Discovering Dennis Ritchie’s Lost Dissertation
> It may come as some surprise to learn that until just this moment, despite Ritchie’s much-deserved computing fame, his dissertation—the intellectual and biographical fork-in-the-road separating an academic career in computer science from the one at Bell Labs leading to C and Unix—was lost. Lost? Yes, very much so in being both unpublished and absent from any public collection; not even an entry for it can be found in Harvard’s library catalog nor in dissertation databases.
Ten Lessons I Wish I Had Learned Before I Started Teaching Differential Equations
> One of many mistakes of my youth was writing a textbook in ordinary differential equations. It set me back several years in my career in mathematics. However, it had a redeeming feature: it led me to realize that I had no idea what a differential equation is. The more I teach differential equations, the less I understand the mystery of differential equations.
Desperate for High-Paying Wall Street Jobs, Penn Students Try Buying Their Way Into the Right Classes
> Five years ago, sophomores like Current might not have been so desperate. Back then, finance companies hired for their all-important junior-year summer internships just a few months ahead of time. But recently, in an attempt to scoop up the best students before anyone else, companies have moved up the timeline. It’s now standard practice for finance firms to recruit sophomores like Current — who has only completed three semesters of college and hasn’t even declared a major — for those same junior-year summer internships a full 18 months in advance.
My Semester With the Snowflakes
> At 52, I was accepted to Yale as a freshman. The students I met there surprised me.
NCAA Clears Way for Athletes to Be Compensated
> The move came amid growing pressure from legislators, a month after California passed a law requiring schools in the state to allow college athletes to earn endorsement money, and represents a stark shift in policy.
> In a concession the NCAA had long resisted, the organization’s governing board directed its three divisions to immediately consider changing the rules governing such benefits for athletes, and to make all such changes no later than January 2021.
George Peabody Library
> College libraries can be claustrophobic, institutional affairs, more concerned with eliminating distractions than providing a scholarly atmosphere. But the George Peabody Library on the campus of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, now owned by Johns Hopkins University, was seemingly designed to create a space where studying feels monumental.
> Built in 1878 at the behest of philanthropist George Peabody, the library was originally part of an arts and culture institute—America’s first music conservatory—that he created to be available to the people of his beloved Baltimore. The Peabody Institute is still among the world’s finest music schools, graduating many of classical music’s finest performers, teachers, and composers.
California Governor Signs Bill Allowing College Athletes to Earn Money
The Shaw Family Admission Plan
Mostly about buying college admissions through donations, but also how he runs his house.
> The 68-year-old Shaw made his estimated $7.3 billion fortune by bringing the computing revolution to finance. D.E. Shaw & Co., the legendary hedge fund that bears his name, pairs proprietary trading algorithms with obsessive risk management. Less well publicized, however, are the various ways in which Shaw has applied his fund’s risk-averse, quantitative approach to nearly every aspect of his life. Employees tell stories about Shaw wanting Chinese food or a comfortable mattress, and Shaw staff exhaustively researching and testing the options in advance. It was company lore that before Shaw traveled, an assistant would take the exact same trip — same car service, same airport, same seat on the plane — to eliminate any inefficiencies. Shaw has been said to purchase tickets for several different flights on the same day in case his plans change.
Where Theory Meets Chalk, Dust Flies
> A photo survey of the blackboards of mathematicians.
> For the last year, Jessica Wynne, a photographer and professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, has been photographing mathematicians’ blackboards, finding art in the swirling gangs of symbols sketched in the heat of imagination, argument and speculation. “Do Not Erase,” a collection of these images, will be published by Princeton University Press in the fall of 2020.
On studying mathematics
> I understand that most of us do not have a good experience when studying mathematics in high school or college. I assure you that this is a common problem, not only in Vietnam, but all over the world. Mathematics is taught and learned mechanically, without joy. But don’t worry, and please be optimistic, school is not the only place we can learn. I have never had a college degree, and if I can study math, anyone can learn it. The only thing we need is an open mind, daring to try new things, the rest can be left to math!
Algorithms by Jeff Erickson
> This web page contains a free electronic version of my (soon to be) self-published textbook Algorithms, along with other lecture notes I have written for various theoretical computer science classes at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign since 1998.
> 0th edition (prepublication draft), December 2018
Real World Crypto 2019
> January 9-11, 2019
> San Jose Marriott, San Jose, USA
Static Program Analysis
> These notes present principles and applications of static analysis of programs. We cover basic type analysis, lattice theory, control flow graphs, dataflow analysis, fixed-point algorithms, widening and narrowing, path sensitivity, relational analysis, interprocedural analysis, context sensitivity, control-flow analysis, several flavors of pointer analysis, and key concepts of semantics-based abstract interpretation. A tiny imperative programming language with pointers and first-class functions is subjected to numerous different static analyses illustrating the techniques that are presented.
The following candidates are listed in a randomly-selected order.
Prove it isn’t random...
Texas likely is removing Helen Keller from the curriculum
> The first linked article claims that cutting Keller from the curriculum will save forty minutes. Even if you don’t think Keller is worth exactly forty minutes, surely she is worth more than zero minutes, and besides the teacher simply can talk faster if need be (don’t most teachers talk too slowly?).
Trapper Keeper Contraband
> Schools are weird. They get super-political about the strangest things, because kids tend to get hung up about stupid things and those stupid things tend to affect what happens in the classroom. And that leads to common things getting banned. One of those things was the Trapper Keeper—a brilliant tool built to organize students as they went about the myriad subjects in their day. It seems like a useful thing, but schools across the country banned the products at the height of their success, ensuring that they would eventually fade from view. (Try finding one in a store lately?) Today’s issue organizes every spare thought around the Trapper Keeper.
MASCAB: a Micro-Architectural Side-Channel Attack Bibliography
> the volume of papers has expanded rapidly, but the time I’d normally allocate to reading them has been eroded by other commitments (as evidenced by a pile of printed papers gathering dust on my desk). In the end, I decided to tackle this problem by progressively a) collating papers I could read, then b) reading them one-by-one, but in no particular order, and attempting to summarise their contribution (and so organise the sub-field as a whole in my head). MASCAB is the result: after starting to advise MSc and PhD students on how to navigate the sub-field, it seems likely to be of use to others as well.
Closing the Loop: The Importance of External Engagement in Computer Science Research
On leaky abstractions from engineering to academia.
Stories Behind Papers: Integer Overflow
> Overall, dynamic detection of integer-related undefined behaviors in C/C++ is not difficult, but convincing people to take these bugs seriously was a long struggle and the broader issue of how integer overflows relate to program bugs is interesting and deep.
A practitioner’s guide to reading programming languages papers
> Last week I jokingly said that POPL papers must pass an ‘intellectual intimidation’ threshold in order to be accepted. That’s not true of course, but it is the case that programming languages papers can look especially intimidating to the practitioner (or indeed, the academic working in a different sub-discipline of computer science!). They are full of dense figures with mathematical symbols, and phrases thrown around such as “judgements”, “operational semantics”, and the like.