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The Stephen Wolfram Podcast

Technology Podcasts

Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Language; the author of A New Kind of Science; and the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research. Over the course of nearly four decades, he has been a pioneer in the development and application of computational thinking—and has been responsible for many discoveries, inventions and innovations in science, technology and business. On his podcast, Stephen discusses topics ranging from the history of science to the future of civilization and ethics of AI.

Location:

United States

Description:

Stephen Wolfram is the creator of Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha and the Wolfram Language; the author of A New Kind of Science; and the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research. Over the course of nearly four decades, he has been a pioneer in the development and application of computational thinking—and has been responsible for many discoveries, inventions and innovations in science, technology and business. On his podcast, Stephen discusses topics ranging from the history of science to the future of civilization and ethics of AI.

Language:

English


Episodes
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Science & Technology Q&A for Kids (and others) [December 15, 2023]

5/24/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers general questions from his viewers about science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: ​Can you tell us some not-widely-known insights about prime numbers? Are the distances between twin primes now quite well known, though? - What does the factoring learned in an Algebra 2 class actually do in a real-life situation? - ​​Assuming one-way functions don't exist, could the uncertainty given by a multiway function be able to save cryptography? - ​​How can we prove this randomness on a big scale? - ​​Could there be an inverse of the law of entropy increase? Something like under certain conditions, structural organization always increases? Which maybe gives rise to something like bioevolution? - Is there really an infinite amount of primes?

Duration:01:20:07

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History of Science & Technology Q&A (December 13, 2023)

5/24/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about the history of science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: Can you talk about the history of gazettes, i.e. the recording of "official" information? - Why are some older coins or bills worth more than their original face value? - ​How does Galileo's equivalence principle relate to Einstein's equivalence principle? - ​Important work from bright minds gets shelved, and then we discover the work decades later and put it to use. Have you thought of ways to reduce this happening so much? - Could you elucidate the historiographical development of string theory, assess whether its inception was exclusively within the mathematical domain, and determine if it has yielded any tangible technological advancements? - Some old things are worth more due to nostalgia. Eventually, they will lose their value again. - What is the history behind observer theory?

Duration:01:14:01

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Stephen Wolfram Readings: Why Does Biological Evolution Work

5/22/2024
Stephen reads a recent blog from https://writings.stephenwolfram.com and then answers questions live from his viewers. Read the blog along with Stephen: https://writings.stephenwolfram.com/2024/05/why-does-biological-evolution-work-a-minimal-model-for-biological-evolution-and-other-adaptive-processes/ Watch the original livestream on YouTube: https://youtu.be/T7h1jfw0oFk

Duration:02:20:28

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Business, Innovation, and Managing Life (December 6, 2023)

5/17/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about business, innovation, and managing life as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-business-qa Questions include: How do you manage conducting deep/long-term innovation with short-term commercial and funding necessities to keep the lights on? - How well would you say your current understanding of business and academics is today in comparison to when you first started your career? - What is your perspective on AI's omnipresence and ability to introduce a universal basic income into the strata of societies/economies on Earth? What rules will be applicable? - Do you think that with the disappearance of physical labor due to AI automation, it will make a comeback as a healthy hobby? - ​​How do you anticipate AI-to-AI conversations? What sort of information and insights are likely to emerge from these conversations? - ​​Do you ever take time off? - Would you say that a person whose job is also their hobby is a happy person, or a person lacking in both the job and the hobby? - ​Is game theory useful for running a business? - Not necessarily business, but fun... ​Have you ever been to a magic show? - How have interview processes changed since you began your career? - Are there ways to improve application screening and potential candidates? - Could VR/AR environments be a way to test candidates in the work environment? - Should there be an AI system that does computational language design? - The computational language could then be used to tackle problems of any kind and feed back to the language-design AI. - Do ever worry you'll end up like Wittgenstein, solving philosophy and the boundaries of science with an innovative math-related system, then a couple years later decide you're wrong?

Duration:01:25:51

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Future of Science & Technology Q&A (December 1, 2023)

5/17/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about the future of science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: Which do you think is more likely, teleportation or time travel? - I'm curious about accurately reconstructing the past using present data. Imagine a pool table where we can trace ball trajectories backward from current positions and vectors. If this works for a simple model, could we apply it to reality, tracing back to the very first moments of the universe? This could be like a "playback" of history. Do you think it's feasible with sufficient data, advanced computation and AI assistance, or are there insurmountable challenges? What ethical considerations might this raise? - We are definitely generating a germ factory on our keyboards and mice. We should use it. - "There is one more way to get from one place to another." This is what gravitational lensing is when light travels on multiple paths to us, right? - At this level, wouldn't there be some ambiguity, e.g. many different possible motions of molecules would produce the same pattern on sand? - Weren't there recently studies from MIT that were able to make hash collisions on purpose? - ​Will a web browser ever have a native runtime for a language other than JavaScript, e.g. Python, Wolfram Language, etc.? - It worries me, letting a user space code run into kernel space directly. - Is LLM the wrong direction for AI?

Duration:01:06:45

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Business, Innovation, and Managing Life (November 15, 2023)

5/10/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about business, innovation, and managing life as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-business-qa Questions include: How would you describe what you do? Can you contain it to a single sentence? - What advice do you have for future programmers? - Any advice for someone content to just "get by" financially, with zero interest in the usual understanding of "career" and probably no kids–just looking to focus on other things? - Why don't you quit CEOing and commit full time to investigating whether nature is completely computable? Does running the everyday things help? Or do you just still find it fun? - Do you think there will come a major shift in business planning with AI? - ​How much control do you maintain over the Wolfram Institute? Do you find that loosening your grip on management of the fellows' research allows for a higher chance of success in discovery? - There is this tension regarding remote working vs. being in the office. From my experience in remote-working teams, juniors/new starters take a few months before they are efficient. It appears you have mastered remote working with your teams. What do you think makes remote working a success? - Whenever you were, or are, learning new stuff as part of your independent research efforts (whether that's directly related to your work at Wolfram Research or for your own purposes), do you have a structured purpose, i.e. "I will learn X subject, topic by topic," or do you take a looser approach to things? How do you know how much time to dedicate to your various research interests? - How is innovating "outside the system" different from working within institutions? Is one better than the other for certain fields?

Duration:01:16:44

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History of Science & Technology Q&A (November 8, 2023)

5/10/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about the history of science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: ​How did taxation work before money was invented? - How did trading happen between nations that used different number systems? - Can you discuss the role of ancient civilizations, such as the Greeks, in laying the foundations of modern science and technology? - ​Did Isaac Newton spend a significant amount of time attempting to transmute lead into gold? Did he believe in all of the miracles described in the Old Testament? - What was the greatest technological advancement to come out of the Roman Empire? - ​Given what we know now about symbolic representations and languages, what do you make of the break from computable mathematics in the 1800s/1900s and our current set-theoretic foundations?

Duration:00:57:06

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Science & Technology Q&A for Kids (and others) [November 3, 2023]

5/3/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers general questions from his viewers about science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: How is it that animal species all look relatively similar, or at least similar across a breed (ex: dogs, golden retrievers), yet all humans have unique features?​​ - ​What's your intuition for Euler's number, e?​ - In the recent Halloween spirit, is there any science behind ghostly appearances?​ - If an advanced civilization lived on Earth one billion years ago, would there be signs of there existence in today's time?​ - How does photography work? How are we able to capture an image so easily, whether on film or on a phone screen?​ - Kind of a similar topic: how do mirrors reflect images, and can we trust these images or do they change our perception?​ - Is there a number like e or pi that instead of being small (under 10) is big (like over 100)? How do these numbers get specific notation/names?​ - How many digits of pi can you recite at this moment?​

Duration:01:16:08

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Business, Innovation, and Managing Life (November 1, 2023)

5/3/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about business, innovation, and managing life as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-business-qa Questions include: Will startups survive using AI and ML Technology? If so, how to compete with big industries? - How often do you find yourself stuck on what to do next? How do you decide on what project to move forward with? - How do you prepare for conference talks? Do you ever get nervous/stage fright? - Someone asked EW Deming how he felt about his speech and he responded with "I know what I said, but I am not sure what they heard." - I bring my cats to talks so they can look cute if I bomb. - Any thoughts to what a leader or manager can do to support team members to learn and manage stress? - I understand this is a very context dependent question, but lately a lot of large organisations earning profits in the billions have been scaling down their workforce. As a CEO, what would you say are common drivers/motivators behind these trends of scaling down? - What would you say is your favorite aspect of being CEO? What is your least favorite? - I would like your advice. I will retire in about 3-4 years, do you think it is too late to start learning ML, Data science, the entire artificial intelligence environment, with all the mathematics that entails? I was thinking of dedicating part of my day to streaming as a hobby. Something to keep my mind active. - I am in the software QA and testing industry. One of my challenges are convincing decisions makers about investing in early testing approaches to reduce project and product risks later. As a CEO, how would you be convinced to add priority to testing in an organisation? - Any advice on being prolific/focusing as a college student? Specifically the tradeoff between open-ended exploring and focusing. - ​I think a huge amount of the value of college is having informal discussions with small groups of people you care like. Obviously not compatible if you're focused on GPA. - Hermits acquire cats, not children!

Duration:01:13:05

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Future of Science & Technology Q&A (October 27, 2023)

4/26/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about the future of science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: How will the future of mathematics change? - ​Would there be a way to use the Moon as a gravitational tugboat to slowly tow the Earth away from the expanding surface of the red giant Sun so it can stay in the Goldilocks Zone? - What future applications do you think will come out with the discovery of the ability to measure at the attosecond time scale? - Do you think that new conjectures could also be made by AI/AGI systems? How will humans tackle the abstraction and complexity of them? - SW's TED Talk announcement + discussion of the Wolfram Physics Project - ​Could you speak a bit about energy "as the flux of causal edges through spacelike hypersurfaces"? Specifically, is there some more intuition or narrative you can provide as to why that is the case? - On the topic of conferences, do you think technology will change the format? Or will panels and standard talks remain a constant? Will AIs one day be participants? - What is it like to actually run a task on a supercomputer? - Don't you fear humans will start to live mostly in digital worlds and most cognitive energy will be spent on problems there and not in the natural sciences? - Would it be possible at some point to have both a digital and physical consciousness simultaneously? And then when you sleep, they combine or something to absorb the knowledge of both experiences? - What if we take someone's videos, articles, life notes, a lot of things... and feed them into some specialized AI, and make it answer questions and behave almost like that person? That technology is not so far away... It feels a bit like "concussions transfer." Do you think it can be classified like that? - ​Stephen's livestreams are like mini sci-fi adventures for the mind.

Duration:01:24:09

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History of Science & Technology Q&A (October 25, 2023)

4/26/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about the history of science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: ​Can you talk about the history of quicksort or Hoffman encoding? - TIFF is also lossless... I think in some version... - Standard method for 5G? That is, within 5G, does it operate on the bit level rather than the radio wave level? - There is a similar problem with SIP: not all vendors implement the same standards or follow the standard properly, and you end up with interop problems. - Would that also work with a logographic language? - The future is gonna consist of languages that are just emojis. - ​When did the study of economics form? - What's the history of "double-entry" bookkeeping? Can something as basic be redefined? - ​What were early tabulating machines like (such as the ones IBM sold during WWII)? - Do you think future historians will have a harder time parsing through all the information available in the last 50 years compared to the last century, or even two centuries? What is the best historical record for research in this case? Books, images, video, etc.? - Why doesn't copyright law allow flexibility with people who want to share their works online? When did copyright law begin? - How did legal structures evolve with the creation of the internet? Were completely new structures built because of it?

Duration:01:35:48

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Science & Technology Q&A for Kids (and others) [October 20, 2023]

4/19/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers general questions from his viewers about science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: Is it possible that individual particles have a halo of dark matter, like galaxies have?​ - ​How is antimatter made in the lab, and what makes it so difficult to produce?​ - ​I am curious about your perspective on the recent unveiling of smart glasses equipped with AI assistants (LLMs) by Meta. Do you see this development as a natural evolution of smartphones?​ - But was the separation of matter and antimatter proposed by Feynman, or earlier? And how can this be measured by experiment?​ - Are there anti-neutrons? Anti-elements?​ - Does technology behave differently depending on outside factors (such as atmospheric pressure, temperature of weather, gravity, etc.)? Is there an ideal environment? - Deionized (distilled) water won't conduct.​ - How about solar flares? How do they affect technology?​ - A gamma ray burst hit us last year about this time. It was called the BOAT (biggest of all time). Did we learn anything new from the data from that burst?​ - What determines the color of a leaf when the weather changes? Why are some yellow, some orange and some red?​ - Could there be nanites waiting for more favorable conditions to multiply (nanometer-size robots or organisms) in the samples we brought back from the asteroid Bennu? How could we be sure there aren't any?

Duration:01:05:19

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Business, Innovation, and Managing Life (October 4, 2023)

4/19/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about business, innovation, and managing life as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-business-qa Questions include: What do you think is the most important aspect to focus on or dedicate the most effort to when running a business? - You were a speaker at the All-In Summit 2023, which was a conference aimed mostly at venture capital folks. What were your impressions of this summit and its attendees? Did you attend parties at the All-In Summit? - Do you get demotivated to do things that AI might be able to do in a fraction of the time in the relatively near future? - What's your take on privacy, especially for digital services and devices (regarding companies using data to manipulate people and things similar to that)? - Could you imagine the web being washed away as it did to other technologies? - How has the concept of "intellectual property" evolved? Is land a good analogy for IP? - Do you know about the recent anti-trust cases brought against Google and Amazon? If yes, what kind of opportunities do you think would open up for competitors if they lose? - ​Have you ever gone through the patent process personally? - ​Maybe ChatGPT can make patenting things easier. - Maybe the ambiguity is a feature of natural language instead of a negative, and it's purposefully not specific to allow more expansive, unpredictable scopes of use. - With LLM lawyers, the patent disputes will end up just being a bunch of robots arguing all the time. - Is diversifying my professional ventures a worse outcome than focusing on one or two occupations that I'm really good at? - There are somewhere between five hundred thousand and two million cuneiform tablets just sitting in warehouses. Untranslated, unscanned, inaccessible. What can we do other than lament? - When you first started making sales with Mathematica, was it mostly to academics or companies? And how did you find these customers? - Let's say an amateur claims to have found a big breakthrough. How do you judge if it is worth the read?

Duration:01:15:16

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Future of Science & Technology Q&A (September 29, 2023)

4/12/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about the future of science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: What can you say about the future of physics? - Something practical: do you think pens and pencils still have room for improvement, or has writing technology been perfected? - ​Should we prioritize adding new senses to ourselves (a magnetic north sense with some device, for example) to discover more physics as pockets of computational reducibility? What possible senses? - ​When will it become the mainstream view that mathematics is merely a branch/form of computational discipline, and as such a physical science, free of Platonistic misconceptions? - ​I like the thought that there are kids now playing four-dimensional multiplayer games. The next generations won't even be able to understand the "trivial" stuff we were thinking about. - How do you envision mathematics (research to application) being practiced in the long-term future? - ​I think World of Warcraft may have helped me understand calculus better. You have a goal with a particular group setup, so what is the optimal scenario for victory given one's resources? - Which area of tech is advancing the fastest? Will this change in the future? - Will you ever invent a new language again? - Is there anything you have recently changed your mind on? If so, what is it and what might the implications be for the future of science and technology?

Duration:01:08:59

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Science & Technology Q&A for Kids (and others) [September 22, 2023]

4/12/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers general questions from his viewers about science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: If human reaction speed were faster, would that be helpful? How much faster could it be? Is the limiting factor the nerve signal relays or brain processing time?​ - Do you find it weird that on Earth, animals with bigger brains are considered the more intelligent species, but in technology, the smarter computer chips seem to always be smaller?​ - ​Could these (neuron connections) "prove" precognitions with "impossible" results from certain people?​ - Do you think the brain can be trained (or not) like a muscle?​ - ​How will brains change through Neuralink connecting to AI?​ - ​I think some parts of our brains adapted to modern (laggy) typing, so we don't really perceive it anymore.​ - By the way, they have done the same thing to brains of whales etc. and found that those whales actually have fewer neurons than humans. It's just that the size of those neurons is very big.​ - ​I'd say societies/groups are our larger-scale developing "brains." - Would bigger brains run into heating/cooling issues?​ - ​I get the feeling we'll realize nature is so much more efficient than what we hope to do with electronics that we'll soon be relying on cells for major computation.

Duration:01:03:15

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When Exactly Will the Eclipse Happen? A Multimillennium Tale of Computation

4/8/2024
Stephen reads a recent blog from https://writings.stephenwolfram.com and then answers questions live from his viewers. Read the blog along with Stephen: https://writings.stephenwolfram.com/2024/03/when-exactly-will-the-eclipse-happen-a-multimillennium-tale-of-computation/ Watch the original livestream on YouTube: https://youtu.be/7Eqhd34ytoc

Duration:02:22:44

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History of Science & Technology Q&A (September 20, 2023)

4/5/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about the history of science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: ​Were the 70s truly the golden age of electronics? - What's the history of hacking? When did security risks become a prominent issue? - ​Did you get to know Carver Mead at Caltech? - What progress did the antigravity research movement gain in the 50s–60s, and why did research eventually stop?

Duration:01:16:46

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Future of Science & Technology Q&A (September 15, 2023)

4/5/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about the future of science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: Would an alien intelligence experiencing a different slice of the ruliad (a "ruster") close to ours likely experience black holes in a similar way? - ​Is rulial space bigger than branchial space? - Maybe it's a Gaussian distribution around a point in rulial space that makes human minds? - What do you think about NASA's recently released plans to build a Moon-based radio telescope? - ​How would the signal get back to Earth from the dark side of the Moon? - Why would so many nations be interested in the Moon? - Suppose we've just gotten lucky and developed our current level of technology during a period of unusual solar calm. How do we adapt if we expect solar storms to cause havoc with our electronics, say, every few decades? - Fiber optics have reduced our vulnerability from the days when landlines were all copper. Only the power grid remains. - What does the future look like for computational language? Will it be adopted on a larger scale? - How do you anticipate biotechnology shaping the future of biomaterials and tissue engineering? - How do you see the future of information consumption? Will it all be digital? Will physical books still be relevant? Will it even be reading, or simply data chips that are inserted into the brain? - Will we ever get to a point of other mammals evolving to the intelligence level of humans?

Duration:01:29:52

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Business, Innovation, and Managing Life (September 6, 2023)

3/29/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about business, innovation, and managing life as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-business-qa Questions include: Is writing the same as thinking? - After reviewing your Wikipedia page, I noticed that you left undergraduate/postgraduate study before graduation for whatever reason. My question pertains to how you found the application process and background study for being accepted into a PhD program. If you could give some background into how much studying you had completed by that point and how you demonstrated your ability to be accepted, I would be very grateful. - ​Great piece about Doug Lenat and CYC. Any further thoughts about such intrinsically driven, lifelong research pursuits–including your own–be it their significance, their risks or anything in between? - ​I'm finishing my PhD. There are so many industries/groups! Much more than I know, for sure... How can one find "the one" in the ocean? - What made you and Jonathan decide to go on a livestream? Was it planned, or do you just randomly decide to do a livestream if the discussion is interesting enough? - ​How do you determine whether a decision should be decided short term or long term? - How did you allocate your time across strategy, product development, operations, etc., during the early stages of Wolfram Research, and how has that evolved as the company has grown? - If you could create and design a school, how would you structure the curriculum? Would it be different for elementary, middle and high school vs. college? - Do you have a favorite of your livestream series? Are there other types you'd be interested in? - ​Would you suggest working for a startup that is building on an idea from a renowned research institution, or working directly at that institution? - That's basically what they teach you when learning to ride a motorcycle. You trend toward where you're looking. - Along these lines, is it better to say "This is going to be difficult" or "Don't worry, it's not complicated"? - Do you have any advice for people who want to be independent researchers?

Duration:01:24:15

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History of Science & Technology Q&A (August 30, 2023)

3/29/2024
Stephen Wolfram answers questions from his viewers about the history of science and technology as part of an unscripted livestream series, also available on YouTube here: https://wolfr.am/youtube-sw-qa Questions include: ​Do you believe we had an exploration age? Sometimes the hype feels exponential, but maybe it's just linear. What are your thoughts? - When was it that we learned about weather being essentially mathematics and physics, which could be utilized to create weapons that can control weather and weather conditions? - ​Are you aware of any efforts (past or present) to use nature to understand mathematics instead of the other way around? - Happy belated birthday! Anything notable to say about the history of Stephen Wolfram? - What is the history of naming mathematical terms? How has this branched off into other areas of naming? - ​The major reason Greek is overused in science is the fact that ancient Greek vocabulary literally has a word for everything. - Which is better, autobiographies or biographies? Which gives a better historical record of a person?

Duration:01:37:36