And where have you been?

As you may have heard, iPhones store, unencrypted, a list of locations where the phone has been while turned on. This information, like all the user information on the phone, is also backed-up unencrypted on one’s computer when syncing the phone with iTunes.

There is a cute program, called iPhone tracker which will read this information and plot it on a map, also creating a video showing where your phone (and you) has been over time.

This is my neighborhood:

And this is me attending TCC 2011:

What could possibly go wrong with this?

Goings-on in the Bay Area

On Thursday, May 5th, David Karger will come to Stanford to give the second Motwani Lecture in theoretical computer science. As for the inaugural lecture there will be a reception in the Gates building and then the lecture will be at 4:15pm, this time in the Allen building. Recall that parking is free after 4pm.

Then you can go wild with Cinco de Mayo parties in San Francisco, recover from the hangover on Friday, and then head to Berkeley where, during the weekend, there will be the second conference on computation as a lens for the sciences. The speakers will include freshly Turing-awarded Leslie Valient. The event promises to be even better than the famously successful first conference in 2002.

FCRC will bring STOC and the Complexity Conference to San Jose on June 4-11. San Jose is the third largest city in California. Which are the top two?

During the next academic year, there will be a special year on Theory of Computing at Stanford, sponsored by the Computer Science department. There will be workshops, long- and short-term visitors and other stuff going on, about which more later.

The first confirmed event will be a workshop on going beyond worst-case analysis, organized by Tim Roughgarden. Confirmed plenary speakers are Avrim Blum, Bernard Chazelle, Uri Feige, Richard Karp, Michael Mitzenmacher, Dan Spielman, and Shang-Hua Teng.

The workshop will be on September 19-21.

On Italy’s Embarrassments

If there is one thing that Italy excels at, it’s producing brilliant and handsome theoretical computer scientists, but if there are two things that Italy excels at, it’s producing brilliant and handsome theoretical computer scientists and embarrassing public figures.

When it comes to embarrassing public figures, one would think that a prime minister under trial for paying an underage girl for sex would be on top, but recently Roberto de Mattei has been working really hard and he deserves at least an honorable mention. Continue reading

Lies, Damn Lies, and the Royal Society Report

A few days ago, the Royal Society released a report on “Global Scientific Collaboration in the 21st Century.” Usually, when a document has “in the 21st Century” in the title, it can only go downhill from there. (I once had to review a paper that started with “As we enter the second decade of the 21st Century…” and, hard as it is to believe, it did go further downhill from there.) But the Royal Society is one of the most hallowed of scientific institutions, so one might have still hoped for the best.

The report was widely quoted in the press as predicting that China would overtake the United States in scientific output by 2013.

Indeed, in Section 1.6 (pages 42-43), the report uses data provided by Elsevier to estimate the number of scientific papers produced in various countries. We’ll skip the objection that the number of papers is a worthless measure of scientific output and go to figure 1.6 in the report, reproduced below.

The figure plots the percentage of scientific papers coming out of various countries, and then proceeds to do a linear interpolation of the percentages to create a projection for the future.

While such an approach shows China overtaking the US in 2013, it also shows, more ominously, China publishing 110% of all scientific papers by 2100. (The report concedes that linear interpolation might not make a lot of sense, yet the picture is there.)