Sunday, October 25, 2009

FOCS Day 0

Alas, I'm not in Atlanta but in New York City for another meeting. Something different this time--FOCS through the eyes of two Northwestern students, Michele Budinich and Michael Lucas, both attending their first major theory conference.

The organization on day 0 was fantastic. Fox had even reserved a parking lot for us!!

Wait a second.

Are we sure this is where we're supposed to be?

Luckily enough we met more conscious computer scientists who pointed us in the right direction: the FOCS conferenceWhat a novice mistake.

We finally made it to Georgia Tech's LeCraw Auditorium for Day 0 of the FOCS conference. Also called Theory Day, it was a dual celebration marking the 50th anniversary of FOCS and the 20th anniversary of Georgia TechsACO program.

Theory Day started off in the most appropriate way with a talk by Richard Karp who shared his favorite algorithms, pointing out the many different qualities that can make an algorithm "great."

After that two slightly more technical talks by Mihalis Yannakakis and Noga Alon, speaking about computational complexity of equilibria and path disjointness in graphs.

As very fitting conclusion for a 50th year anniversary the last talk gave some fascinating views and possible directions for computer science: Manuel Blum talked about getting to grips with consciousness, with some new neuroscience models that could shed some light (in a very literal senseon how computers could eventually prove their own theorems.

Day 0 ended with the first official FOCS 2009 event: reception, where much food and camaraderie could be found.  Afterwards, the attendees of FOCS '09 returned to their hotel rooms to dream of algorithms and optimization.

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