Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Edsger W. Dijkstra Prize for 2007

The winner of the Edsger W. Dijkstra Prize for 2007 is the paper "Consensus in the presence of partial synchrony'' by Cynthia Dwork, Nancy Lynch, and Larry Stockmeyer, which appeared in the Journal of the ACM, Vol. 35, No. 2, April, 1988. pages 288--323. (A preliminary version appeared in PODC 1984.) This is the second time that Nancy Lynch winds up this prize since she had received it before in 2001 for her classic paper

Michael J. Fischer , Nancy A. Lynch and Michael S. Paterson. "Impossibility of Distributed Consensus with One Faulty Process", Journal of the ACM, April 1985, 32(2):374-382.

One can say that, despite how faulty researchers may be in evaluating the quality of scientific work, there is definite consensus on Nancy's huge impact on research in the principles of distributed computing! Congratulations to the winners.

It is sad that Larry Stockmeyer is not here with us to enjoy yet another achievement in his distinguished career. He passed away in 2004. Look here for some commemorations that took place at that time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Special Issue of JLAP Devoted to FOSSACS 2006

This to let you know that a special issue of JLAP devoted to selected papers from FOSSACS 2006 is now available on line. Anna and I edited the issue. I hope that you'll enjoy reading the papers in that volume.

Many thanks to all the colleagues who contributed to the success of the conference, and to the expert referees who devoted some of their time to a careful evaluation of the submitted papers. It has been a pleasure to work with all of you.

Software from Reykjavík University Wins the 2007 GGP Competition

These are good days for AI (and CS) research at Reykjavík University, and I trust that you'll forgive me for self-promoting the achievements of my department. The finals of the 2007 General Game-Playing competition at the AAAI conference have been won by "our" own CADIAPlayer, developed by Yngvi Björnsson and his MSc student Hilmar Finsson within CADIA, our centre for AI research. (As you can see, Yngvi is very hot these days!) The aim of the GGP competitions is to help develop systems that can accept a formal description of an arbitrary game and, without further human interaction, can play the game effectively.

According to Yngvi, the competition was very exciting, especially the final, which was played against ClunePlayer from the University of California, Los Angeles. (ClunePlayer was the second place finisher last year, and the world-champion from two years ago).

Congratulations to Hilmar and Yngvi for a great success!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Checker is a Draw

I am very happy to see that the news of the week in Science reports on a triumph of AI and (theoretical) computer science. A team from the games group at the University of Alberta, Canada, has announced that checkers is now solved: perfect play by both sides leads to a draw. Determining the outcome of the game brings AI search techniques to bear at a totally new level of complexity. The game of checkers has roughly 500 billion billion possible positions (5 x 1020)! These are state spaces of "model-checking size" :-)

Unfortunately, the full text of the Science article is only available to subscribers. The abstract is here. See also the web page of Chinook, the world checkers champion.

I am also very happy to report that one of the members of the team that solved checkers, Yngvi Björnsson, is a colleague of mine at Reykjavík University. This success will bring some media exposure for our department. (I know that process algebra cannot be expected to do so, alas :-))

Addendum: Bill Gasarch also has a, more detailed, post on this piece of news. Do read the comments to his post, which are, as usual, interesting.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Corrado Priami on Italian Prime Time TV

Last Thursday I ended up watching part of SuperQuark, a well-done science programme that has been running on Italian TV (RAI 1 to be precise) for some time now. To my pleasant surprise, the programme had a feature on the Centre for Computational and Systems Biology---a joint undertaking between the University of Trento and Microsoft Research. (You can watch the video, in Italian, here.)

The feature included excerpts of an interview with Corrado Priami, the president of the centre, and Luca Cardelli made some visual guest appearances.

It was a great pleasure to see a centre involving computer science in a crucial way make an appearance on prime-time TV. I can only compliment Corrado for having achieved so much in his career so far. I still remember sharing some work-space with him at the HP research lab in Pisa in late 1991-early 1992. He was fresh from his MSc degree then, and working on very different things.

Showcasing the impact of computer science on other sciences on prime-time TV can only be good for our field. Who is going to be next?