On the 2015 Turing Award
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Whitfield Diffie, Martin Hellman, and Ralph Merkle publicly broke the yoke of symmetry in cryptography in the 1970s. Their work created the era of modern cryptography—all previous work, including the great work of Claude Shannon in 1949, implicitly assumed that the system must be symmetric.
A kind of hierarchy collapse?
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Garrett Birkhoff was a mathematician who is best known for his research on lattices, and also his work on teaching of abstract algebra. He was at Harvard almost his whole career.
Today we wish to discuss a conjecture that he made with Richard Pierce that remains open today.
A 35-year-old puzzle with extras
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Maxim Kontsevich has established deep connections between algebraic geometry and mechanisms of physics. He won a Fields medal in 1998 for “contributions to four problems of geometry” and recently won one of the inaugural Breakthrough Prizes in Mathematics, having earlier won the corresponding prize in Fundamental Physics. He divides his time between the University of Miami and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES), which boasted Alexander Grothendieck at its inception. His IHES bio says that he is known for
…drawing on the systematic utilization of known deformations of algebraic structures and the introduction of new ones that have been revealed to pertain to many other questions where there were no a-priori connections.
Today we discuss a much lighter topic he thought up as a teenager that uses coins on a chessboard.
Some matters of gravity in science
Moshe Vardi is famous for many things, including his brilliant turn as the Editor-in-Chief of the Communications of the ACM. In the current issue he contributed an Editor’s Letter titled “The Moral Hazard of Complexity-Theoretic Assumptions.”
Today Ken and I want to comment on Moshe’s piece and the larger issue of guesses and possible hazards in science.
Can we avoid accepting what we cannot verify?
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Arthur Clarke was a British writer of great breadth and huge impact. He was a science writer, of both fiction and non-fiction. His works are too many to list, but 2001: A Space Odyssey—the novel accompanying the movie—is perhaps his most famous. He received both a British knighthood and the rarer Pride of Sri Lanka award, so that both “Sri” and “Sir” were legally prefixed to his name.
Today Dick and I want to raise questions about modern cryptography, complexity, and distinguishing science from “magic.”
A non-announcement announcement
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Michel Goemans is the chair of this year’s ACM/IEEE Knuth Prize committee. He teaches at MIT and among many wonderful achievements co-won the 2000 MOS/AMS Fulkerson Prize with David Williamson for their great work on approximation for MAX CUT and MAX SAT and other optimization problems.
A few days ago he emailed me to ask if Ken and I would announce this year’s call for nominations.