
Ahlfors Lecture series
November 1314, 2014, Organizers: HT Yau and ST Yau
Harvard University, Science Center
Speaker and Program
Avi Wigderson (Institute of Advanced Study)

November 13, 2014:
Lecture I 4:155:15 PM in SC Hall A

Randomness
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 randomness 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 survive 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 in the
past three decades, reveals (perhaps counterintuitively)
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.

November 14, 2014:
Lecture II 4:155:15 PM in SC Hall D
 Permanent and Determinant: nonidentical twins
The determinant is undoubtedly the most important polynomial function
in mathematics. Its lesser known sibling, the permanent, plays very
important roles in enumerative combinatorics, statistical and
quantum physics, and the theory of computation. In this lecture
I plan to survey some of the remarkable properties of the permanent,
its applications and impact on fundamental computational problems,
its similarities to and apparent differences from the determinant,
and how these relate to the P vs. NP problem.

