John W. Hessler

Mathematician, GIS Scientist, and Professor in Baltimore, MD

Read my Alpinist articles

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 and 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 given lectures or taught seminars in quantum field theory and 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 color vision, I have also taught classes in the mapping of the human brain, the visual cortex & deep networks and neural engineering.

My current research focuses on the mathematics and conceptual foundations of deep learning and on the use of the renormalization group, derived from quantum field theory, 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.

The founder and principal investigator at the Topology Lab for Virtual Environments, we study complex mathematical and computational problems in evolutionary computation and spatial optimization. We are currently working on characterizing the search space topology and error landscapes in the redistricting and Gerrymandering Problem.

Also interested in the application of category theory to quantum computing and the mereotopological foundations of GIS, I am currently working on a book entitled, Spatial Algebras: a formalization of the topological & mereological foundations of Geographic Information Science.

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 media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Discover Magazine, WIRED, the Atlantic’s CITYLAB, the BBC, CBS News, the Guardian and most recently on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Obsessed with Joyce’s Ulysses & Finnegan’s Wake, I find being close to supercomputers, 1000 pages of higher topos theory and alpine ice strangely comforting.

  • Work
    • Johns Hopkins University / LoC