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Monday, October 26, 2009

FOCS Day 1

Michele and Michael continue their guest posts from Atlanta.

The first day of FOCS is officially over. 8 sessions, 26 talks and 270 proceedings pages have already gone by.

Following this blog we have learned many useful things. One of them is not to rank talks, another one is not to limit posts to dry descriptions of the presentations we attended.

So you're stuck with our (admittedly not so interesting) impressions and thoughts. The quality and level of the works presented is amazing, and often wanders above our heads. However it has been a very pleasant surprise that talks are often so good and entertaining that they become manageable even when the topics are not in our background. So only positive impressions came from Day 1.

As a colorful aside we will mention another conference that is taking place in the next room, aimed at soon-to-be-extremely-wealthy people. The mixture between the two communities during coffee-breaks is often entertaining and amusing, and we have to say we spotted a prominent computer scientist carrying around the "proceedings" of this other meeting... is this some kind of sign? and if so how should we interpret it?

12 comments:

  1. Might I request that you include summaries of the talks that spoke to you the most, along the lines of Rahul Santhanam's summary of the Barriers Workshop? I thought that post was superb.

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  2. I am not getting much info from this post. They did not even mention the name of that other conference.

    Was there a talk on "zero knowledge blog-posts" ? ;)

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  3. Yes, I get it: coffee breaks at FOCS are a wondrous experience.

    Can you now blog a little bit about the results being presented?

    Thanks.

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  4. Anonymous (x2): RTF proceedings!

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  5. "Following this blog we have learned many useful things. One of them is not to rank talks, another one is not to limit posts to dry descriptions of the presentations we attended."

    When did you learn this? Please talk about the talks, that seems to be the whole point.

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  6. Amin Saberi's talk on heat-bath dynamics, in the zero-temperature limit, for the Ising model with a transverse field was fantastic. "I don't know what nucleation is, but I know that its our right to have one."

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  7. you absolutely need to tell us what that other conference was... when focs 2001 was held in las vegas, the meeting was adjacent to a lingerie show, and the coffee breaks in the cramped walkways of tropicana hotel were amusing, to say the least.

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  8. The other conference was "The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind."

    On another note to all the posters complaining about how uninformative this post is: shut up. You are snobby, square, and annoying. Get a life.

    This is a blog, and these students are not professional bloggers. They are simply sharing their impressions from a wide-eyed student perspective, which is interesting in and of itself. If you think your time is too valuable for such minutae, and want more bits of information per sentence, go read the proceedings. Get a life people.

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  9. to all the posters complaining about how uninformative this post is: shut up. You are snobby, square, and annoying. Get a life.

    I might be this blog's current poster boy for someone who gets disgusted by (at least perceived) snobbery, and even so, I think this comment is over the top. It is extremely useful to me when someone "new" (younger, not yet an expert, etc.) gives a perspective on a talk. Here's why.

    It's almost trivial to say that people like Karp or Alon have deep misunderstandings about the nature of computational complexity. They understand more than most of us, of course, and that's why they are chosen to deliver plenary talks. But they're unable to separate complexity classes, just like you and me. Solution to as-yet-untouched fundamental problems will likely be created by people who have yet to prove themselves as top experts in the field.

    This came up explicitly during one of the panel discussion at the Barriers Workshop. The panelists were asked (here I paraphrase) what were the most promising future breakthrough techniques, and answered that the question should really be posed to the young minds in the audience.

    It's not necessary to be as good at explaining a talk as Lipton's post on FOCS theory day. But giving a personal perspective helps give me a sense of the kinds of things newer researchers consider important, and what criteria they are using to understand the work of others.

    My girlfriend already knows that I'm a square with no life :-), but I don't see how asking for the perspective of two "unproven" people makes me a snob.

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  10. "RTF proceedings!"

    Are the proceedings available online? THere are some papers that do not appear to be available from the webt yet such as myers et al.

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  11. @Anonymous pwned!

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  12. Aaron: you were not the target of my post, as your complaint was polite. The snobby idiots I was referring to were posters 2 and 3 mainly, and 5 somewhat. Therefore, your long reply was much-ado-about-nothing. Sorry to waste your time.

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