The psychic art of supercomputing

Northeastern’s own net­work sci­en­tist Alessandro Vespig­nani weighs in on the ever-​​enticing ques­tion of pre­dicting the future.

Vespig­nani joins a blogger, a busi­nessman, a tarot card reader, a psy­chol­o­gist and a cli­mate sci­en­tist on today’s episode of Big Pic­ture Sci­ence, the NPR-​​syndicated sci­ence and tech­nology podcast.

Before the 2009 H1N1 out­break, Vespig­nani pre­dicted the spread of the virus with sur­prising accu­racy. He didn’t use tarot cards though, instead he used inter­na­tional flight pat­terns and super­com­puters to chart the course of human mobility pat­terns and, sub­se­quently, the course of the virus itself.

In the future, this kind of data could be used to pre­vent wide­spread pan­demics. Sim­i­larly, the Living Earth Sim­u­lator, a project on which Vespig­nani is the lead data planner, will use mobile phone and twitter data, for example, to pre­dict the spread of ideas and knowl­edge, in addi­tion to disease.

Listen to the whole pod­cast, which is pretty inter­esting, or listen only to Vespignani’s sec­tion here.