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Blog Profile / Shtetl-Optimized

Filed Under:Academics / Physics
Posts on Regator:238
Posts / Week:0.8
Archived Since:December 19, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Lens of Computation on the Sciences

This weekend, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton hosted a workshop on the “Lens of Computation in the Sciences,” which was organized by Avi Wigderson, and was meant to showcase theoretical computer science’s imperialistic ambitions to transform every other field.  I was proud to speak at the workshop, representing CS theory’s designs on physics.  But videos […]

Kuperberg’s parable

Recently, longtime friend-of-the-blog Greg Kuperberg wrote a Facebook post that, with Greg’s kind permission, I’m sharing here. A parable about pseudo-skepticism in response to climate science, and science in general. Doctor: You ought to stop smoking, among other reasons because smoking causes lung cancer. Patient: Are you sure? I like to smoke. It also creates jobs. […]

What does the NSA think of academic cryptographers? Recently-declassified document provides clues

Brighten Godfrey was one of my officemates when we were grad students at Berkeley.  He’s now a highly-successful computer networking professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he studies the wonderful question of how we could get the latency of the Internet down to the physical limit imposed by the finiteness of the speed of light.  (Right now, […]

Der Quantencomputer

Those of you who read German (I don’t) might enjoy a joint interview of me and Seth Lloyd about quantum computing, which was conducted in Seth’s office by the journalist Christian Meier, and published in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung.  Even if you don’t read German, you can just feed the interview into Google Translate, […]

Interstellar’s dangling wormholes

On Saturday Dana and I saw Interstellar, the sci-fi blockbuster co-produced by the famous theoretical physicist Kip Thorne (who told me about his work on this movie when I met him eight years ago).  We had the rare privilege of seeing the movie on the same day that we got to hang out with a real astronaut, Dan Barry, who flew […]

A few quick announcements

I gave a new survey talk at Yale, entitled “When Exactly Do Quantum Computers Provide a Speedup?”  Here are the PowerPoint slides.  Thanks so much to Rob Schoelkopf for inviting me, and to everyone else at Yale for an awesome visit. Aephraim Steinberg asks me to announce that the call for nominations for the 2015 […]

Speaking Truth to Parallelism at Cornell

This week I was at my alma mater, Cornell, to give a talk at the 50th anniversary celebration of its computer science department.  You can watch the streaming video here; my talk runs from roughly 1:17:30 to 1:56 (though if you’ve seen other complexity/physics/humor shows by me, this one is pretty similar, except for the […]

Microsoft SVC

By now, the news that Microsoft abruptly closed its Silicon Valley research lab—leaving dozens of stellar computer scientists jobless—has already been all over the theoretical computer science blogosphere: see, e.g., Lance, Luca, Omer Reingold, Michael Mitzenmacher.  I never made a real visit to Microsoft SVC (only went there once IIRC, for a workshop, while a grad […]

Speaking Truth to Parallelism: The Book

A few months ago, I signed a contract with MIT Press to publish a new book: an edited anthology of selected posts from this blog, along with all-new updates and commentary.  The book’s tentative title (open to better suggestions) is Speaking Truth to Parallelism: Dispatches from the Frontier of Quantum Computing Theory.  The new book should […]

Steven Pinker’s inflammatory proposal: universities should prioritize academics

If you haven’t yet, I urge you to read Steven Pinker’s brilliant piece in The New Republic about what’s broken with America’s “elite” colleges and how to fix it.  The piece starts out as an evisceration of an earlier New Republic article on the same subject by William Deresiewicz.  Pinker agrees with Deresiewicz that something is wrong, […]

Raise a martini glass for Google and Martinis!

We’ve already been discussing this in the comments section of my previous post, but a few people emailed me to ask when I’d devote a separate blog post to the news. OK, so for those of you who haven’t yet heard: this week Google’s Quantum AI Lab announced that it’s teaming up with John Martinis, of the University of California, […]

Do theoretical computer scientists despise practitioners? (Answer: no, that’s crazy)

A roboticist and Shtetl-Optimized fan named Jon Groff recently emailed me the following suggestion for a blog entry: I think a great idea for an entry would be the way that in fields like particle physics the theoreticians and experimentalists get along quite well but in computer science and robotics in particular there seems to […]

“Could a Quantum Computer Have Subjective Experience?”

Author’s Note: Below is the prepared version of a talk that I gave two weeks ago at the workshop Quantum Foundations of a Classical Universe, which was held at IBM’s TJ Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY.  My talk is for entertainment purposes only; it should not be taken seriously by anyone.  If you reply in a way […]

Subhash Khot’s prizewinning research

I already congratulated Subhash Khot in my last post for winning the Nevanlinna Award, but this really deserves a separate post.  Khot won theoretical computer science’s highest award largely for introducing and exploring the Unique Games Conjecture (UGC), which says (in one sentence) that a large number of the approximation problems that no one has been able to prove […]

Is the P vs. NP problem ill-posed? (Answer: no.)

A couple days ago, a reader wrote to me to ask whether it’s possible that the solution to the P vs. NP problem is simply undefined—and that one should enlarge the space of possible answers using non-classical logics (the reader mentioned something called Catu?ko?i logic).  Since other people have emailed me with similar questions in […]

US State Department: Let in cryptographers and other scientists

Predictably, my last post attracted plenty of outrage (some of it too vile to let through), along with the odd commenter who actually agreed with what I consider my fairly middle-of-the-road, liberal Zionist stance.  But since the outrage came from both sides of the issue, and the two sides were outraged about the opposite things, I guess I should feel OK about it. […]

3-sentence summary of what’s happening in Israel and Gaza

Hamas is trying to kill as many civilians as it can. Israel is trying to kill as few civilians as it can. Neither is succeeding very well.

“How Might Quantum Information Transform Our Future?”

So, the Templeton Foundation invited me to write a 1500-word essay on the above question.  It’s like a blog post, except they pay me to do it!  My essay is now live, here.  I hope you enjoy my attempt at techno-futurist prose.  You can comment on the essay either here or over at Templeton’s site.  Thanks […]

Seth Teller (1964-2014)

Seth Teller was a colleague of mine in CSAIL and the EECS department, and was one of my favorite people in all of MIT.  He was a brilliant roboticist, who (among many other things) spearheaded MIT’s participation in the DARPA Grand Challenge for self-driving cars, and who just recently returned from a fact-finding trip to […]

The Power of the Digi-Comp II: My First Conscious Paperlet

Foreword: Right now, I have a painfully-large stack of unwritten research papers.  Many of these are “paperlets”: cool things I noticed that I want to tell people about, but that would require a lot more development before they became competitive for any major theoretical computer science conference. Show More Summary

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