Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Parking Algorithm

Furio Honsell is one of Italy's best known theoretical computer scientists. His research covers many areas within volume B TCS, and he was one of the proposers of the ‘Anti-Foundation Axiom’ for non-well-founded set theory. Furio was the first computer scientist to become rector of an Italian university, Universit√† di Udine to be precise, and is now serving his second mandate as rector.

Unlike most of us, Furio is also known to the general Italian public for his participation in the TV show Che tempo che fa, where he discusses topics related to computer science and mathematics in a way that makes them accessible to a general audience. My mother, for instance, is fascinated by his witty and very clear discussions of topics that normally would not be aired on a TV show.

What has this all to do with "The Parking Algorithm"? A few days ago, walking back to my deck chair after a swim in the Adriatic sea, I saw a man read a volume by Furio entitled "L'Algoritmo del Parcheggio" ("The Parking Algorithm"), published by Mondadori, which is a major Italian publishing house. I was amazed. I stopped and asked this man whether I could write down the bibliographic details for the book, which I simply had to buy!

Furio is definitely doing a lot for promoting an appreciation for computer science and mathematics amongst the general educated public in Italy, and he must be doing it right if people read his book on the beach! I know that this is one of my, possibly boring, mantras, but we badly need more people who, like him, are not afraid to devote some of their time to writing books and articles for the general public, and who have the charisma to appear on TV and captivate viewers like my mother or that man who ended up buying his book and reading it under the sun-shade. (I also admire his time-management skills. Being a rector does not leave him a lot of time for research or book writing.)

For the record, I did buy Furio's book, but I'll have to wait for my mother to finish reading it before having a close look at it. I'll review Furio's book at some point in the future, but don't hold your breath.

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