Casual Attire and Formal Proof

Posted 3 September 2015 by Brian Hayes

Informality is the watchword here at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum. Even the most distinguished participants go by Bob or Fred or Len rather than Herr Professor Doktor. In this casual social atmosphere, however, formality of another kind has been a major topic of conversation. Four of the week's plenary lectures have addressed the need for formal proofs of correctness in both computer science and mathematics. Tony Hoare gave an eloquent talk reclaiming two giants of Greek antiquity as part of... Read more

Query and Curiosity – Scientific Data Exploration

Posted 2 September 2015 by Beatrice Lugger

Abdul Wasay presenting the poster about Queriosity at #hlf15   Picture: B. Lugger

Thursday, August 27, during the poster session at HLF15 I strolled around. As I am not a computer scientist or mathematician I honestly had problems in getting an idea, what most of these posters where about. But one, by Abdul Wasay, a second year PhD student at Harvard University, caught my attention. Just by looking at the poster I got an idea, what Queriosity means and who might benefit from it. It appeared to be a software for scientists, helping them... Read more

Stepping Off the “Innovation” Bandwagon

Posted 1 September 2015 by Guest blogger

Young researchers attending the Heidelberg Laureate Forum discussing at the Neue Universität in Heidelberg. Credit: HLFF / B. Kreutzer

Rosalind Reid, guest blogger at HLF15: I believe I’ve heard the word “innovation” spoken only once during the 2015 Heidelberg Laureate Forum. For an event that gathers together the inventors of today’s computing and the inventors of tomorrow’s, this is remarkable—and refreshing. Here at HLF, the pressures of the marketplace—where glib terms like “innovation” dominate—feel fairly distant. Most of the laureates attending this year are winners of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Turing Award, and many Turing winners have done... Read more

Women in Computer Science 2/2: Changing the culture

Posted 1 September 2015 by Markus Pössel

This is the story of how the School of Computer Science (SCS) at Carnegie Mellon University went from few female students before 1995, many of which later transferred out of the course, to 40% female students by the early 2000s, almost all of which finished with a degree. I report events as told to me be Lenore Blum, one of the participants of this year's HLF, who was instrumental in initiating a number of the changes that led to the improvement.... Read more

Remembering Passwords like a Pro – Interview with Jeremiah Blocki

Posted 31 August 2015 by Guest blogger

Jeremiah Blocki being interviewed by Andrew Carmichael at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum 2015. © Andrew Carmichael

Andrew Carmichael, guest blogger at HLF15: Jeremiah Blocki is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University. Jeremiah completed his PhD at Carnegie Mellon University focusing on Usable and Secure Human Authentication. Jeremiah is continuing his research in this field, developing usable authentication systems for humans. Andrew Carmichael: Tell us a little about yourself. Jeremiah Blocki: I'm a computer scientist. I did my undergrad at Carnegie Mellon University where I worked with Manuel Blum. I loved... Read more

Sir Antony Hoare — Theory and Practice

Posted 31 August 2015 by Gail Carmichael

3rd Heidelberg Laureate Forum3. Heidelberger Laureaten Forum

As with my interview with John Hopcroft, I was most interested in what Sir Antony Hoare had to say about computer science education. He was, after all, knighted for his work in education in addition to research. I was also particularly fascinated with his effort to tie academia and industry together, for example by setting up an external Masters degree for software engineers. My first question for Sir Hoare was about whether we should be concerned that undergraduate degrees try... Read more

Peter Naur and the Jennifer Aniston Neuron

Posted 30 August 2015 by Markus Pössel

Peter Naur © HLF / Christian Flemming

Peter Naur has an impressive biography. He was a pioneer of programming languages, at a time when the idea of higher-level abstractions from the deepest-level ("close to the electrons") instructions was new, unusual, and anything but a given. But the notions he presented at this year's HLF seem to me to fall foul of the dictum ascribed to Einstein, namely that one should make things as simple as possible but not simpler. Naur presented a simple model of how the... Read more

The Poly-Participant – How to be invited to Heidelberg again

Posted 29 August 2015 by Beatrice Lugger

Dr. Felix Günther in the inner yard of Heidelberg university 2015 - now as a Post-Doc Picture: B.Lugger

The HLF is in its third year, and already there is one young researcher who managed to attend the forum twice. After successfully making the next step in his scientific career, Felix Günther took the chance to apply for the HLF a second time. In 2013 the mathematician attended the HLF as a PhD candidate from the Institute for mathematics, TU Berlin. Now, in 2015, he participates as a Post-Doc from the European Post-Doctoral Institute for Mathematical Sciences (EPDI). "I utterly... Read more

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

Posted 28 August 2015 by Tobias Maier

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

Posted 28 August 2015 by Brian Hayes

Saket Navlakha of the Salk Institute presides at his postdoc workshop.

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