NSC 110: Dean's Scholar's Seminar

  • Professor: Lorenzo Sadun
  • Classes: Tuesdays 2-3PM, UTC 3.120
  • Website: http://www.ma.utexas.edu/~sadun/F10/Seminar
  • Office: RLM 9.114
  • Office Hours: M11-12, Tu11-12:15. I generally keep an open door, so feel free to stop by any time.
  • Phone: 471-7121
  • Email: sadun@math.utexas.edu
  • This class is about understanding the world with partial information. Death and taxes notwithstanding, certainty is very hard to come by -- Descartes said that the only sure thing is that we exist, and other philosophers aren't even sure about that. But we don't just throw up our hands and pretend that we don't know anything. We have lives to live, jobs to do, and decisions to make, all based on doubtful knowledge. So how do we manage?

    Different professions have different approaches to managing this problem, and we're going to explore a few of them.

    For the first two sessions, I'll explain the mathematics of conditional probability and Bayes' theorem and we'll talk about how that's the basis for the scientific method. After that, we'll have a series of guest speakers, each talking about how his or her profession handles things.

    In the second half of the semester, students will present and discuss their own analysis, either about ways that people handle uncertainty, or about ways that they should handle uncertainly but don't.

    Each student is expected to
    (1) attend every session and sign in,
    (2) participate actively in the discussions,
    (3) read the materials that will be assigned from time to time, and
    (4) prepare and deliver a presentation on a (relevant) subject of his or her choice.

    Unless a problem develops with people slacking off, there will not be any written homework or tests. The course grade will be based 60% on attendance and participation, and 40% on the presentation.

    Here is the schedule of presentations and outside speakers for the second half of the semester:

    October 19: Andy Liao and Preston Stolte
    October 26: Dr. Phil Huang
    November 2: Judge Marilyn Aboussie
    November 9: Dustan Levenstein and Ryan Vik
    November 16: Justin Su and Linhao Zhong
    November 23: Representative Mark Strama
    November 30: Nathan Schuetz and Will Berdanier