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|Subject: Curse of the infinite||Date: 12/13/2012 1:05 PM|
|Author: LorenCobb||Number: 414681 of 446889|
Over the past five years I have gradually transformed myself into a specialist in infinite-dimensional statistics. Partly that was because the challenge was extraordinary, and partly because there happens to be interest at NSF and other funding agencies in this research direction.
Another reason, which I am careful never to mention on grant applications, is that I am continually fascinated by the history of humanity's encounter with the infinite and the infinitesimal, beginning with ancient religious arguments over God (infinitely good, infinitely wise, infinitely powerful, etc) and Angels (how many can dance on the point of a pin?). This is an ongoing story -- we haven't reached the last chapter by any means. Almost all of the argument has moved slowly, over centuries, from theology into mathematics, but all the major themes remain roughly the same. When we do math we are doing what medieval theologians used to do, just with a different name and an improved standard of rigor.
My latest work has just been funded for the coming two years by NSF. Ostensibly our purpose is to develop tracking models for wildfires, but this is just our public application. My personal interest lies with understanding what it really means to deal with infinite-dimensional data and knowledge -- just the sort of question that would also have appealed to any number of medieval theologians.
Here is a link to a thread on the climate board, with links to a recent press release about our grant, some papers, and other stuff. Some of you may find it of interest.
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