School of Science and Engineering

The Harrington STEM Lectures

The School of Science and Engineering hosts this series of lectures on major topics of current scientific interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). These lectures, each designed for a general scientific audience, are given by recognized scholars from around the country. The public is cordially invited to these lectures at no charge. 

John Harrington was the founding dean of the SUNY New Paltz School of Science & Engineering. This lecture series honors his years of dedication to science, education and collaboration across the STEM disciplines.

For further information, please email or call 845-257-3784.

All lectures take place in Science Hall, Room 181, at 5 p.m. 
A casual reception with light refreshments will begin at 4:30 p.m. 
To view the lecture via Webex, click on the lecture title. 

April 4, 2023 

Dr. Simon Wing
Johns Hopkins University

Using Information Theory to Uncover Space Wonders from the Sun to Saturn and Beyond

A grand tour of space wonders from the Sun to Saturn is presented, including sunspots, aurora, space storms, space weather, and strange radio waves emitted by planets.  Most of these phenomena are manifestations of complex nonlinear physical systems.  These systems can be characterized as input-output or causal-effect problems in which multiple input variables can be linearly and nonlinearly causally related to multiple output variables.  Isolating the effect of an individual input variable or driver can be challenging.  Likewise, identifying the response to a particular input variable can be nontrivial in such system.  Information theory can help untangle the drivers, describe the underlying dynamics and response, and offer constraints to modelers and theorists, leading to better understanding of the system.  To illustrate the methodology, a few examples from space are presented: (1) identifying causalities in the solar dynamo problem; (2) untangling the drivers of the solar wind–radiation belt system; and (3) identifying the source of the periodic radio wave emissions at Saturn.  Implications to other stellar systems and exoplanets are discussed.