award.

SFI’s 2016 Community Lecture series is made possible through generous underwriting from Thornburg Investment Management, with additional generous support from The Lensic Performing Arts Center

SFI President's Circle members are offered reserved, front-row seating at SFI Community Lectures. Not yet a President's Circle member? Learn more or join now.

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