Saturday, September 12, 2009

Treatment of Alan Turing was “appalling”

Arnar Birgisson, a former MSc student of mine who is now a PhD student at Chalmers, pointed out to me that last Thursday Gordon Brown issued a statement "recognising the “appalling” way he [Alan Turing] was treated for being gay." The piece of news may be found here.

It is understandable that Gordon Brown's statement focuses on Turing's work on breaking the German Enigma codes. However, I find it suprising that Turing's role in the development of computer science does not deserve any mention at all in the apology.

The statement ends as follows:

"So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better."

So long, and thanks for breaking the Enigma code, devising the Turing machine and the universal Turing machine, building some of the earliest programmable computers and all the rest.....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nominations for the Gödel Prize 2010

The Call for Nominations for the 2010 Gödel Prize has been posted (see this pdf file). The 2010 Award Committee consists of Cynthia Dwork (Microsoft Research), Johan Håstad (KTH Stockholm), Jean-Pierre Jouannaud (INRIA and Tsinghua University; chair), Mogens Nielsen (University of Aarhus), Mike Paterson (University of Warwick) and Eli Upfal (Brown University). The deadline for nominations is 31 January, 2010.

I hope that the volume B community will nominate some excellent papers to give the very strong volume A papers a run for their money :-) What papers would you nominate? Post a comment with your favourite candidates. Perhaps you can garner some support for them, leading to an actual nomination for the prize.

I will try to post some suggestions myself when my list of things to do shrinks to an acceptable level. (Fat chance, alas.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tom Henzinger: The First President of IST Austria

Last Sunday night I came back to Iceland after a thoroughly enjoyable stay in Bologna for CONCUR 2009, SOS 2009 and the 16th EXPRESS workshop. This was a welcome opportunity to see many friends and colleagues, letting alone visiting my home country and a pretty city like Bologna.

I hope to find some time to report on the conference, not least to pay tribute to the great work done by the local organizers and their team (with special thanks to Christian, Cinzia, Ferdinanda, Jacopo and Jorge). With the start of the teaching period approaching fast and a pile of chores to catch up on, here I'll just limit myself to mentioning a piece of news that I learned at the conference while discussing with Krishnendu Chatterjee. From 1 September, Tom Henzinger is the first President of the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) Austria in Klosterbeuburg. You can read the official press release here.

The aim of the institute, which is richly funded by the Austrian government, is "to become a world-class research center offering, by 2016, an international, state-of-the-art environment for approx. 500 scientists and doctoral students." This commitment to excellence and to basic research is witnessed already by the first few hires IST has made and things can only improve under Tom's presidentship.

I wish Tom and IST the best of luck. It is great to see Austria invest on basic research with the creation of such an institute, which is already bringing to Europe top-class scientists like Herbert Edelsbrunner (the only computer scientist to have won the National Science Foundation's Alan T. Waterman Award) and researchers of exceptional promise like Krishnendu. Moreover, it is really awesome to see one of us be chosen as the leader of such an institute.

In Bologna I also guessed correctly that Tom is the scientist with the largest number of papers during the first 20 years of CONCUR (21 papers overall). I have every reason to believe that Tom Henzinger will continue to contribute to research in concurrency theory even as president of IST.