John W. Hessler

Mathematician, GIS Scientist, and Professor in Baltimore, MD

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When not climbing in the Alps, or mountain biking through some jungle, I am a Specialist in Computational Geography & Geographic Information Science (GIS) at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC & a lecturer in Evolutionary & Quantum Computing in the Graduate School of Advanced Studies of the Krieger School of the Arts and Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University.

Over the past few years I have lectured on or taught seminars in quantum field theory & computing, quantum error correcting codes, evolutionary computation & algorithms, the foundations of computer vision and the mathematics of deep learning. Interested in the interface of computation and the neuroscience of vision, I have also taught classes in the mapping of the human brain, and the visual cortex & deep networks.

The founder and principal investigator at the Topology Lab for Virtual Environments, we study of the foundations and mathematics of evolutionary computation and genetic algorithms for use in supercomputing-GIS. We are currently researching the large search spaces and error landscapes associated with the gerrymandering problem.

My current theoretical research focuses on the mathematics and conceptual foundations of deep learning and on the use of the renormalization group, derived from quantum field theory, and random matrices, to study the complexity of convolutional neural networks. My main line of inquiry concentrates on the topological structure of non-convex loss landscapes and search spaces, along with the mysteries of back propagation.

I am also interested in the application of category theory to quantum computing and the mereotopological foundations of GIS.

The author of more than one hundred articles and books, including the New York Times best-seller, MAP: Exploring the World, my writing and work has been featured in many national media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Discover Magazine, WIRED, the Atlantic’s CITYLAB, the BBC, CBS News and most recently on NPR’s All Things Considered.

An avid traveler and mountaineer, I am the author of the recent book Collecting for a New World and a frequent contributor to Alpinist Magazine, where I write on the history of mountaineering, high-altitude physiology, climate change and glaciology.

I find being close to supercomputers, higher topos theory, Joyce’s Ulysses and alpine ice strangely comforting.

  • Work
    • Library of Congress / JHU