Lessons from Norway
27 July 2017 | 11:42 am

For the last two weeks, the wife and I took a vacation to beautiful Norway to see the fjords and the North Cape, effectively the northernmost point in Europe. It was a visit though to the Norwegian Petroleum Museum in Stavanger that inspired this post.

The discovery of oil in the waters off Norway in 1969 completely changed the Norwegian economy, changing the way of life from a difficult agriculture and fishing society to a more comfortable oil-based economy. The museum had a surprisingly good introductory movie "Oil Kid" describes the challenging relationship of a man with his father who drew a comfortable life as an oil worker. Oil may have made Norway complacent as it lags behind its Scandinavian neighbors in non-oil based technological innovation.

The Norwegian government declared that the oil belonged to the people and created a fund that now totals nearly a trillion US dollars, over $150,000 per Norwegian citizen. Nevertheless as the price of oil remains low, Norway risks challenges as a country reliant on its production.

Norway now aims to be energy-neutral in the near future with extensive hydropower and wind mills. Norway has the highest percentage of electric cars of any country. The tiny town of Eidfjord, population about 1000, has a Tesla charging station. Odd to see this from a major oil exporter.

As computer scientists we have "struck oil," also leading a revolutionary change to our economy with its winners and losers. In fifty years will we look back and regret what we have wrought? 

What are the top Computer science programs for women?
23 July 2017 | 6:39 pm

What are the top Computer Science Programs for Women?

How would one even answer the question?

Some people did a study based on National Center for Education Statistics and Payscale. The results are here.

1) While I believe the top X school listed are pretty good for women in computing I don't believe that (say) the Yth school is better than the (Y+1)th school for some values of X and all values of Y.

2) I appreciate that they put in the work for this.

3) Overall good news and bad news:

The number of female professionals in computer science has fallen by 35% since 1990

The number of women  finishing a comp sci degree has increased by 75% in the last five years.

4) Why do we care? If there are many talented people in group X who are being discouraged from going into field Y, but society needs more people in field Y then YES we should do something about that. Also, if a certain group of people is shut out then a group-think might occur.

5) What to do? Organizations like Girls who code are good. The younger they start the bettter.

6) Is there a social stigma for women to go into computer science? I think the answer is yes. How can we break that stigma? Realize that the notion of a female lawyer or doctor at one time had a stigma but I don't think it does anymore. What did they do right? What are we doing wrong?

7) Personal note:

I have mentored 58 High School Students. 56 were male, 2 were female.

I have mentored 45 ugrad students. 33 were male, 12 were female.

I have supervised 17 Masters students. 15 were male, 2 were female

I have supervised 7 PhD students, 6 were male, 1 was female.

The HS students stats are the most startling (at least to me). I don't have much control on this one as HS students seek me out and they happen to mostly be male. Reading that over it sounds weak on my part.


I would call these Galois Games but I can't
21 July 2017 | 12:55 pm

Here is a game (Darling says I only blog about non-fun games. This post will NOT prove her wrong.)

Let D be a domain,  d ≥  1 and 0 ≠ a0  ∈ D. There are two players Wanda (for Wants root) and Nora (for No root). One of the players is Player I, the other Player II.

(1) Player I and II alternate (with Player I going first) choosing the coefficients in D of a polynomial of degree d with the constant term preset to a0.

(2) When they are done, if there is a root in D  then Wanda wins, else Nora wins.

There is a paper by Gasarch-Washington-Zbarsky here where we determine who wins the game when D is Z,Q (these proofs are elementary), any finite extension of Q (this proof uses hard number theory), R, C (actually any algebraic closed field), and any finite field.

How did I think of this game?  There was a paper called Greedy Galois Games (which I blogged about here). When I saw the title I thought the game might be that players pick coefficients from Q and if the final polynomial has a solution in radicals then (say) Player I wins. That was not correct. They only use that Galois was a bad duelist. Even so, the paper INSPIRED me! Hence the paper above! The motivating problem is still open:

Open Question: Let d be at least 5. Play the above game except that (1) the coefficients are out of Q, and (2) Wanda wins if the final poly is solvable by radicals, otherwise Nora wins. (Note that if d=1,2,3,4 then Wanda wins.) Who wins?

If they had named their game Hamilton Game (since Alexander Hamilton lost a duel) I might have been inspired to come up with a game about quaternions or Hamiltonian cycles.

POINT- take ideas for problems from any source, even an incorrect guess about a paper!






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