Columbia College | Columbia Engineering

David Helfand

Navigating the Misinformation Age

Thursday, October 20, 2016
6:00–8:00 p.m.
Rennert Hall, The Kraft Center

We now generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of information per day; that's 250,000 pages for each of the 7.4 billion individuals on the planet -- every day. Much of it is junk. And in this, the 25th anniversary year of the first World Wide Webpage, the junk distribution network is free. The tsunami of misinformation abroad in the land threatens to drown both individual decision-making and the formation of rational public policy. I will explore the origin of the misinformation glut and illustrate the apps one must install in one's pre-frontal cortex to survive in the Misinformation Age.


David J. Helfand has been a faculty member at Columbia University for thirty-nine years, serving half of that time as Chair of the Department of Astronomy. He is the author of nearly 200 scientific publications and has mentored 22 PhD students, but most of his pedagogical efforts have been aimed at teaching science to non-science majors. Motivated by the belief that reading great books and experiencing art and music are insufficient preparation for life in a rapidly changing, tech-saturated  twenty-first century, he takes full responsibility for introducing FroSci to the Core. He has won the Presidential Teaching Award and the Great Teaching Award of the Society of Columbia Graduates. In 2005, he joined an effort to create Canada's first independent, non-profit, secular university, Quest University Canada. He was a Visiting Tutor in the University's inaugural semester (Fall 2007) and served as President & Vice-Chancellor from 2008-2015. He also recently completed a four-year term as President of the American Astronomical Society. His first book, A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age appeared earlier this year.

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