Skip to Content

back to full agenda

Urban Sciences Enabled by Computation & Data

Speaker: Charlie Catlett

Abstract: Over the next several decades, the population of the world's cities will nearly double, increasing by 2.6 billion people and requiring massive urban expansion globally. In addition to unprecedented increases in urban density and scale, cities face challenges related to adapting to climate change as well as energy, water, and food security. Today's leading cities also collect and publish an expanding volume and diversity of data and deploy advanced technologies to optimize many city services and functions.  These new data sources catalyze new applications and services with the potential to change the way that citizens interact with the built environment, city government, and one another.  Moreover, there is opportunity to apply computational tools and methods to enable cities to move from reactive to proactive policies and investments, using advanced data analytics and computational models to explore potential outcomes of new designs, plans, and expansions. Charlie Catlett, founding director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD) at Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, will discuss a range of interdisciplinary initiatives leveraging computational models and data analytics to understand cities and to enable urban design, policy, and decision-making over timescales ranging from minutes to decades.

Bio: Charlie Catlett is a Senior Computer Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and a Senior Fellow at the Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.  He is the founding director of the Computation Institute's Urban Center for Computation and Data, UrbanCCD, which brings social, physical, and computational scientists together with artists, technologists, and policy makers to explore science-based approaches to opportunities and challenges related to the understanding, design, and sustainable operation of cities.  UrbanCCD brings computational modeling, data analytics, and embedded systems capabilities to bear on the urban processes spanning the natural environment, infrastructure, and people. From 2007 to 2011 he was the Chief Information Officer at Argonne National Laboratory, and from 2004 to 2007 he was Director of the National Science Foundation's TeraGrid initiative - a nationally distributed supercomputing facility involving fifteen universities and federal laboratories.  From 1999 to 2004 Charlie directed the design and deployment of I-WIRE, a dedicated fiber optic network funded by the State of Illinois, which connects research institutions in the Chicago area and downstate Illinois to support advanced research and education. Before joining the University of Chicago and Argonne in 2000, Charlie was Chief Technology Officer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Beginning at NCSA's founding in 1985 he participated in the development of NSFNET, one of several early national networks that evolved into what we now experience as the Internet. During the exponential growth of the web following the release of NCSA's Mosaic web browser, his team developed and supported NCSA's scalable web server infrastructure. Charlie is a Computer Engineering graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

View presentation video

Information Feast, Information Famine: Big Data, Big Computing, and Big Trouble

Speaker: Charles Seife

Abstract: Information feast, information famine: big data, big computing, and big trouble. For most of our existence, our ability to store and relay knowledge has been very limited. Every time we figured out a better way to manipulate, preserve, and transmit data to our peers and to our descendantsas we moved from oral history to written language to the printing press to the telegraph to the computer ageour civilization took a great leap. In the past forty years, we have seen another such revolution. We are reaching the point where we have the ability to archive every communication between human beings anywhere on the planet. More than that, we are beginning to be able to generate and store more data than we could ever hope to use. For millennia, we were starving for information to act as raw material for ideas. For the first time, we are about to have a surfeit. In this talk, I will explore the nature of this fundamental change -- one which is as important, in its way, as the invention of the printing press -- and how it is already affecting the way we work, the way we gather knowledge and do science, and the way we live... for worse as well as for better.

Bio: Charles Seife, a professor of journalism at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, has been writing about physics and mathematics for a decade and a half. He is the author of five books, Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea (2000), which won the 2000 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction; Alpha & Omega: The Search for the Beginning and End of the Universe (2003); Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, From Our Brains to Black Holes (2005); Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking (2008), which won the 2009 Davis Prize from the History of Science Society; and Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception (2010).

Before arriving at NYU, Seife was a writer for Science magazine and had been a U.S. correspondent for New Scientist. His writing has also appeared in The Economist,Scientific AmericanThe Philadelphia InquirerDiscoverSlateSmithsonianThe Washington PostThe New York Times, and numerous other publications. He has also been a scientific consultant and writer for television documentaries about science and mathematics.

Seife holds an A.B. in mathematics from Princeton University, an M.S. in mathematics from Yale University, and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University. He lives in New York City with his wife, Meridith, and his children, Eliza and Daniel.

View presentation video