Friday, November 20, 2009

Como newspapers

Como newspapers are up in arms about the problems of the Como seat of the University of Insubria.
We got front page coverage on the Corriere di Como, and strident articles also in the Provincia di Como.

They do not make clear that the Science Faculty of Como itself decided to close Informatica in Como months ago. An informatica course was not even presented to the Senate for consideration. The choice of the Science Faculty was instead to present Scienze Ambientale.

As a consequence informatica staff requested and were permitted to transfer to Varese (same university) to support the remaining informatica course of the University of Insubria - which lacked sufficient staff to continue otherwise. One ambientalist has been transferred from Varese to Como, and a further six from Varese will count towards the Ambientale course in Como.


Today there is a funny article in the Provincia (La Provincia di Como, 20 November 2009: Facoltà di Scienze a rischio Gli studenti corrono in aiuto) in which the reporter quotes a facebook page. The article's title translates as "Science faculty at risk: students run to the aid of the faculty". Unfortunately the reporter misread the Facebook site, the last post being in April, not November. Many of the students attached to that page were students of informatica, and Prof. Sabadini discussed fully with them at the time the actual situation. The meeting with the president mentioned in the article as occurring next week actually occurred in April.

The Provincia instead claims that the only response was from the president of the faculty who said: "... sono un calabrese coriaceo e stia tranquillo che farò di tutto perché questa facoltà, che è per qualità scientifica 'il pezzo pregiato' dell'Ateneo, non solo non sia ridimensionata ma ne esca rafforzata. ...".

The dangers of being a reporter in this electronic age! Reporters have the duty to double-check their sources. There were however such gross mistakes in the past - the present one joins classic errors like "Dewey defeats Truman".

Pietro Berra of the Provincia di Como


27th November 2009:Update I have decided not to write further on this issue except perhaps to report the final outcome. In my view the Science Faculty of Como has made serious mistakes of policy over the years, and is now in difficulty as a result. The main problem is that the faculty has not attracted sufficient students. On the closure of the informatics course the informatics staff have requested to transfer to Varese. It is the right of any staff memember to ask for a transfer from one seat to another. All the rest consists of decisions of the organs of the university and discussion which is now at the level of politicians. Basta.

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The discovery of adjoint functors

Bill Lawvere, in his lectures in Como, 10 January 2008, discusses Kan's discovery of adjoint functors.
video

Here's a photograph of Daniel Marinus Kan:

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The parallel composition of processes

We have been arguing for some years (really since the appearance of our paper on Span(Graph) in AMAST 97) that the usual operation in process algebras called parallel is a wrong direction, not describing explicitly the media of communication. I talked about this in Calais at CT 2008, saying on the first slide that our work "hasn’t as yet been used by the concurrency community but it should be".

Well it seems that at last someone from that community is listening.

After the talk Pawel Sobocinski came up to me saying he had an idea of a process algebra like Span(Graph). We had actually produced such a thing, but rather half-heartedly, to try to communicate with process algebra people. But Pawel is now developing a full-blown process algebra with communication like Span(Graph).

It is interesting that Pawel, in his second year at University in Sydney, did a vacation project with me on Span(Graph) and attended the 1997 AMAST meeting.

His process algebra does not incorporate the full sequential operations of Cospan which we introduced in the paper "P. Katis, N. Sabadini, R.F.C. Walters, A formalisation of the IWIM Model. in: Proc. COORDINATION 2000,(Eds.) Porto A., Roman G.-C., LNCS 1906:267-283, Springer Verlag, 2000".

We became involved in thinking about Coordination through visits to Como by Farhad Arbab. Our paper showed how to give an abstraction of his IWIM model in CospanSpan(Graph) which had however the advantage of a compositional theory of connectors, not a feature of Manifold. We criticized Manifold for this defect to Farhad and I think this had an influence on his new coordination language Reo.

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Informatica at the university in Como

I have mentioned in an earlier post that, as a result of university reform, the faculty of science in Como decided to close the informatica course in Como. As a result we informatici asked to transfer to the seat in Varese (smae university - Insubria) to support the informatica course there (which has need of staff).

This caused tremendous excitement in Como, with many newspaper articles and television commentary (which I didn't see). The latest thing is that there has been a question in parliament in Rome.

We have the feeling of being a capro espiatorio (scape goat) for all the problems of the university in Como. Today there is a university senate meeting which may/will discuss the matter.

Yesterday there was a surprising development. It seems that after years of neglect of the Como informatica course we are in fact pregiati. Como, or some section of the Como establishment, wants our course to continue.

I don't think it will happen - it would require closing some course dear to the hearts of the Science faculty.

Update: Como science faculty presented to the senate the proposal to discontinue the Como infomatica course. The senate accepted this and decided to accept our transferral to Varese.
I assume that our Como degree will continue at least till current students complete, that is for two more years. I would like to record in a later post some facts about our laurea course. I think it was an excellent course and we worked hard to support it. In particular Nicoletta Sabadini made a huge effort towards its success.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gavin Wraith's web pages

I particularly like Gavin's web pages. I find them particularly evocative, with their concentrated careful use of language, a style I cannot emulate. I think Gavin has the makings of a novelist. He might abstract from his family history and write a novel placed in Byzantium, between the east and the west. Probably he would prefer to write fantasy but this would interest me less.

Looking back at my posts I notice that many have a decidedly negative tone. Gavin has separated equivalent writing under the category "rants". I will introduce today two new categories of posts, optimistic and pessimistic. Choose which mood you would like to see.

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Snippet of Bill Lawvere's lectures in Como, 10 January 2008

Well worth viewing despite the fact that Bill's face is obscured for the first few seconds of the snippet. I will put up a few more pieces in later posts. This video is also at my old department pages where there are more details of the meeting.
video

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Greek laptop



This picture from a Greek vase was the logo of our department "Dipartimento di Scienze della Cultura, Politiche e dell'Informazione", a short-lived attempt at an interaction between Informatica and the humanities. The department closed recently (31 September 2009) as a result of the endless intrigues of Italian academic life.

If I remember correctly the department was formed in 2005.

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