Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jonathan Edwards looks at ... us!

Olympic triple-jumper Jonathan Edwards has recently completed a series for BBC Radio 4, looking into the way science shapes and explains our world.

In the final programme in the series, Jonathan looks into Artificial Intelligence. A keen fan of science fiction, especially films like The Matrix, Jonathan wants to know how much science fact there is in fictional AI.
Jonathan visits the School of Informatics and gets a crash course on machine learning and voice synthesis.
He also discusses the convergence of biological and technological worlds, and hears about an intelligent system designed to help us deal more efficiently with emergencies.
After talking to Edinburgh philosopher, Andy Clark, about concepts of intelligence, he rounds off his day playing Connect Four with a talking, thinking, moving robot.
Having seen what AI can do, Jonathan emerges with renewed respect for a biological machine that’s all too often taken for granted - our own bodies.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Distinguished Lecture: Donald MacKenzie

Professor Donald MacKenzie

Models and Markets:
Option Theory and the Construction of Derivatives Markets

4pm Wednesday
7 March 2007
Lecture Theatre 1
Appleton Tower
11 Crichton Street

The talk will be followed by a reception.

What difference does it make to a market for there to be a well-regarded mathematical model of the market, especially one that is not just an external analysis by academics but is used by market practitioners?

This talk will ask this question mainly in regard to the most famous model in modern financial economics, the Nobel-Prize winning Black-Scholes-Merton model of option pricing, which is the core mathematical foundation of the global market in ‘financial derivatives’. (At the end of June 2006, derivatives contracts outstanding worldwide totaled $454 trillion, the equivalent of nearly $70,000 for every human being on Earth.)

The talk will describe how the practical uses of the model initially had the effect of making markets more like the postulates of the model, but will discuss how this effect reversed in direction in the 1987 stock market crash, with near-disastrous consequences for the global financial system.

No previous knowledge of economics will be necessary to understand the talk: what an ‘option’ and a ‘derivative’ are, and what the Black-Scholes-Merton model consists in, will be explained in simple terms.

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