Sydney Ideas – Inverse Problems and Harry Potter's Cloak


Gunther Uhlmann


University of Washington


Mon, 26/03/2018 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm


New Law LT 104- Sydney Law School, University of Sydney


Inverse problems arise in all fields of science and technology where causes for a desired or observed effect are to be determined. By solving an inverse problem is in fact how we obtain a large part of our information about the world.

An example is human vision: from the measurements of scattered light that reaches our retinas, our brains construct a detailed three-dimensional map of the world around us. In the first part of the talk Professor Gunther Uhlmann will describe several inverse problems arising in different contexts.

In the second part of the lecture Uhlmann will discuss invisibility. Can we make objects invisible? This has been a subject of human fascination for millennia in Greek mythology, movies, science fiction, including the legend of Perseus versus Medusa and the more recently in Star Trek and Harry Potter.

In the last 14 years or so there have been several scientific proposals to achieve invisibility. Uhlmann will describe a simple and powerful proposal, the so-called transformation optics, and the progress that has been made in achieving invisibility.


Professor Gunther Uhlmann studied mathematics as an undergraduate at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago before obtaining his PhD at MIT. He has been the Walker Family Professor at in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Washington since 2006 and received several honours for his research, including the Guggenheim and Sloan Fellowships in addition to the prestigious Bôcher Memorial Prize. His collaborators at the University of Washington, University of Rochester, and University of Helsinki have proposed a series of mathematical models used to build an invisibility cloak.

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