The SCICOMM 25 (8.28.15)

Welcome to the SCICOMM 25! This is where I pull together the week's 25 most talked about science communication stories, determined by the engagement rate of stories I've shared on Twitter. Many are written by the world's leading science communicators. Some offer tips and advice, while others tackle important issues we need to discuss and debate. All of them are worth checking out. I hope you enjoy this week's list. Top Stories: Why is science communication important? @FromTheLabBench Science. We have to... Read more


Deep, True, Clear and Beautiful – What Motivates the Laureates?

What transforms a sophisticated scientific talk to an inspiring presentation suitable for an audience with diverse backgrounds and broad interests, like here at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum? In my opinion, and after having seen most of the lectures here, three factors contribute to capturing the audience: Managing to integrate the own research into the historic context. Pointing out concrete problems or applications related to the research presented. Explaining the own motivation and answering why precisely this topic was chosen for research.... Read more


Algorithms and Life

We tend to think of algorithms and computation as human inventions, but organisms as primitive as bacteria have relied on algorithmic mechanisms throughout the history of life. The regulation of genes inside a single cell, feedback loops in the control of metabolism, the coordinated motions of bird flocks, and the foraging behavior of social insects: All these phenomena can be succinctly described in an algorithmic framework. Another notable example is pattern formation in animals—the tiger's stripes and the leopard's spots—for... Read more


Women in Computer Science 1/2: Beyond mere programming

Before 1995, the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University, one of the top-ranked programs in the US, had low numbers when it came to admission and retention of female students: single-digit percentages for the admission, and of those few female students, many transferred out of the course. Starting in the early 2000s, the numbers changed dramatically: 40% of female students in the freshman year, and almost all of them then finished with a degree. What had happened? The answer... Read more


John Hopcroft, Diversity, and One of the First Computer Science Courses

I've long had a special interest in computer science education. I recently worked as a full time lecturer for two years, and I have been designing and delivering outreach initiatives for more than seven.  So when it came time to request interviews with this year's HLF Laureates, John Hopcroft, who created one of the world's first computer science courses, caught my attention. I began our conversation by introducing my interests in education, and right away Hopcroft pointed out that there is so much... Read more


What Happened With Cosmic Inflation?

The procedure was almost unprecedented, the excitement as well: on March 17 last year, astronomers around John Kovac from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced at a press conference that they had found the imprint of gravitational waves on the cosmic microwave background CMB, caused by the earliest moment after the Big Bang, the so-called cosmic inflation, in astronomical data from the South Pole. A scientific paper with these finding was presented at the same time, also with much ado,... Read more


Go forth and mow lawns!

In a culture where quite a number of students, postdocs and even professors appear to be part of the dangerous cult of who arrives at the institute earliest, leaves latest and stays longest, it's refreshing and comforting to learn that some of the most successful scientists openly disagree. A few days ago, in the Triplex cafeteria, I took part in a conversation in which a Turing laureate and a successful junior group leader exchanged their experiences on the subject of... Read more


Automatizing proofs from Aristotle to the 21st century

While (or because?) both in general laureate attendance and number of lectures, computer science certainly has greater volume than mathematics at this year's Heidelberg Laureate Forum, it was interesting to see that there were quite a few talks connecting the foundations of computer science to mathematics. Tony Hoare's Tuesday lecture went farthest into the past to make the connection. Hoare traced the antecedents of computer science back to Aristotle's logic, and identified the separation of the structure of a proof... Read more


Beyond what we imagined – Interview with Peter Naur

Andrew Carmichael, guest blogger HLF15. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to speak with Peter Naur, who was awarded the Turing Award for “fundamental contributions to programming language design and the definition of Algol 60, to compiler design, and to the art and practice of computer programming.” The following is a lightly edited version of our conversation. Andrew Carmichael: My familiarity with your work comes from your work on context free grammars, but in preparation for this interview, I... Read more


HLF goes Heidelberg: Haus der Astronomie and MPI for Astronomy

Wednesday is an unusual day at HLF: No lectures or workshops; instead, plenty of mobility. In the morning, some of the laureates visit local schools to interact with the students; the young researchers visit local scientific institutions. In the afternoon, there is a joint excursion - this year, to Technikmuseum Speyer. For me, Wednesday at HLF is a day of putting on a different hat: Off with the blogger cap, and on with the hat that I wear for my... Read more


Managing Credit Risk in Nigerian Banks

Ifeyinwa Ajah, HLF15 participant. A functional bank credit system is the key that unlocks the possibilities of economic progress. Credit is very important in wealth creation and is the main business activity for most commercial banks. In Nigeria, we have many distressed or even failed banks, resulting in a loss of investment for shareholders, reduced credit expansion, job loss, and poor economic growth. According to the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi in 2009, the... Read more


Foghor Tanshi – This Year’s Women In Technology Pass-It-On Award Winner and HLF Attendee

The Anita Borg Institute is a non-profit organization "on a quest to accelerate the pace of global innovation by working to ensure that the creators of technology mirror the people and societies who use it." For many years, ABI has supported women in technology through programs like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and through research. One of ABI's initiatives is called Systers, originally a mailing list for women in systems computing and now a community for all women in technology. Today,... Read more


Getting Personal with Computers

Fred Brooks titled his address to the Heidelberg Laureate Forum "A Personal History of Computers." The history is personal because Brooks has lived through much of it. In his student days he worked with the largest electromechanical computer ever made, then he helped build some of the first commercial electronic computers at IBM, and in 1964 he founded one of the earliest university departments of computer science. His history of these events is personal in another sense as well: Brooks... Read more


Acknowledging a great man I have never met

Ahmed Ali-Eldin, HLF15 participant. Yesterday, I sat down around a table for dinner with Leslie Valiant, the inventor of machine learning, Tony Hoare, one of the fathers of programming languages and the inventor of quick sort, and their lovely wives. I have talked to them with a group of fellow PhD students for almost four hours. I have asked them all sorts of questions one can imagine. Questions about marriage, children, mobility and family sacrifices of researchers. We got advice, tons... Read more


Computer Pioneer Spirit: A lunch conversation with Fred Brooks

We cannot ask Messieurs Daimler and Benz about their experiences with the first automobiles, but computers are just sufficiently recent for some of the pioneers to be still alive - and since those that were instrumental in the development of computers tend to be highly decorated by now, a number of them are around at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum. On Monday, I had a highly interesting lunch-queue conversation with Fred Brooks who, in the 1960s, was involved in the latest... Read more