DATE: Saturday, May 30, 2015
TIME: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
VENUE: Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College
MODERATOR: John Hockenberry
PARTICIPANTS: Robert C. Green, Leonard Mlodinow, Masoud Mohseni, Alan Peters

Probability is the backbone of science, but how well do you understand it? Odds are, not as well as you think; it is a surprisingly subtle concept that is often misunderstood, sometimes even by professionals who use it to guide crucial and far-reaching decisions. In this program, experts from technology, physics, medicine, and programming explore the slippery side of probability and the powerful role it plays in modern life.

The Big Ideas series is supported in part by the John Templeton Foundation.

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John Hockenberry

Three-time Peabody Award winner, four-time Emmy Award winner, and Dateline NBC correspondent John Hockenberry has broad experience as a journalist and commentator for more than two decades. Hockenberry is the anchor of the public radio show The Takeaway on WNYC and PRI. He has reported from all over the world, in virtually every medium, having anchored programs for network, cable, and radio. Hockenberry is a noted presenter and moderator at conferences such as TED, Aspen Ideas, and the World Science Festival.



Robert C. Green is a medical geneticist who directs the G2P Research Program (genomes2people.org) in translational genomics and health outcomes at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He has been continuously funded by NIH for over 26 years and has published over 300 scientific articles. Green led the first experimental trials disclosing common complex disease risk (the REVEAL Study), one of the first prospective studies of direct-to-consumer genetic testing services (the PGen Study) and was lead author on recent ACMG recommendations for return of secondary findings in clinical sequencing. He currently leads and co-leads the MedSeq Project and the BabySeq Project, respectively, two NIH-funded randomized trials designed to explore the medical, behavioral and economic implications of integrating genome sequencing into the medical care of adults and newborns.

Physicist, Author

Leonard Mlodinow is a theoretical physicist. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and taught at the California Institute of Technology. He is a popular international speaker and the author of numerous academic papers in physics and eight popular science books, including four best sellers. His most recent book is The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Universe. His book Subliminal: How Our Unconscious Mind Rules Our Behavior, won the 2013 PEN/Wilson Award as “best literary science book.” His book The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, was a New York Times editor’s choice and a New York Times notable book of the year, was short listed for the Royal Society book award, and won the Robert P. Balles Prize in critical thinking, and the Liber Press (Spain) Award for the “Popularization of Science.” The Grand Design, coauthored with Stephen Hawking, was a #1 best seller and was made into a three-part documentary on the Discovery Channel. Mlodinow has also written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Wired, The New York Review of Books, and other mass market publications. Leonard Mlodinow has created several award-winning video games, including one in conjunction with Steven Spielberg starring Robin Williams, and has written for network television, including the series MacGyver, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the comedy Night Court.

Masoud Mohseni
Quantum Physicist

Masoud Mohseni is a senior research scientist at Google Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where he develops machine-learning algorithms that fundamentally rely on quantum dynamics. A former research scientist and a principal investigator at the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT, Mohseni was also a scientific consultant at BBN Technologies. He obtained his Ph.D in physics in 2007 from University of Toronto. He then moved to Harvard University to complete a postdoctoral program in quantum simulation. His current research addresses some of the fundamental problems at the interface of artificial intelligence, quantum computation, and physics of complex quantum systems. Mohseni has developed quantum algorithms for probabilistic inference and optimization, scalable characterization and simulation of many-body systems, and optimal quantum transport in disordered systems. He is an author and the leading editor of the first scientific book on Quantum Effects in Biology, recently published by Cambridge University Press.

Alan Peters

Alan Peters is the principal architect of Neocortex. He’s also an associate professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University where he supervises research on a humanoid robot, ISAC, in the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. He has over fifty publications and has secured research funding in excess of $4 million. Well regarded among his peers in robotics, he has been a member of the NASA Robonaut research team which includes scientists from USC, MIT, and UMass. Peters’ image processing lectures have been downloaded by over 100,000 engineers worldwide. His academic work has been in four different areas: signal and image processing, mathematical morphology, electromagnetic scattering, and sensory-guided robotics.