David Gondek

Tricksters of Big Data:
Artificial Intelligence or Intelligent Artifice?
With Dr. David Gondek

MacLean Ballroom, 112 S. Michigan Ave.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 4:30 p.m.

Between digitization and prestidigitation, an appreciation of the cognitive mechanisms underlying human perception and reasoning can be used as valuable inspiration for Artificial Intelligence (AI) researchers to construct intelligent systems—or instead, can be used as magicians' devices to persuade audiences of their legerdemain.

David Gondek, SAIC's first-ever visiting Scientist-in-Residence will attempt to untease into which camp Artificial Intelligence falls by exploring the science behind its recent advancements, the scientific and media portrayals of notable human-machine matchups such as computer chess and Jeopardy!, and more recent attempts to predict the imminent dissemination of intelligent machines into other domains. Along the way he will discuss how to peel back the curtain to understand and assess AI technologies such as Knowledge Representation, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing which underlie many of the cutting-edge systems in use today; revisit the recent history of human-machine misunderstandings; and look forward to what the future might hold for progressively intelligent computer systems and the world that we will increasingly share.

David Gondek is the first Scientist-in-Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. At IBM Research, he led the Watson Game Strategy and Knowledge Capture and Learning groups for the IBM Jeopardy! Challenge, which saw a computer system defeat grand champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on the nationally televised quiz show in 2011. For this victory the project received the distinction of winning both the AAAI Feigenbaum Prize for advancements in experimental Artificial Intelligence as well as the first Webby "Person of the Year" Award granted to a computer system. Following Watson's victory, Gondek served as Technical Lead for IBM Research's adaptation of Watson to the medical domain before leaving IBM in 2013. He holds a B.A. in Mathematics and Computer Science from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Brown University.

This event is open to the general public.

Read an interview with Gondek here.


Conversations on Art and Science:
Felice Frankel

Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 4:15 p.m.
The Leroy Neiman Center, 37 S. Wabash Ave.


Science photographer Felice Frankel is a research scientist in the Center for Materials Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Working in collaboration with scientists and engineers, Frankel has published her images in more than 200 journal articles and/or covers and various other publications for general audiences, such as National Geographic, Nature, Science, Newsweek, Scientific American, Discover, and New Scientist.

She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has received awards and grants from the National Science Foundation,  National Endowment for the Arts,  Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,  Guggenheim Foundation,  Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation,  Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, among others. Frankel was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and was awarded the Distinguished Alumna Award at Brooklyn College, CUNY and the Lennart Nilsson Award for Scientific Photography.


The Monster at the Heart of the Milky Way:
A public science lecture by astrophysicist Andrea Ghez

Tuesday, October 15, 2013, 6:00–7:00 p.m.
MacLean Ballroom, 112 S. Michigan Ave.


Andrea Ghez, Professor of Physics & Astronomy who holds the Lauren B. Leichtman & Arthur E. Levine Chair in Astrophysics, is one of the world's leading experts in observational astrophysics and heads UCLA's Galactic Center Group. By studying the motions of stars, Ghez provides the best evidence that supermassive black holes exist, challenging our knowledge of fundamental physics and suggesting that most, if not all, galaxies harbor such objects at their cores. Her work has also shown that the environment near a central supermassive black hole looks nothing like what was expected. In the near future, she hopes to test Einstein's theory of relativity, as well as theories of galaxy formation and evolution confronting time-honored hypotheses.

Ghez earned her BS in Physics from MIT in 1987, and her PhD from Caltech in 1992 and has been on the faculty at UCLA since 1994. She has received numerous honors and awards including the Crafoord Prize in Astronomy (she is the first woman to receive a Crafoord Prize in any field), MacArthur Fellowship, and election to the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Her work can be found in many public outlets, including TED, NOVA's Monster of the Milky Way, Discovery's Swallowed by a Black Hole, and Griffith Observatory.

For more information see the UCLA Galactic Center Group website.

This event is sponsored by the Department of Liberal Arts, Deans' Office, University of Chicago Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the Brinson Foundation.


Conversations on Art and Science:
Ariane Koek

Tuesday, October 8, 2013, 4:15–5:45 p.m.
The Leroy Neiman Center
37 S. Wabash Ave., 1st floor

Ariane Koek leads International Arts at CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory, based outside Geneva, Switzerland. She created and initiated the laboratory's first arts policy, Great Arts for Great Science, as well as the policy's flagship program, the annual Collide@CERN artists' residency program.

Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN is the new international competition for digital artists to win a residency at CERN. It is the first prize to be announced as part of the new Collide@CERN artists' residency program initiated by the laboratory. This new prize marks a three-year science/arts cultural partnership and creative collaboration between CERN and Ars Electronica, which began with CERN's cooperation with Origin, the Ars Electronica Festival, in 2011.

Prior to CERN, Koek was CEO of the Arvon Foundation for Creative Writing, which ran 120 writers' residencies per year in four different locations. She has had an award-winning career as a BBC producer and director in both radio and television, working across arts, science, and politics. In 2009 she was award the Clore Fellowship. As part of the award she initiated coming to CERN, and has been there ever since.


Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child

Artists/Designers/Entrepreneurs: Is Art School the New Business School?
Professor Nicholas Negroponte

Friday, March 8, 2013, 3:00 p.m.
SAIC Ballroom, 112 S. Michigan Ave.

Please join us for a lecture by Nicholas Negroponte, exploring entrepreneurialism in art and design.


Nicholas Negroponte is Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT and Chairman Emeritus of the MIT Media Lab. He is is also the founder and chairman of the non-profit, One Laptop per Child. He co-founded, and was director of the MIT Media Lab and the Jerome B. Wiesner Professor of Media Technology. A graduate of MIT, Negroponte was a pioneer in the field of computer-aided design, and has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1966.

For more information, please contact Allison Green at 312.899.5136.


Channel Two Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook

Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook, as Channel TWo (CH2)
mixed.up(realities)


October 16, 2012
4:15–5:15 p.m.

SAIC Contemporary Practices faculty Adam Trowbridge and Jessica Westbrook have been collaborating since 1990. CH2 focuses on mixed reality, media, research, design, development, and distribution... authorized formats + unauthorized ideas... systems of control + radical togetherness. CH2 was awarded a Rhizome Commission in 2012, a Turbulence Commission in 2011, and a Terminal Commission in 2010.


Image courtesy of Dr. Sidney Nagel

Illumination: Designer James Carpenter and Physicist Sidney Nagel in conversation

Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 5:00-6:00 p.m.
SAIC Ballroom, 112 S. Michigan Ave.

Please join us for an interdisciplinary conversation between architect James Carpenter and physicist Sidney Nagel, exploring the role of light in their work.  

James Carpenter is the recipient of numerous awards including the National Environmental Design Award from the Smithsonian Institution and the AIA’s Honor Award as well as a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He is founder and principal of the firm James Carpenter Design Associates in New York.

Sidney Nagel is the Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor in the Physics Department and the James Franck and Enrico Fermi Institutes at The University of Chicago.


For more information, please contact Allison Green at 312.899.5136.

Image: courtesy of Dr. Sidney Nagel


Institute of Breaking: Innovator Henry King and Physicists Heinrich Jaeger and Wendy Zhang discuss themes of "breaking" in their own investigations.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012, 1:00–3:00 p.m.
The LeRoy Neiman Center, 37 S. Wabash Ave., 1st floor

This event is part of a two-day series of talks presented by the Institute of Breaking, an interdisciplinary collaboration between SAIC and the James Franck Institute and the College at the University of Chicago, bringing together voices from art, design, and science to explore new modes of artistic and scientific production and inquiry around this common theme.

Henry King is an independent innovation consultant and is currently a part-time SAIC faculty member. Heinrich Jaeger is an experimental physicist, professor, and director of the Chicago Materials Research Center. Wendy Zhang is a theoretical physicist and Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the James Franck Institute and the College at the University of Chicago.

About the Speakers

Henry King: A Break from Tradition: From Stores to Flows

From store logic to flow sense: we are seeking a break in how we think about the world. For the last 10,000 years, we have made stores of animals, plants, ideas, money, people, water, and other potential resources in order to maximize their usefulness to us. Now is the time for a different approach.

Henry King is an independent innovation consultant, using the methods and tools of innovation and IT to help organizations and regions achieve their transformation goals. His client list includes organizations of all types and sizes in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Southesast Asia, and the former Soviet Union. He is currently helping a commercial, nonprofit, and educational consortium design a new model for health and wellbeing in rural Appalachia. He is also helping design new school models in the United States and in the Middle East.

Henry King is a part-time faculty member and design council member of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he teaches in the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects and engages with students and interdisciplinary faculty in the areas of innovation, design, and creativity. King studied Classics at Oxford University. He has written on innovation themes in Businessweek and Fast Co. Design.

Dr. Heinrich Jaeger: Breaking Granular Fluids

What if the molecules in a liquid were 100,000 times larger than normal? This unfamiliar world of ultralow surface tension can be realized in fluids comprising seemingly simple granular material, for example, in jets of fine dry sand or in freely flowing powder streams. Jaeger discusses recent experiments where he and his team use high-speed video and computer simulations to track how granular fluids evolve and eventually break apart into droplets.

Heinrich Jaeger is an experimental physicist whose current research focuses on investigations of self-assembled nanoparticle structures, the rheology of dense suspensions, and on studies of the packing and flow of granular materials. He received his PhD in physics in 1987 and has been on the faculty at the University of Chicago since 1991, directing the Chicago Materials Research Center from 2001–06, and the James Franck Institute from 2007–10.

Dr. Wendy Zhang: What is the sound of a glacier breaking?

During the summer, glaciers in Greenland, which flow into the ocean, shorten in length by calving icebergs from their seaward edges. Icebergs that are long and narrow slabs capsize as they calve. Each capsize releases an enormous amount of energy into the surrounding environment. It also gives rise to long-period seismic waves detectable over the entire earth.

At present we do not understand how the energy released by an iceberg capsizing is subsequently partitioned among processes such as mixing of the stratified ocean water, compression of the ice mélange, or generation of small-scale tsunami waves; nor do we know to what degree the seismic signals can be decoded to give specific physical information about the condition of the glacier. Wendy Zhange will describe ongoing efforts to address these questions using tabletop experiments and models of idealized capsizes.

Zhang is a theoretical physicist interested in fluid flows, solid motions, as well as the nonlinear interactions between these two kinds of movements. She has studied how the singular dynamics of liquid drops near pinch-off can be organized toward a universal form by scaling while simultaneously also disorganized by instabilities. Other works explore the aftermath of singular forcings by analyzing how granular streams and liquid drops respond after impact. She received her PhD from Harvard in 2001 and joined the faculty at the University of Chicago after a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at University of Chicago and at University of Texas-Austin. She is currently is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics, the James Franck Institute, and the College at the University of Chicago.

Lectures continue on Wednesday, October 3 at University of Chicago as part of the Computation in Science Lecture Series in the Kersten Physics Teaching Center, room 206 at the corner of 57th Street and Ellis Avenue. 12:30–1:30 p.m. with discussion following.

October 3 speakers include:

Alan Rhodes: Breaking & Barriers: Between the Virtual and the Real

Dan Price: Title TBD

Dr. Sidney Nagel: Topological Transitions and Singularities in Fluids:  The Life and Death of a Drop


Shane Mecklenburger

Here + Now Dean's Lecture Series
Shane Mecklenburger (MFA 2009)
The End & Beginning of Everything

September 11, 2012, 4:15– 5:15 p.m.


SAIC alumnus Shane Mecklenburger (MFA 2009) collaborates with systems of value, transaction and conflict by making diamonds, 'weaponizing' paint, turning love into money and repurposing shooter games. He is an Assistant Professor of Art at The Ohio State University.

http://www.shmeck.com