Mar 10 – 15, 2019
Steinmatte conference center
Europe/Zurich timezone

Keynote talk: Probabilistic Programming and Inference in Particle Physics

Mar 12, 2019, 9:00 AM
Steinmatte conference center

Steinmatte conference center

Hotel Allalin, Saas Fee, Switzerland
Plenary Track 2: Data Analysis - Algorithms and Tools Plenary


Atilim Gunes Baydin (University of Oxford)


We present a novel framework that enables efficient probabilistic inference in large-scale scientific models by allowing the execution of existing domain-specific simulators as probabilistic programs, resulting in highly interpretable posterior inference. Our framework is general purpose and scalable, and is based on a cross-platform probabilistic execution protocol through which an inference engine can control simulators in a language-agnostic way. We demonstrate the technique in particle physics, on a scientifically accurate simulation of the τ (tau) lepton decay, which is a key ingredient in establishing the properties of the Higgs boson. High-energy physics has a rich set of simulators based on quantum field theory and the interaction of particles in matter. We show how to use probabilistic programming to perform Bayesian inference in these existing simulator codebases directly, in particular conditioning on observable outputs from a simulated particle detector to directly produce an interpretable posterior distribution over decay pathways. Inference efficiency is achieved via inference compilation where a deep recurrent neural network is trained to parameterize proposal distributions and control the stochastic simulator in a sequential importance sampling scheme, at a fraction of the computational cost of Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling.

Primary author

Atilim Gunes Baydin (University of Oxford)

Presentation materials