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Functional Physics in Clojure

Sam Ritchie

The Talk

This talk will discuss my recent work implementing a suite of "numerical methods" in Clojure (for taking integrals, derivatives, and finding zeros and minima of functions). People usually imagine that this sort of scientific computing has to be implemented in confusing, obfuscated black-box programs, preferably written in FORTRAN. I'll show that this is NOT true, and that, in fact, writing these algorithms in functional, immutable style makes them much easier to understand, and easier to modify and experiment with. This work is part of a larger effort to turn Gerald Sussman's "Structure and Interpretation of Classical Mechanics" into a world-class interactive textbook that runs in the browser via Clojurescript.


I'm a research engineer at Google X, working in the field of AI and deep reinforcement learning. I've spent most of my career working on large-scale streaming systems for companies like Twitter and Stripe.

I'm most well known in the software world as the author of Summingbird and Algebird, and as the maintainer of Cascalog. I have a secret identity as a mountain athlete, and write race reports from time to time.