Thursday, April 26, 2012

Accepted papers at ICALP 2012

The list of papers that have been selected for the three tracks of ICALP 2012 is now available. The preliminary programme is also on line. This looks like an action-packed ICALP, with a plethora of interesting invited talks, award sessions and good-looking papers. I look forward to the conference.

Monday, April 23, 2012

EATCS and Presburger Awards for 2012

It is award time for the EATCS.

The EATCS Award for 2012 will go to Moshe Vardi. (The award is given to acknowledge extensive and widely recognized contributions to theoretical computer science over a life long scientific career.) You can read the laudatio here.

The Presburger Award Committee 2012 has unanimously decided to propose Venkatesan Guruswami (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) and Mihai Patrascu (AT&T Labs, New York) as joint recipients of the 2012 EATCS Presburger Award for young scientists. See here for the details.

Congratulations to all the recipients of the two awards! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fifth Talk in the Alan Turing Year at Reykjavík University

The fifth talk in the Alan Turing Year at Reykjavík University was delivered this afternoon by my colleagues Yngvi Björnsson and Kristinn R. Thórisson. The talk was entitled Alan Turing's Contributions to Artificial Intelligence: Can Machines Think? and has been organized in collaboration with CADIA and IIIM. This was a thought-provoking and very enjoyable scientific event. In case you are interested the audio and the slides of the talk are here in .avi format. (Note: For technical reasons only the audio of Kristinn's presentation is available.)

In his presentation, Yngvi introduced the field of AI, its subbranches (applied AI, strong AI and cognitive AI) and highlighted Turing's main contributions to the field. On the other hand, Kristinn presented a critique of the Turing Test. Kristinn is a firm supporter of strong AI and his position on this matter can be summarized as follows. (I hope that I am not misrepresenting his views too much.)
  1. The standard divide-and-conquer approach that we use in science to understand phenomena is not going to help us understand "intelligence", at least not if applied in the same way as has been done so far in AI, namely by using it in a reductionist way to remove features that are central to the phenomenon of intelligence.
  2. The Turing Test was a very premature attempt at devising a test for the phenomenon of intelligence that forced upon much constructionist AI research the view that "intelligence is X, where X is some very simple manifestation of natural intelligence."
Overall, I left the talk with plenty to muse on, assuming I will have the time and the brains for this activity.

Reading material:

PC-chair-authored papers at conferences

Perhaps it is just me, but I feel that there has been an increase in the number of papers (co-)authored by PC chairs selected for presentations at conferences. This seems to happen mostly at "specialist" conferences. I have noticed a similar trend for special issues of journals, to which guest editors are often allowed to submit contributions. In that case, the submission is handled by a member of the editorial board as an ordinary paper submitted to the journal.

Is it just me? If not, do you think that this is a good development?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Assistant professor position at Chalmers University of Technology

I have been asked to spread the news about this position. It looks like a very exciting opportunity for an ambitious young scientist.

We're looking for a talented and ambitions Assistant Professor in Information and Communication Technology at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.

The position includes at least 80% research time and prestigious
status of Area of Advance at Chalmers:

The area of security is well in scope of the position. Please, help
spread the word!

Application deadline: May 1, 2012

Further info and application link:

J.E. Littlewood's take on "research strategy"

I really enjoyed reading the post Are You Working too Hard?, watched the linked videos and read some of the accompanying material from Uri Alon's web site. Whenever I stumble across this kind of material, I tend to go back to one of my favourite sources of inspiration related to the academic's art of work, namely the delightful piece The Mathematician's Art of Work by J.E. Littlewood. In that piece, "with a good deal of diffidence", Littlewood tries to give "some practical advice about research and the strategy it calls for."  Here is a summary of his advice.
  • On days free for research, Littlewood recommends working at most five hours with breaks about every hour (for walks perhaps). Littlewood claims that without breaks one acquires the habit of slowing down unconsciously.
  • Either work all out or rest completely. It is too easy to fritter a whole day away with the intention of working but never getting properly down to it.
  • For a week without teaching duties, take one afternoon and the following day off. The day off should stay the same each week. 
  • Take three weeks of holiday at the beginning of each vacation. This period is necessary and sufficient for recovering from the severest mental fatigue. 
  • Morning work is far better than work done at other times of the day. From a certain point onwards, following severe concussion in 1918, Littlewood never worked after 6.30pm.
  • Try to end your day's work in the middle of something; in a job of writing out, stop in the middle of a sentence. This will help warming up the morning after. 
  • An ominous symptom of overwork is an obsession with the importance of work, and filling every moment to that end.
How would your work pattern compare to these pieces of advice? In my case, the answer would not be pretty and I feel that the same applies to many of my closest colleagues. The obsession with the importance of work has been there for a while and ........

Monday, April 02, 2012

Accepted papers for LICS 2012

The list of accepted papers for LICS 2012 is now out.

The first thing to note is that the PC for LICS 2012 has selected 61 submissions for presentation at the conference. By way of comparison, there were 37 papers that were presented at LICS 2011 (modulo counting mistakes I might have made.) This increase in the number of selected papers follows one of the changes that LICS 2012 promised to implement:
In response to concerns about LICS becoming overly selective with a too-narrow technical focus, the program committee will employ a merit-based selection with no a priori limit on the number of accepted papers.
Does this higher number of selected papers imply a "decrease in the quality of the conference programme", whatever that may mean? I have not read the papers yet, but a quick look at the list of selected papers and a brief look at the introduction of some of those available on line seem to indicate that this installment of LICS will be at least as strong as the others. Time will tell. My gut feeling is that this will be a very exciting conference.

I hope that someone attending the conference will be willing to send me a report for this blog. Let me know if you are interested in sending me a short report from LICS 2012.

Holding LICS in Croatia will be an interesting experiment. LICS 2012 will be hosted by the University of Dubrovnik, in Dubrovnik, which is a lovely town along the Adriatic sea. The location and the quality of the conference programme should entice many colleagues to attend the event. Unfortunately, the early registration fee looks pretty hefty to me: $450 for ACM, IEEE or ASL members and $600 for non-members are a lot of money at a time when travel money is scarce. (By way of comparison, the registration fee for ICALP 2011 in expensive Zurich was roughly €334.)

Last, but not least, it will be interesting to see which papers will receive the LICS Test-of-Time Award for 2012. Do you have any predications you'd like to share in the comment section?