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The Future of Financial Mathematics

Science and Technology September 6th, 2013, Nicole El Karoui / Professor of Applied Mathematics, Pierre et Marie Curie University (Paris VI), Research Director, Center for Applied Mathematics, Ecole Polytechnique

How do financial mathematics specialists imagine the markets in five to ten years? What exactly will their role look like? To understand these issues, we need to take a closer look at the way this field has developed and at the issues that have shaped the discipline.

The venture investor and former Facebook executive examines technologies he thinks will improve the quality of life and economic output, and explains why most executives undervalue technical proficiency.

A Brief History of Robots

Science and Technology July 18th, 2013, Franck Latxague / Engineer, cofounder and editor-in-chief of

As well as androids they are our self-guided vacuum-cleaners, our GPS, an automated line on the Paris metro linking two of the city's main underground stations, Internet search engines… From mechanized figurines to the first robot arm, a brief journey through a history 3000 years in the making.

Microfluidics is the science of how we analyse and handle fluids at a micrometric level. MIT's Technology Review regularly cites this technology as being one that could change the world. Why?

Cancer diagnosis and treatments today are undergoing deep-reaching changes. Therapeutic strategies, until recently, could be summarised as ablation of the diseased organs and destruction of cancerous cells, often leading to serious unwanted effects that weaken the patient or limit the efficiency of the cancer treatment. But innovative approaches are emerging. They target cell functions and its close environment.

Solar photovoltaic energy: today’s crisis and tomorrow’s technologies

Science and Technology April 19th, 2013, Didier Roux / Member of the French Academy of Sciences, of the French Academy of Technologies, Director of Research & Innovation, Saint-Gobain Group

Could solar power provide some of the needed energy of the future? The much improved availability of natural gas and the crisis that the photovoltaic industrial sector has been experiencing since 2011 serve to make us cautious, viz., not to be over-optimistic. On one hand, we can witness the strategic policies chosen by China and, on the other, the expected advent of new PV cells, could together change the scene. Consequently, we must carefully examine and assess the economics, their dynamics and the supporting technologies.

Big Data marked a break in the evolution of information systems from three points of view: the explosion of available data, the increasing variety of these data and their constant renewal. Processing these data demands more than just computing power. It requires a complete break from Cartesian logic. It calls for the non-scientific part of human thought: inductive reasoning.

Could thorium and molten salts represent the future of nuclear power?

Science and Technology March 12th, 2013, Daniel Heuer / Senior Researcher, Laboratoire de physique subatomique et de cosmologie (Grenoble, France)

Generation IV reactors raise many hopes and expectations, in terms of optimised use of resources, reduced wastes, better safety factors. They are still on the drawing-board today, but may replace, somewhere in the future, Generation III reactors (the EPRs) considered as more efficient than today’s PWRs (pressurised water). Physicist Dr Daniel Heuer is currently studying one of the 6 concepts pre-selected in 2008 by the yearly Generation IV International Forum (that set the priority orientations), viz., the concept of molten salt reactors (MSRs) associated with the thorium cycle. What exactly are the advantages of this new technology? Will MSRs earn their place in nuclear power production?

A Brief History of Financial Uncertainty

Science and Technology December 27th, 2012, Eric Brian / Senior professor at Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS, Paris)

Concern is on the rise regarding financial uncertainty, its form and its nature. Is it merely exacerbated during a temporary crisis? Or, with the most unexpected phenomena always possible, is any attempt at forecasting doomed to be vain? It turns out both commonplace statements are missing the point: financial uncertainty is permanent, malleable, and resistant - it is by no means an abstraction that could be dismissed through means of calculation. Far from being constant, its structure varies throughout history: it depends on the given institutional frameworks that allow the flow and recording of economic information.

Rhetoric in Economics

Science and Technology December 3rd, 2012, Itzhak Gilboa / Professor of Economics & Decision Sciences at HEC Paris (AXA Chair for Decision Sciences)

Students, as well as the public, often raise questions about the scientific nature of economics. Indeed, while economics uses very sophisticated mathematical models, their predictive success leaves much to be desired. Yet, economists feel that they learn a lot from these models. It is argued that part of economic theorizing does not follow the Popperian view of science; rather, some of the knowledge that is generated is analogical. According to this view, research in economics attempts to serve rhetorical purposes. As such, analogies can be useful, alongside general rules. Moreover, the role of axiomatic decision theory is understood as serving to clarify arguments in the context of public debates.

Medical Imaging: These Are the Days when Technological Frontier Renewed Scientific Discovery

Science and Technology June 28th, 2012, Wafa Skalli / Director, Laboratory of Biomechanics (Arts et Métiers ParisTech)

Advances in medical imaging make this discipline a laboratory for the latest scientific methods. Disruptive innovations stemming from the convergence of medicine and physical sciences lead to fundamental questions: is there a place for experts against machines? How to reconcile statistical data, mass produced by new devices, with a focus on he who is central to medical practice: the individual?

The May 31 successful splashdown of the Dragon capsule, the first private spacecraft to make a trip to the International Space Station, was a major milestone in the entry of private companies into the business of space exploration. The Dragon, built and launched by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, dramatically demonstrated that private enterprises will now be critical players in space at a time when governments around the globe face fiscal pressures that are forcing them to rethink their galactic ambitions. These firms are pouring money into developing new spacecraft for everything from transporting cargo to asteroid mining, creating new industries that offer tremendous opportunity - and tremendous risk.

Is Modular Design the Key to Fast Innovation?

Science and Technology May 23rd, 2012, Nicolas Bry / Senior vice-president, Orange Innovation Group

In recent years, many firms have sped up their innovation processes. But can we protect the meaning and relevance of innovation while accelerating and increasing its impact? This is exactly the issue challenged by component innovation.

The most ancient living beings appeared 3.8 billion years ago: in terms of sustainability, Nature is far ahead from human societies… Each species owes its survival to a natural process of adaptation, a series of trials and errors that led to an expertise and creative genius which are available, for us to use as an inexhaustible source of inspiration: that's the starting point of biomimicry. What could seem at first like an extravagant whim is in fact at the heart of high-end technologies such as aeronautics or medicine.

Of Speculators and their Demons, and Being Reasonable

Science and Technology January 2nd, 2012, Eric Brian / Senior professor at Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS, Paris)

Whether it comes from ethics or from theory, the impression is that the days of the contemporary speculator are numbered. For this moody character is reckless: he is one to confuse the stock market and roulette. Economic theory has a hard time understanding him. Nevertheless, a theory of the speculator is possible.

Information is more abundant than ever. Day after day, the flood of data is growing at exponential rates. Barely ten years ago, the main issue for politics and industries, was to hold a firm grip on this daunting explosion. Today, the challenge consists in being able, in real-time, to take advantage and transform into value massive swaths of data.

Challenges and Stakes of High Performance Computing

Science and Technology November 30th, 2011, Philippe Ricoux / Executive in charge of Numerical Processing and Modeling, Scientific Division, Total

To understand tsunamis or locate oil slicks, scientists are running ever more complex models in ever more powerful machines. Some are now able to compute nearly ten million billion operations per second. Welcome to the world of HPC (High Performance Calculation) where technical challenge meets major industrial stakes.

The U.S. Senate just passed a bill reforming the patent system, without appeasing controversies that for the past ten years have been agitating academic circles as well as the Silicon Valley. Patents are generally considered to fuel innovation. But do they?

Intel's breakthrough "vertical" chip means that computer capacity will keep increasing, at least for 10 to 20 years. What will all that new firepower mean for technology and society? And what happens after that?

Role Reversal: Science Should Be Leading Technology, Not The Inverse

Science and Technology June 20th, 2011, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi / Head of the unit of regulation of retroviral infections, Institut Pasteur

Looking for balance between science and technology in modern research, we can observe it is the latter in the ascendant. Research is being dictated by the availability of technological resources but in the past, the reverse was true. Projects began by a review of the available data from which a scientific hypothesis was constructed, and finally a search for the best technological tools would begin. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi has suggested that in the rush to embrace technology, researchers may be missing the chance to learn from what worked so well in the past.

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