A Young Star of Big Data

Physicist Aaron Clauset ’01 came to Haverford last week as part of the Young Academic Alumni Lecture Series to talk about his work searching for mathematical patterns in vast seas of data. Clauset’s lecture was titled “Estimating the Historical and Future Probabilities of Large Terrorist Events,” and that’s something he’s gained a certain measure of fame for doing.
An expert on network science and statistical modeling, whose research combines computer science, mathematics, physics, and other disciplines, Clauset has published widely in top academic journals, and has been written about in The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Discover, The Economist, and The Guardian, among other places. His work analyzing more than 30,000 global terror attacks that have occurred over the last 40 years became the focus of a chapter in the best-selling 2012 book by Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise.
More recently, Clauset and his collaborators analyzed the points scored in 40,000 games played during the last decade by college and pro football teams, and pro hockey and pro basketball teams. From that data he developed a mathematical model that was able to predict the outcome of games. In a story about that feat for Slate, journalist (and fellow Ford) Joel Warner ’01 called Clauset “one of the young stars of the big data movement.”
Clauset, who teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder, and is also affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute, where he was an Omidyar Fellow, was featured in the Winter 2011 issue  of Haverford magazine. In an interview for that story, Clauset had this to say: “Much of my perspective on science I learned from the physics department at Haverford. Much of my intuition about what makes sense as scientific questions, and what mysteries I want to solve, formed at Haverford.”
To learn more about Clauset’s work, check out his blog, Structure and Strangeness.
aaronatboardaaronseatedSMPhotos by Thom Carroll