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When Daphne Koller met Judea Pearl. When Feynman met Dirac. When The Beatles met Bob Dylan.

Daphne Koller is the leader of a mega-startup (Insitro) that uses Machine Learning (do they use Causal Bayesian Networks???) to do drug research. She also co-founded Coursera with Andrew Ng, and she co-wrote with  Nir Friedman a 1200 page book about Probabilistic Graphical Models (e.g., Bayesian Networks)

Judea Pearl won a Turing award (commonly referred to as the Nobel prize of computer science) for his work on Bayesian Networks and Causal AI.

Recently, I posted a Tweet about Daphne Koller to which Judea Pearl responded with a question to Daphne Koller

https://twitter.com/yudapearl/status/1330393994661154817

Both Daphne Koller and Judea Pearl are longtime heroes of mine. I would be so thrilled to be a fly on the wall that could listen to their conversations.  All this started me thinking that it would be highly instructive and inspiring, not just to me, but to other fans of theirs and to Bayesian Net/ Causality aficionados all over the world, to hear them converse and ruminate in public (verbally or in writing). Plus, I think it could prove to be highly beneficial to both of them. There is historical precedent where a conversation between two towering scientific or artistic figures, which Daphne Koller and Judea Pearl certainly are, caused the two figures to make important course corrections to their scientific and artistic styles. I end with two examples when this happened, the first example (The Beatles meet Bob Dylan) is probably apocryphal but rather funny, but the second example (Feynman meets Dirac)  is well documented.

It's not uncommon for writers to write stories about conversations between famous historical figures, call them A and B, conversations that changed the world. Sometimes those conversations are obvious fabrications, fun exercises of imagination, because A and B did not overlap temporally.

At others times, the historical record shows conclusively that A and B did meet, but the stories about said meeting sound a bit too perfect to be true. For example, I once read a funny story about the day The Beatles met Bob Dylan. Supposedly, Bob Dylan told the Beatles that their songs were too easy to understand, and advised them to be more cryptic, resulting in a new, more trippy style for the Beatles, the one in the Sgt. Peppers album.

Sometimes, the historical record is much less flimsy and more believable, as happened with A=Richard Feynman (1918-1988) and B=Paul Dirac (1902-1984). Those 2 met in at least 3 scientific conferences in 1946 (Princeton Univ. ), in 1948 (Poconos), in 1963 (Warsaw), so their conversations spanned a period of 17 years.  The story of those 3 encounters is beautifully told in the article given below. Dirac was notoriously eccentric and terse, whereas Feynman was ebullient and charismatic. So their encounters were hilarious.

But a more serious take-away is that in their first encounter, Dirac and a bunch of other famous physicists were very critical of Feynman's theory of quantum electrodynamics. They thought it was too hand-wavy and violated many important basic principles of physics. Feynman's pride was badly hurt, so over the next 3 years, he buckled down, and wrote the 4 papers that put his hand-wavy theory on firmer footing and ultimately won him the Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1965, together with Tomonaga and Schwinger.

"When Feynman Met Dirac" by Jørgen Veisdal (link to Medium blog post)

If you don't suscribe to Medium, you might be able to access it via an incognito tab in your browser, or via this twitter tweet:

https://twitter.com/artistexyz/status/1332889774978445312

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