University of Pittsburgh
September 26, 2002

Pitt Hosts Theoretical Physicist/Genius/Software Entrepreneur Stephen Wolfram for Free Lecture Oct. 4 Author of "A New Kind of Science" challenges basic mathematical models of systems in the universe

Contact:  412-624-4147

September 27, 2002

PITTSBURGH—Healthy skepticism greets any new theory, but the skepticism is even greater when the theory claims to "force a whole new way of looking at the universe." Stephen Wolfram, whose new book, "A New Kind of Science," makes such a claim, will describe his new ideas and discoveries in a free lecture hosted by the University of Pittsburgh at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, in Room120-121 of Pitt's David Lawrence Hall, in Oakland.

Wolfram says that by thinking in terms of simple programs instead of mathematical equations, it is possible to capture the essential mechanisms of many systems in nature that have eluded scientific analysis for centuries.

Wolfram uses his approach to tackle a remarkable array of fundamental problems in science: the origins of apparent randomness in physical systems, the development of complexity in biology, the ultimate scope and limitations of mathematics, the possibility of a truly fundamental theory of physics, the interplay between free will and determinism, and the character of intelligence in the universe. His work has advanced the achievements of earlier initiatives such as cybernetics, chaos theory, fractals, and complexity theory, whose further progress has been stymied by the lack of his key discoveries. His work also has suggested new kinds of technology, from new strategies for creating computer programs on atomic scales to new forms of cryptology, new concepts for programming, and new ways to create biological and medical systems.

Wolfram's credentials are impressive. He published his first scientific paper in 1975, when he was 15 years old, earned the Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Caltech when he was 20, and, in 1981, won the MacArthur Foundation's "genius" award. In 1988, he founded Mathematica, which has become the standard software system used by millions of scientists, mathematicians, engineers, students, and others throughout the world.

Wolfram's lecture is sponsored by Pitt's Faculty and College of Arts and Sciences and departments of mathematics, computer science, and physics and astronomy.