54: Jim Simons: Life Lessons from the ‘World’s Smartest Billionaire'

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Mathematician, codebreaker, Professor, hedge fund pioneer, & philanthropist Jim Simons makes his first-ever podcast appearance on this episode of INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE with UC San Diego Professor Brian Keating. Learn about Chern-Simons theory, leadership lessons, hedge funds, and a dedication to serve the world through basic research from a master. It is truly a delight to share with you the more personal side of the man who’s been called The World’s Smartest Billionaire: https://youtu.be/gjVDqfUhXOY In this interview, we discuss heroes, fatherhood, leadership and the art of math. 


  • 00:15:15 Why he’d invite Abraham Lincoln to dinner.
  • 00:23:42 Discovering Zeno’s paradox at the age of three.
  • 00:34:28 Can math be beautiful?
  • 00:46:25 Lessons from a master investor: alpha vs. beta.
  • 00:56:06 The serendipitous Chern-Simons partnership. 01:03:18 A father’s love.
  • 01:11:09 The legacy of a good example.

Jim Simons earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from UC Berkeley at the age of 23. He worked as a mathematician for the NSA and as a professor and department chair at Stony Brook University. Simons earned billions after founding the hedge fund firm Renaissance Technologies. He co-founded the Simons Foundation with his wife Marilyn in 1994 to advance scientific research. The foundation provided funding for the Simons Observatory, a telescope array being built in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile https://simonsobservatory.org/ Simons also founded Math For America in 2004 to facilitate better math education.