Friday, July 11, 2008

ICALP 2008

ICALP 2008 is now over, but the last six satellite workshops will take place over the coming week-end. MohammadReza Mousavi has already reported on some of the talks at the conference in a series of guest posts. Here I will just limit myself to a few remarks on the main events that took place since Wednesday. I will try to devote future posts to some of the other news from the conference.

On Wednesday, Bruno Courcelle (Labri, Universitè Bordeaux, France) delivered a plenary invited talk entitled Graph Structure and Monadic Second-order Logic: Language Theoretical Aspects. Courcelle is one of the 15 most cited French scientists and the most cited French computer scientist. (See In addition, he has become a member of the very prestigious Institut Universitaire de France (see Courcelle is one of the grand "old" men in theoretical computer science. In a career spanning about 35 years he has given fundamental contributions to the study of the logical, language-theoretic and algorithmic aspects of the theory of graphs. He is also one of the founders of, and main contributors to, algebraic semantics. In his talk, Bruno described the role that hierarchical decompositions and Monadic Second-order Logic play in the extension of methods and results from classic Formal Language Theory to the description of sets of finite graphs. Bruno is putting the final touches to a monograph on this topic that will be published by Cambridge University Press. (Present state of the work Part 1 : Chapters 1-6. Part 2 : Chapters 7-11.)

The scientific programme on Thursday was kicked off by an invited plenary talk by Peter Winkler (Dartmouth, USA). The talk, entitled Optimality and Greed in Dynamic Allocation, described a method for proving optimality in dynamic allocation problems that relies on the assumption that "it's right to be greedy." The method was developed while Peter was working on two problems which arose at Lucent Technologies.

The scientific programme for Thursday reached its climax with the award ceremony, during which the EATCS award and the Gödel prize where handed out. After receiving the EATCS award, Leslie G. Valiant (Harvard, USA) delivered an excellent 30-minute presentation focusing on three topics that interest him right now. The topics are:
  1. Evolution
  2. Intelligence
  3. Human Brain.
In his opinion, all these topics are computer science and are screaming for an understanding based on algorithmic approaches. Leslie described some of his work in this direction.

The Gödel prize talk, delivered by Daniel A. Spielman (Yale, USA), provided an outstanding finale for the day. In his talk, Dan explained the idea of smooth anallysis, how Teng and he thought of it and what he hopes the future will bring. Shang-Hua Teng (Boston University, USA) gave a personal and heartfelt introduction to the work they did to merit such a prestigious award.

The main event during the final day at ICALP was an invited plenary talk delivered by Javier Esparza (Technische Universität München, Germany). Javier's presentation was entitled Newtonian Program Analysis and presented recent work by his students and him that aims at using a computational approach to solving equations developed by Isaac Newton about 300 years ago in the analysis of computer programs. The talk presented exciting work and was beautifully and enthusiastically delivered. After the talk, Peter Winkler commented to us: "You saved the best for the last!" Javier closed the talk by saying that "Newton did it all 300 years ago, but he never saw Iceland!"


Anonymous said...

I'm very curious what Valiant talked about Evolution, Intelligence and Human Brain. In particular if he said anything concrete.

Luca Aceto said...

See here for my recollections from the talk.