Entrance hall of the ICMSCalendar Entry

Jun 27, 2017 - Jun 27, 2017
18:00 - 19:00


Strange bedfellows: what do quantum mechanics, Google search, number theory, and tertiary admissions rankings have in common?

A public lecture by Aidan Sims,University of Wollongong

Early in the 20th century, physicists began to realise that when you look at it closely enough, the universe is much, much weirder than we had previously imagined: we can't actually tell where something is and how fast it's moving at the same time; light can't decide whether to be a wave or a particle; and subatomic phenomena give the very disconcerting impression that they can tell whether we are watching them or not.

In an effort to understand and predict these quantum phenomena, physicists and mathematicians found themselves needing to develop a new mathematical framework, which we now call operator algebras. They discovered that they had to relinquish the intuitive concreteness of classical mechanics, and model physics at the quantum scale using symmetries and compressions of infinite-dimensional spaces. Operator algebras have been studied by mathematicians and physicists alike ever since, and have turned out to have remarkable things to say about parts of mathematics that seem about as far from quantum physics as you can get.

We will take a leisurely tour of the development of these ideas: where they came from and what they've achieved in quantum mechanics; how they came to be tied up with questions that came from the theory of computation and others from the study of the famous Riemann hypothesis; and how some of the mathematics that emerged relates to the way that Google decides which web pages to show you, and how the Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking is calculated.

Tickets are free but should be reserved in advance via Eventbrite.

The talk will be followed by a reception to which all attendees are invited.