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Starting out April 8, 2010

Posted by Sarah in Uncategorized.
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This is, I hope, going to be an interesting little project.

I’m an aspiring mathematician, starting grad school next year.  At the moment, my interests are in applied math, in particular the analysis of large data sets.  Signal processing, machine learning, image recognition, compressed sensing, diffusion maps, that sort of thing.  (I say “that sort of thing,” casually, but in reality I have a whole lot to learn.)

The thing is, I love the mathematics for its own sake, but I’m also continually fascinated by the significance, especially the social significance, of our growing capacity to manipulate and understand data.  Often the scientific problems before us are how to get knowledge from data that are dauntingly numerous, or noisy, or disorganized — in other words, to achieve by algorithm the same kinds of subtle intuition that the human mind finds effortless.

It’s epistemology, really.  It’s Hume’s problem of induction, made quantitative.

It’s also political and social — how are we going to live in a world where the colossal amounts of data we generate, online and through our medical and official records, are going to be more searchable, more analyzable than ever before?

I don’t know how, if at all, this is going to work out, but I want to understand and communicate the impact of this stuff.  I think the world is changing around me, just at a moment when I’m learning and beginning to engage in the research that explains how the world is changing.  So that’s basically the purpose of this blog.  Some mathematical ideas, some broader impacts, and inevitably some student life/randomness.

I take popularization and exposition rather seriously.  A lot of people don’t, but I grew up reading Carl Sagan, and I believe that science ultimately isn’t just for scientists.  So this will partly be an exercise in communication.

Here goes!

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