6th HLF – Interviews with mathematics and computer science laureates: Srinivasa S. R. Varadhan
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6th HLF – Interviews with mathematics and computer science laureates: Srinivasa S. R. Varadhan
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6th HLF – Interviews with mathematics and computer science laureates: Srinivasa S. R. Varadhan

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2018

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English

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Abstract 
Laureates at the 6th HLF sit down with Tom Geller, Tom Geller Productions, to discuss their career, mentoring and their experience at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum (HLF). These renowned scientists have been honored with most prestigious awards in mathematics and computer science: Abel Prize, ACM A.M. Turing Award, ACM Prize in Computing, Fields Medal and Nevanlinna Prize. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation or any other person or associated institution involved in the making and distribution of the video. Background: The Heidelberg Laureate Forum Foundation (HLFF) annually organizes the Heidelberg Laureate Forum (HLF), which is a networking event for mathematicians and computer scientists from all over the world. The HLFF was established and is funded by the German foundation the Klaus Tschira Stiftung (KTS), which promotes natural sciences, mathematics and computer science. The HLF is strongly supported by the awardgranting institutions, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM: ACM A.M. Turing Award, ACM Prize in Computing), the International Mathematical Union (IMU: Fields Medal, Nevanlinna Prize), and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (DNVA: Abel Prize). The Scientific Partners of the HLFF are the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) and Heidelberg University.

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[Music] what is the work for which you received
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your your prize my work for which I God do I was known as small as large deviations in probability theory you calculate the chance that something happens and now sometimes it can be very small so small that you think there shouldn't matter but sometimes very small probabilities do matter for various reasons just to give a silly example if the chance that some component you know machine like a computer the chance of it failing is more than a million you may think it's doesn't matter but the machine has two million such components don't need this matter so small probabilities cannot be ignored but to calculate them requires special techniques and so my work had to do with the ways of calculating small probabilities and whose work influenced you who came before you that that made your work possible Kermit was a Swedish mathematician some connection with insurance industry and the insurance industry was interested in such problems and in the 1930s he had a contribution where he indicated the way of calculating such things and personally who are some of the who are some of the mentors who influenced you and my colleagues and there was a graduate student a group of four students in Calcutta and three of them were senior to me and some what three years or two years or one year and they were interested in probability theory and and they taught me a few things and we worked together and I would say they were responsible in some sense for my development and then when I got my doctorate and moved to New York there are senior faculty members there who was a postdoc there and they encouraged me and demented me they draw the ones that you remember the ones who you consider important mentors to you what was their style of teaching what did you respond
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so well  Boudicca project and we would
03:27
lecture to each other and so we were a small group learning things by ourselves and then for senior to me so they seen some of it before so they would lead the discussion that way it was easier for me to follow now going on to the Heidelberg laureate forum is this your first one no I don't remember maybe fourth or fifth oh really I'm surprised we haven't seen each other so did you come to the first one first one that is severe even for the one before where I planned it really amazing in February of so we forget now so why do you keep coming back I like this atmosphere I like the opportunity to meet young people from different parts of the world and the interaction is very stimulating now I know it's very early in the week but have you seen anything or heard anything that surprised you or piqued your
04:38
interest I talked to some of these students and they they've expressed their interest what they're working on and so on so I'll try to some of them are part of a workshop so go listen to them see what they're doing and it's nice to interact with them what do you hope that they get from you I think some encouragement to go on with their work and hopefully they'll understand my hard work they can achieve anything they want it's a very optimistic message that's what the forum is about it's a given people an outlook an optimistic point of view that they can raise to the same level as the laureates now returning to your own work if you were one of the students now entering your field what problems do you think would be most exciting in probability theory the current interest is in using analysis to solve some of the difficult problems in combinatorics I think now with the internet and so on graph theory and things so that sort which are highly combinatorial objects their size is huge and so you have to do some techniques from analysis in order to study them and and then various physical behavior is dominated by noise and randomness and so on of the effects one of the things we need to study is how does a large scale noise affect outcome of phenomena that sounds especially difficult if you're looking for probabilities that are very small within a large quantity of noise know what the noise large quantity of noise does it brings things into focus so sorry so certain behavior is where most of the probability is concentrated but then you may want to know what is the chance that something of the charge occurs so in fact so what you're calculating this small probabilities of or probability of events that are away from what you expect so in a sense the the the events that you're measuring for are outliers to the other players sounds interesting getting back to the students how do you think their challenges are their opportunities today are different from what you had when you were a student I think there are more opportunities no when I was a student growing up in India in order to do research after my master's degree there are perhaps one or two institutions or I could go to I was lucky enough that I could get into one of those but now the number of institutions are many so if somebody's interested in pursuing their research career its choice is not limited Tina Stewart restitutions plenty of opportunities available many scholarship many fellowships and to go abroad to get your PhD degree is much more common now so the opportunities are plentiful now well actually I'd like to
09:05
return to the HLF because you are something of an expert at it having been here so many times have you seen things change over the years here and if so how [Music] [Music] they come from is there anything else you'd like to add either about the experience here or about the way that you interact with people who see you as a mentor things are going well learning things would continue leading all the things that they hoped would happen there's nothing more and that latias should come they're busy and it's difficult for them to take a week off there's still a hope now younger you mean undergraduates perhaps or lawyers recently once oh they'll be under laureates yes yeah they tend to be very busy may interest be nice to have yeah they were fortunate to get three of the four fields medalists this year so that's that's something I do want to ask you a bit about your own mentorship style like if somebody comes up to you either here or in work how do you approach them how do you what do you want to impart to them the best
11:08
regimental and person is to work with them on something so they come to me and say they have a problem and I said okay let's look at the problem and then we work together maybe sometimes it takes weeks sometimes the project takes a year maybe they're in New York or maybe they're somewhere else they interact through email and they become visit once in a while and I think the best mentoring is through working together so I guess the question is sort
11:46
of about how your your teachers in India were were different perhaps than than those from outside of India or so I guess you're starting well in high school and a math teacher who was already in and you used to use extra problems to work on and so on so got interested in problem solving is fun so that was important and then at the University we had reasonably good teachers over encouraging but we didn't really have that close contact with the faculty at the university level as we did the school level and again when I went for PhD of course we had a very small group when we worked together so that so my interest in mathematics developed when I started out I wanted to be a statistician more than a mathematician but when I went to graduate school and started working this group of three or four people they were all more interested in mathematics for those statistics so although my PhD degrees in statistics but this is really bad mathematics and did these other people did they go on to become mathematicians yes oh yes not reaching your your level of Fame process just one quiz and we don't know to be recognized would you care to recognize them would you care to mention them to give their names office about least observe UCLA otherwise the prospect you see in the end but sadly died from the new steps against children unit was faculty news to me today I wrote that established there anything else you'd care to add about either your career or the event the un tiss is you know it's all of it most interesting humans I attend because usually I go to conferences and so on there are lectures you go to the lectures from morning till evening and you really don't have a chance to talk to the younger people you would talk to people you know meet anyway very often so this type of her and even gives you an opportunity to meet mostly with the young students and that's valuable to you even today that's very very valuable to don't trust what do you get from them sort of makes you realize how you felt when you eat so if sin that sense it's very stimulating
15:14
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