Kavli Frontiers Symposium

Last week I attended and gave a talk at the Kavli Frontiers of Science symposium. It was held at the National Academy of Sciences in Irvine, and is one of those truly interdisciplinary conferences where you get to hear people from fields like material science to astronomy talking to and with each other. The 2010 talks aren’t up yet, but the archive or the past talks are. It was one of the most enjoyable conferences I’ve been to. The normal conference circuit is good but it’s also a lot of work. You’re always trying to track the latest trends and ideas, and implicitly or explicitly measuring your work against others in the field or adjacent fields. Here everybody is so different that it’s worthwhile to just sit back, relax, and learn something about the big topics in other the sciences. It’s like being an undergrad again without any of the downsides of being an undergrad!

Still, just because the topics are different doesn’t mean the problems are completely dissimilar. I particularly like the session on Cryosphere Hydrosphere Interaction, not least because I learned two new words. The other thing I learned was that ice caps on mountains like Kilimanjaro are essentially in equilibrium with the surrounding environment, so it’s easy to understand the effects of global warming. Ice sheets on the other hand, are a totally different beast. Because they are so massive they change the environment around them; and to model the effects requires knowledge of parameters and mechanisms that we know very little about. Now since this is all from memory the details are probably totally wrong, but I think it makes for a pretty nice physical analogy to what makes economic phenomenon complicated.

California Cognitive Science Conference

Yesterday I gave a talk at the 2010 California Cognitive Science Conference, run by the undergraduate student association of the same name. I had a great time, and found out to my amazement that it really is an undergraduate run conference. Yes I know it’s in the description and all, but there was nary a supervising “adult” in sight, impressive for a conference that had students coming from all across the state, and certainly better run than some of the conferences I’ve been to before. All of which makes me feel old and think, “Kids these days...”, but in a good way.

P.S. A couple of people asked if I can send them my slides, so
here they are.