Thursday, February 04, 2010

Bits and pieces

I haven't written for a few weeks. I don't know why. In January I was finishing courses. I have a couple of bits and pieces to report.

1) The University of Insubria. The Faculty of Science in Como, after essentially declaring war (the word guerra appeared in the papers) on the rest of the university in November and December, seems to decided against that strategy, at least temporarily. In December the rump of the faculty held a secret survey which, when released to the press, revealed that most members of the faculty wished to leave the university. But now the local newspapers have stopped talking about us, in favour of a local scandal in which one of the local bene shot an associate and tried to destroy the evidence by putting the offending head in a pizza oven. The faculty and the union decided to drop legal action against our request to transfer to the faculty in Varese.

2) Since we are moving faculty I have been looking at undergraduate Computer Science syllabuses. Computer science seems to have real difficulty deciding what to teach. The new course we are joining has (in proposal at least) several core mathematics courses but no core courses on automata, logic, complexity theory, recursive function theory, grammars, graph theory. The problem with mathematicians teaching informatica is that they have a very limited view of mathematics. The problem with computer scientists is that they have not decided if they want to describe a sequence of tricks, or if they really want a science.

3) I wrote recently about Tim Park's book "Medici Money". Afterwards I looked for reviews on the net, and it seems that I am completely outvoted. The reviews are uniformly glowing.

4) I wrote about John Baez's change of direction. I notice now that he has written "I’ve decided to change my research direction — so I don’t even want to give talks about topological quantum field theory, n-categories and that kind of stuff. I’d rather think about new things". In my post I said that he might consider politics like D. B*** but I don't think he would find that fun.

His announced talk at QPL2010 does not seem to be original work, apart from some extensions to n-category theory, and is about categories where the morphisms are matrices taking values in a rig, to categories of profunctors and spans, to the way star-autonomous categories act like commutative Frobenius algebras in the world of profunctors, the last being a report on work of Ross Street.

5) Another mistake in Andy Tanenbaum (I already wrote about one in 2005). Tanenbaum provides, as extra material to his book Modern Operating Systems, 2nd Edition a translation of the examples in Java. In particular he provides a semaphore class, which I have used without examination (not being a Java programmer). Up to this year it has always functioned as I expected. However this year in student's solution to a problem there arose a situation in which the semaphore class does not act as a semaphore! I am embarassed that I did not check earlier. I will write a post with details when I get a chance.

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