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Entropy: Gaining Knowledge by Admitting Ignorance

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Duration: 0:52:31 | Added: 03 Dec 2018
Alexander Schekochihin, Professor of Theoretical Physics, gives a talk on entropy.

When dealing with physical systems that contain many degrees of freedom, a researcher's most consequential realisation is of the enormous amount of detailed information about them that she does not have, and has no hope of obtaining. It turns out that this vast ignorance is not a curse but a blessing: by admitting ignorance and constructing a systematic way of making fair predictions about the system that rely only on the information that one has and on nothing else, one can get surprisingly far in describing the natural world. In an approach anticipated by Boltzmann and Gibbs and given mathematical foundation by Shannon, entropy emerges as a mathematical measure of our uncertainty about large systems and, paradoxically, a way to describe their likely behaviour—and even, some argue, the ultimate fate of the Universe. Alex Schekochihin will admit ignorance and attempt to impart some knowledge.

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