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Published on Dec 20, 2016
"Schrödinger's Smoke" Peter Schröder, the Shaler Arthur Hanisch Professor of Computer Science and Applied and Computational Mathematics, conducts research in computer graphics, more specifically in geometric and physical modeling as used from computer animation to engineering simulations. He emphasizes geometric structures underlying the mathematics and uses them to build robust and efficient numerical algorithms. In early work he developed wavelet methods for scalable computations before co-founding the field of geometry processing. Since then he has focused on “Discrete Differential Geometry,” an area which seeks to design methods in the discrete computational setting which are true to the same theorems that classical (smooth) differential geometry knows. Differential geometry being the lingua franca of modern physics and mathematics a discrete version facilitates the direct translation of physical laws, for example, into the discrete realm of finite computations. This for example allowed Schröder and his collaborators to find a new way to employ the mathematics of quantum physics to simulate large-scale fluid motion—from smoke gently rising from a flame to the concentrated vorticity of a twister—with groundbreaking realism. His pioneering contributions have been most recently recognized when he was elected Fellow of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery).
The Caltech Alumni Association held a day-long event to explore the ways in which computational thinking at Caltech is disrupting science and engineering, creating entirely new disciplines with "CS+X". From developing new paradigms for computation—quantum computing and DNA computing—to pushing the boundaries of machine learning and statistics in ways that transform fields like astronomy, chemistry, neuroscience, and biology, Caltech faculty are pioneering new disciplines at the interface of computer science, and science and engineering.