Special Expository Lecture
The epicycle model lasted for centuries until Copernicus set the record straight by suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun along with the other planets. But would he have been so bold a scientist if he had access to 1995 computers? Or would he have just mouseclicked his way into fame, developing a simulation package that supported further tinkering with the Ptolemaic model? After all, it is not hard to imagine a computational environment where arbitrarily deep nestings of epicycles could be tried out, producing ever better fits to the data. Where would it have all led?
Musing on these questions gives us the chance to think about the interplay between mathematical model building and the computer, and what computational science is all about.
Charles Van Loan
Department of Computer Science