Monday, March 30, 2009

Abel Prize 2009 to Gromov

The IMU electronic newsletter has informed me that The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has decided to award the Abel Prize for 2009 to Mikhail Leonidovich Gromov for "his revolutionary contributions to geometry". As his Wikipedia page clearly indicates, Gromov has received a host of other awards before.

Reading material on Gromov and his work is available here. Being unable to understand his technical work, I will limit myself to pointing out what people have said about him.
  • "It is incredible what Mikhail Gromov can do, just with the triangle inequality." (Dennis Sullivan)
  • "The works of Mikhail Gromov should be read until the pages fall off." (Marcel Berger)
I would be happy if anyone apart from my coauthors and I ever read any of the my papers once, let alone "until the pages fall off".

Here is what the great man says about his opus:

The readers of my papers look only at corollaries, sometimes also at the technical tools of the proofs, but almost always never study them deeply enough in order to understand the underlying thought.

Does this mean that the "underlying thought" is carefully hidden in Gromov's papers? Shouldn't it be one of the author's duties in writing a paper to make the underlying thought apparent to the readers? What useful role can hiding the author's thoughts from the readers possibly have?

Anyway, we are surely in the presence of a giant of human thought, so kudos to him from a (hopefully) honest toiler.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Introduction to CS

Today I attended a curriculum revision meeting at my school. In particular, two new courses were discussed, and I feel that their quality will be paramount to the possible success of the revision effort. The courses are Introduction to CS and Problem Solving. The aim of the former course is to introduce incoming students to the algorithmic way of thinking and its applications in CS, as well as to introduce them to basic programming skills. Historical remarks on, and context for, the material covered in the course will be given to put it into perspective.

Can any of my readers point out suitable textbooks for such a course and/or examples of courses you are familiar with that have a similar emphasis?

Any experience report on problem solving courses would also be most welcome. Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ACM TOCL Seeks New Editor in Chief

I have received this announcement from Vladimiro Sassone (chairman of the steering committee for the ETAPS conference series), who received it from Joe Halpern. I am posting it here since it may be of interest to readers of this blog.

Nominations (including self nominations) are invited for the next Editor-in-Chief of ACM Transactions on Computational Logic (ToCL):

The position is for a term (renewable once) of three years, starting on July 1, 2009.

Candidates should be well-established researchers in areas related to computational logic, broadly conceived, and should have sufficient experience serving on conference program committees and journal editorial boards. Nominations, including a current curriculum vita and a brief (one page) statement of vision for ToCL, should be sent to Joseph Halpern <>, by May 1, 2009.

Final selection will be made by a Selection Committee, consisting of Joseph Halpern (chair -- Cornell University), Kryzsztof Apt (CWI), Prakash Panangaden (McGill University), and Gordon Plotkin (University of Edinburgh). Nominations received after May 1, 2009, will be considered up until the position is filled.

Thanks for your help,

Joe Halpern

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Ed Brinksma Becomes Rector of the University of Twente

I recently saw this press release (in Dutch) to the effect that Boudewijn Haverkort has become the new director of the Embedded Systems Institute in Eindhoven. Congratulations to him for this appointment.

By browsing through the press release, I learned that from January 1, 2009, Ed Brinksma, the former director of ESI, is Rector Magnificus of the University of Twente. Congrats to Ed too!

Ed is the second (theoretical) computer scientist I know of who has become rector of a European university. The other is Furio Honsell, the first ever computer scientist to become rector of an Italian university.

Do you know of other (theoretical) computer scientists who are rectors of universities? And is it good for the (T)CS community that some of its members take up rectorships? I do think so, and for many reasons mostly related to academic politics, but I'd like to hear your opinion.