Fields Medal Prof Hugo Duminil-Copin lecture on Mathematics of Percolation

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NTU Singapore is hosting two exceptional lectures with Fields Medal Prof Hugo Duminil-Copin and Prof Leslie Valiant on 12 January.


“The Mathematics of Percolation” by Prof Hugo Duminil-Copin


The talk will explain how mathematicians study statistical physics models describing porous media. These models, called percolation models, have found numerous applications in different fields of science, and have become a fundamental object of study in probability theory.


About the speaker: A probability expert with a passion for physics, Prof Hugo Duminil-Copin was appointed as an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Geneva in 2013, right after his postdoctorate, and then became a full professor in 2014. He has also been a permanent professor at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in Bures-Sur-Yvette since 2016.


In 2022, he was awarded the Fields Medal by the International Mathematical Union, the most prestigious award in mathematics, in recognition of his groundbreaking contributions to the study of flow-related properties in complex networks. He has worked towards solving longstanding problems in the probabilistic theory of phase transitions in statistical physics. To this end, he analyses various models of fluids flowing through a porous medium, like water coursing through coffee grounds. These models involve the formation of connected clusters in random networks, such as the spread of a disease. His generalisation of percolation theory has transformed the whole understanding of the physical phenomena.


“What is Humanity’s Distinguishing Capability?” By Prof Leslie Valiant 

We seek to define the capability that has enabled humans to develop our civilisation, and that distinguishes us from other species. For this it is not enough to merely identify a distinguishing characteristic – we want a capability that is explanatory of our achievements. For this definition to be precise, it must be computational in the sense that the expected outcomes of employing the capability should be both clearly specifiable and computationally feasible. This formulation is related to the goals of artificial intelligence research but is not synonymous with it. We propose a capability that encompasses learning, reasoning, and more, which we call ‘educability.’ What we ask computers to do largely aligns with human interests and ambitions. Therefore, gaining a better understanding of human capabilities may also benefit future technology.


About the speaker: Prof Leslie Valiant is currently the T. Jefferson Coolidge Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In 2010, he received the Association for Computing Machinery A.M. Turing Award, the highest honour in computer science for his fundamental contributions to the development of computational learning theory and to the broader theory of computer science.


Prof Valiant’s research spans multiple areas ranging from theoretical computer science to parallel computation, as well as artificial intelligence and computational neuroscience, among others. His work includes the study of both natural and artificial phenomena. The former encompasses the algorithms used by computing objects, such as the human brain, while the latter includes computers and their capabilities. He is the author of Circuits of the Mind and Probably Approximately Correct: Nature’s Algorithms for Learning and Prospering in a Complex World, with his new book The Importance of Being Educable: A New Theory of Human Uniqueness slated to be published in April 2024.


Link to register:

12 Jan 2024 10.30 AM – 01.00 PM

Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre, NTU Singapore

Photo @CNRS