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Timing Leaks Everything

January 12, 2018


Facing the awful truth that computers are physical machines

As moderator of RSA 2016 panel

Paul Kocher is the lead author on the second of two papers detailing a longstanding class of security vulnerability that was recognized only recently. He is an author on the first paper. Both papers credit his CRYPTO 1996 paper as originating the broad kind of attack that exploits the vulnerability. That paper was titled, “Timing attacks on implementations of Diffie-Hellman, RSA, DSS, and other systems.” Last week, the world learned that timing attacks can jeopardize entire computing systems, smartphones, the Cloud, everything.

Today we give a high-level view of the Meltdown and Spectre security flaws described in these papers.
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Predictions We Didn’t Make

January 2, 2018


With wishes for a memorable New Year 2018

Muhammad Afzal Upal is Chair of the Computing and Information Science Department at Mercyhurst University. He works in machine learning and cognitive science, most specifically making inferences from textual data. In joint papers he has refined a quantitative approach to the idea of postdiction originally suggested by Walter Kintsch in the 1980s.

Today we review some postdictions from 2017 and wish everyone a Happy New Year 2018.
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Truth From Zero?

December 17, 2017


How we might compare AlphaZero against standards of perfection

YouTube 2015 lecture source

David Silver is the lead author on the paper, “Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm,” which was posted twelve days go on the ArXiv. It announces an algorithm called AlphaZero that, given the rules of any two-player game of strategy and copious hardware, trains a deep neural network to play the game at skill levels approaching perfection.

Today I review what is known about AlphaZero and discuss how to compare it with known instances of perfect play.
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P=NP: Perhaps I Change My Mind

December 8, 2017


An old result put a new way (in a now-fixed-up post)

Albert Meyer knows circuit lower bounds. He co-authored a paper with the late Larry Stockmeyer that proves that small instances of the decision problem of a certain weak second-order logical theory require Boolean circuits with more gates than there are atoms in the observable universe. The instances almost fit into two Tweets using just the Roman typewriter keys.

Today Ken and I discuss a simple but perhaps underlooked connection between P=NP and circuit lower bounds.
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Proving Peano Arithmetic Partially Consistent?

November 27, 2017


An approach to consistency that could work…

Kurt Gödel is feeling bored. Not quite in our English sense of “bored”: German has a word Weltschmerz meaning “world-weariness.” In Kurt’s case it’s Überweltschmerz. We have tried for over a month to get him to do another interview like several times before, but he keeps saying there’s nothing new to talk about.

Today we want to ask all of you—or at least those of you into logic and complexity—whether we can find something to pep Kurt up. Incidentally, we never call him Kurt.
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A Magic Madison Visit

November 20, 2017


To give a Hilldale Lecture and learn about fairness and dichotomies

UB CSE50 anniversary source

Jin-Yi Cai was kind enough to help get me, Dick, invited last month to give the Hilldale Lecture in the Physical Sciences for 2017-2018. These lectures are held at The University of Wisconsin-Madison and are supported by the Hilldale Foundation. The lectures started in 1973-1974, which is about the time I started at Yale University—my first faculty appointment.

Today Ken and I wish to talk about my recent visit, discuss new ideas of algorithmic fairness, and then appreciate something about Jin-Yi’s work on “dichotomies” between polynomial time and {\mathsf{\#P}}-completeness.
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Lotfi Zadeh 1921–2017

October 21, 2017


But fuzzy logic lives on forever

New York Times obituary source

Lotfi Zadeh had a long and amazing life in academics and the real world. He passed away last month, aged 96.

Today Ken and I try to convey the engineering roots of his work. Then we relate some personal stories.
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