Machinations


Bertinoro
July 17, 2009, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Last week, I attended the Algorithms and Data Structures (ADS) workshop in Bertinoro. Bertinoro is a small medieval town near Bologna, Italy that is perfect for a workshop. There’s a hilltop castle offering well-protected meeting spaces for talks, and a nearby nunnery offering living accommodations for participants, plus the restaurants in town are uniformly excellent.

The workshop had a great collection of talks, including several excellent talks on data structures, an area I don’t normally keep up on. Some that stood out for me:

  • Monika Henzinger , formerly head of research at google and now at EPFL, surveyed recent results on the problem of choosing a random web page. This problem is rendered non-trivial by the fact that nobody knows the entire network of web pages and links and so the only tool available for sampling is to walk from one page to another. More on this topic in a later post.
  • My friend Amos Fiat, at the University of Tel Aviv, gave a great talk on a connection between differential privacy and computational geometry. A coreset is a small subset of points that can be used to compute an approximate solution to a problem over a larger set of points. Amos introduced the concept of a private coreset, which essentially has low sensitivity to the replacement of a single point in the original point set
  • Andrew Goldberg introduced the concept of the highway dimensionality of a graph to show why certain heuristics for speeding up shortest paths computations work so well on graphs related to road networks. Essentially this is a number like the tree-width of a graph that measures the structural simplicity of the graph. Smaller highway dimention equals a more algorithmically tractable graph. I really like these results that generate analytic techniques that move beyond worst case analysis.

After the conference, Amos and I traveled to Rome where we worked with Stefano Leonardo for several days on a problem related to auctions with budgets.  Unfortunately, I now have a mild case of gout from my culinary exploits in Rome and Bertinoro.

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