Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thesis Defense

Yesterday, I defended my non-existent thesis, apparently with success. (The thesis itself will be done on August 29, at or around 2:58pm. There are plans to make it readable.)

Here are the slides from the defense in PPTX (also saved as PPT with minor screw-ups). Sorry, no reasonable PDF. Due to lack of time in making the slides, a lot of the presentation was verbal commentary, but hopefully the slides also have some value.

In other news, I am once again fed up with Powerpoint, and I will be switching back to LaTeX/Beamer. Last time I quit Beamer because xfig sucked, but in the mean time I discovered TikZ and it is impressive.

By the way, when discussing the history of cell-probe lower bounds, it occurred to me that the two major foundational papers that really started the whole field were:

  • [Ajtai 88], published in Combinatorica, but proving a false result.
  • [Fredman, Saks 89], published in STOC, containing tons of claims without proofs, and not followed by any journal version.
Idiots. It's not as anybody will remember them 20 years later for starting an entire research field. Research is about proving immortal theorems that represent absolute truth. This requires triple-checking of all proofs, and inclusion of absolutely all details (even in SODA submissions). The proofs of such absolute truth must be deposited in journals for perpetual archiving*, thus preserving the name of the author forever.

[[ *Though paper is an almost perfect solution to preserving your ideas into cold immortality, some care must be exercised. To prevent ware and tare, it is recommended that your piece of absolute truth does not motivate any reckless readers to actually open the journal at the pages of your paper. ]]

Incidentally, these two papers are also the "second paper" in the field (after Andy Yao defined the model a decade earlier). This reminded me of Luca's very sensible "second paper" observation.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

IPE is another graphics editor which is easy to use and integrates well with LaTeX/Beamer.

tcsmath said...

Idiots. It's not as anybody will remember them 20 years later for starting an entire research field.

(1) This is a ridiculous argument.

I think creationism is a silly philosophy, at odds with the progress of science. I am not deterred from this belief by the assertion that Newton was a creationist.

(2) Writing a complete and rigorous treatment of your results is not that hard. Historically, computer scientists are really lazy in this regard, but it doesn't take that much time.

In fact, it takes a lot more effort to write a treatment that is enjoyable to read (which one should also do, and I don't think the two are at odds).

Anonymous said...

>Historically, computer scientists are really lazy in this regard...

_theoretical_ computer scientists. In the rest of computer science, people write much more readable papers.

Anonymous said...

forget xfig, its time is over.. tikz is a great package for tex; another program to be aware of is Inkscape, which supports tex

hal said...

If you like to program, one of my friends wrote a package to program slides in Ruby.

MiP said...

James, a treatment that is enjoyable to read is very important, but it is not what you should do in an early publication. You are very likely to get the big ideas wrong (what you think is the really interesting stuff in your paper may soon be absorbed by the community and become trivial, and the unusual ideas will be some that you neglect).

So I would recommend that people put their writing efforts into a field that is maturing (say, several papers). In an early paper, you should simply make all ideas clear.

MiP said...

Anon: _theoretical_ computer scientists. In the rest of computer science, people write much more readable papers.

I agree that papers in other fields are much more readable, but that's just because the subject is easier to explain. In theory, most concepts are rather abstract, and there is deeply nested composition of said concepts. In other fields, the ideas can typically be presented in isolation, and they are "engineering ideas", i.e. they don't seem abstract if you know the field.

If anything, people in TCS spend more time writing their papers.

MiP said...

Thanks for the graphics suggestions, everybody! I should give them a try...