June 21, 2020 8:00 pm

Monday, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Hannah Fry Investigate Algorithms and Data

Have you ever been surfing the apps after having a conversation with your friend about Lays chips and then you see an ad for Lays chips on your Instagram feed? You then turn to your friend and say, “What the heck?” and your friend says, “It’s the algorithm.” And you think, “What’s an algorithm?”

Storyblocks’ image of shadow figures in front of a wall of 1s and 0s.

Image Credit: Storyblocks.

On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice welcome mathematician Hannah Fry, PhD, to help us investigate algorithms and data. Hannah is a mathematician and author of Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine. Safe to say, she’s the perfect person to help us explore this epic topic.

What is an algorithm? Hannah tells us why an algorithm is not just a function of a computer. You’ll learn why a cake recipe is an example of an algorithm. With that being said, what does it mean to use an algorithm? We explore the difference between an algorithm and artificial intelligence. This leads us into a conversation about human behavior: do our behaviors on social media resemble behaviors from the primitive days of humanity?

Then, it’s time to talk about data. What is the state of big data today? Hannah explains why the biggest challenge of using data is not the amount, but the quality. Discover more about the “P vs NP Problem” and the four-color theorem and how they relate to interpreting large amounts of data.

Lastly we ponder the next evolution in data collection. Could we have something like Minority Report that predicts crime before it happens? Hanna gives us an example of this that happened already and completely failed. All that, plus, you’ll learn why sometimes the best ways to interpret data are not new.

Please join us tomorrow for Cosmic Queries – Algorithms and Data, with Hannah Fry at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re a StarTalk+ Patron or an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
-Ian Mullen

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