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Parallel Computing: Theory and Practice
by Umut Acar who also co-authored a different book on parallel algorithms w/ Guy Blelloch from a more high-level and functional perspective
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september 2019 by nhaliday
The Existential Risk of Math Errors - Gwern.net
How big is this upper bound? Mathematicians have often made errors in proofs. But it’s rarer for ideas to be accepted for a long time and then rejected. But we can divide errors into 2 basic cases corresponding to type I and type II errors:

1. Mistakes where the theorem is still true, but the proof was incorrect (type I)
2. Mistakes where the theorem was false, and the proof was also necessarily incorrect (type II)

Before someone comes up with a final answer, a mathematician may have many levels of intuition in formulating & working on the problem, but we’ll consider the final end-product where the mathematician feels satisfied that he has solved it. Case 1 is perhaps the most common case, with innumerable examples; this is sometimes due to mistakes in the proof that anyone would accept is a mistake, but many of these cases are due to changing standards of proof. For example, when David Hilbert discovered errors in Euclid’s proofs which no one noticed before, the theorems were still true, and the gaps more due to Hilbert being a modern mathematician thinking in terms of formal systems (which of course Euclid did not think in). (David Hilbert himself turns out to be a useful example of the other kind of error: his famous list of 23 problems was accompanied by definite opinions on the outcome of each problem and sometimes timings, several of which were wrong or questionable5.) Similarly, early calculus used ‘infinitesimals’ which were sometimes treated as being 0 and sometimes treated as an indefinitely small non-zero number; this was incoherent and strictly speaking, practically all of the calculus results were wrong because they relied on an incoherent concept - but of course the results were some of the greatest mathematical work ever conducted6 and when later mathematicians put calculus on a more rigorous footing, they immediately re-derived those results (sometimes with important qualifications), and doubtless as modern math evolves other fields have sometimes needed to go back and clean up the foundations and will in the future.7

...

Isaac Newton, incidentally, gave two proofs of the same solution to a problem in probability, one via enumeration and the other more abstract; the enumeration was correct, but the other proof totally wrong and this was not noticed for a long time, leading Stigler to remark:

...

TYPE I > TYPE II?
“Lefschetz was a purely intuitive mathematician. It was said of him that he had never given a completely correct proof, but had never made a wrong guess either.”
- Gian-Carlo Rota13

Case 2 is disturbing, since it is a case in which we wind up with false beliefs and also false beliefs about our beliefs (we no longer know that we don’t know). Case 2 could lead to extinction.

...

Except, errors do not seem to be evenly & randomly distributed between case 1 and case 2. There seem to be far more case 1s than case 2s, as already mentioned in the early calculus example: far more than 50% of the early calculus results were correct when checked more rigorously. Richard Hamming attributes to Ralph Boas a comment that while editing Mathematical Reviews that “of the new results in the papers reviewed most are true but the corresponding proofs are perhaps half the time plain wrong”.

...

Gian-Carlo Rota gives us an example with Hilbert:

...

Olga labored for three years; it turned out that all mistakes could be corrected without any major changes in the statement of the theorems. There was one exception, a paper Hilbert wrote in his old age, which could not be fixed; it was a purported proof of the continuum hypothesis, you will find it in a volume of the Mathematische Annalen of the early thirties.

...

Leslie Lamport advocates for machine-checked proofs and a more rigorous style of proofs similar to natural deduction, noting a mathematician acquaintance guesses at a broad error rate of 1/329 and that he routinely found mistakes in his own proofs and, worse, believed false conjectures30.

[more on these "structured proofs":
https://mathoverflow.net/questions/35727/community-experiences-writing-lamports-structured-proofs
]

We can probably add software to that list: early software engineering work found that, dismayingly, bug rates seem to be simply a function of lines of code, and one would expect diseconomies of scale. So one would expect that in going from the ~4,000 lines of code of the Microsoft DOS operating system kernel to the ~50,000,000 lines of code in Windows Server 2003 (with full systems of applications and libraries being even larger: the comprehensive Debian repository in 2007 contained ~323,551,126 lines of code) that the number of active bugs at any time would be… fairly large. Mathematical software is hopefully better, but practitioners still run into issues (eg Durán et al 2014, Fonseca et al 2017) and I don’t know of any research pinning down how buggy key mathematical systems like Mathematica are or how much published mathematics may be erroneous due to bugs. This general problem led to predictions of doom and spurred much research into automated proof-checking, static analysis, and functional languages31.

[related:
https://mathoverflow.net/questions/11517/computer-algebra-errors
I don't know any interesting bugs in symbolic algebra packages but I know a true, enlightening and entertaining story about something that looked like a bug but wasn't.

Define sinc𝑥=(sin𝑥)/𝑥.

Someone found the following result in an algebra package: ∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥=𝜋/2
They then found the following results:

...

So of course when they got:

∫∞0𝑑𝑥sinc𝑥sinc(𝑥/3)sinc(𝑥/5)⋯sinc(𝑥/15)=(467807924713440738696537864469/935615849440640907310521750000)𝜋

hmm:
Which means that nobody knows Fourier analysis nowdays. Very sad and discouraging story... – fedja Jan 29 '10 at 18:47

--

Because the most popular systems are all commercial, they tend to guard their bug database rather closely -- making them public would seriously cut their sales. For example, for the open source project Sage (which is quite young), you can get a list of all the known bugs from this page. 1582 known issues on Feb.16th 2010 (which includes feature requests, problems with documentation, etc).

That is an order of magnitude less than the commercial systems. And it's not because it is better, it is because it is younger and smaller. It might be better, but until SAGE does a lot of analysis (about 40% of CAS bugs are there) and a fancy user interface (another 40%), it is too hard to compare.

I once ran a graduate course whose core topic was studying the fundamental disconnect between the algebraic nature of CAS and the analytic nature of the what it is mostly used for. There are issues of logic -- CASes work more or less in an intensional logic, while most of analysis is stated in a purely extensional fashion. There is no well-defined 'denotational semantics' for expressions-as-functions, which strongly contributes to the deeper bugs in CASes.]

...

Should such widely-believed conjectures as P≠NP or the Riemann hypothesis turn out be false, then because they are assumed by so many existing proofs, a far larger math holocaust would ensue38 - and our previous estimates of error rates will turn out to have been substantial underestimates. But it may be a cloud with a silver lining, if it doesn’t come at a time of danger.

https://mathoverflow.net/questions/338607/why-doesnt-mathematics-collapse-down-even-though-humans-quite-often-make-mista

more on formal methods in programming:
https://www.quantamagazine.org/formal-verification-creates-hacker-proof-code-20160920/
https://intelligence.org/2014/03/02/bob-constable/

Update: measured effort
In the October 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM there is an interesting article about Formally verified software in the real world with some estimates of the effort.

Interestingly (based on OS development for military equipment), it seems that producing formally proved software requires 3.3 times more effort than with traditional engineering techniques. So it's really costly.

On the other hand, it requires 2.3 times less effort to get high security software this way than with traditionally engineered software if you add the effort to make such software certified at a high security level (EAL 7). So if you have high reliability or security requirements there is definitively a business case for going formal.

WHY DON'T PEOPLE USE FORMAL METHODS?: https://www.hillelwayne.com/post/why-dont-people-use-formal-methods/
You can see examples of how all of these look at Let’s Prove Leftpad. HOL4 and Isabelle are good examples of “independent theorem” specs, SPARK and Dafny have “embedded assertion” specs, and Coq and Agda have “dependent type” specs.6

If you squint a bit it looks like these three forms of code spec map to the three main domains of automated correctness checking: tests, contracts, and types. This is not a coincidence. Correctness is a spectrum, and formal verification is one extreme of that spectrum. As we reduce the rigour (and effort) of our verification we get simpler and narrower checks, whether that means limiting the explored state space, using weaker types, or pushing verification to the runtime. Any means of total specification then becomes a means of partial specification, and vice versa: many consider Cleanroom a formal verification technique, which primarily works by pushing code review far beyond what’s humanly possible.

...

The question, then: “is 90/95/99% correct significantly cheaper than 100% correct?” The answer is very yes. We all are comfortable saying that a codebase we’ve well-tested and well-typed is mostly correct modulo a few fixes in prod, and we’re even writing more than four lines of code a day. In fact, the vast… [more]
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july 2019 by nhaliday
data structures - Why are Red-Black trees so popular? - Computer Science Stack Exchange
- AVL trees have smaller average depth than red-black trees, and thus searching for a value in AVL tree is consistently faster.
- Red-black trees make less structural changes to balance themselves than AVL trees, which could make them potentially faster for insert/delete. I'm saying potentially, because this would depend on the cost of the structural change to the tree, as this will depend a lot on the runtime and implemntation (might also be completely different in a functional language when the tree is immutable?)

There are many benchmarks online that compare AVL and Red-black trees, but what struck me is that my professor basically said, that usually you'd do one of two things:
- Either you don't really care that much about performance, in which case the 10-20% difference of AVL vs Red-black in most cases won't matter at all.
- Or you really care about performance, in which you case you'd ditch both AVL and Red-black trees, and go with B-trees, which can be tweaked to work much better (or (a,b)-trees, I'm gonna put all of those in one basket.)

--

> For some kinds of binary search trees, including red-black trees but not AVL trees, the "fixes" to the tree can fairly easily be predicted on the way down and performed during a single top-down pass, making the second pass unnecessary. Such insertion algorithms are typically implemented with a loop rather than recursion, and often run slightly faster in practice than their two-pass counterparts.

So a RedBlack tree insert can be implemented without recursion, on some CPUs recursion is very expensive if you overrun the function call cache (e.g SPARC due to is use of Register window)

--

There are some cases where you can't use B-trees at all.

One prominent case is std::map from C++ STL. The standard requires that insert does not invalidate existing iterators

...

I also believe that "single pass tail recursive" implementation is not the reason for red black tree popularity as a mutable data structure.

First of all, stack depth is irrelevant here, because (given log𝑛 height) you would run out of the main memory before you run out of stack space. Jemalloc is happy with preallocating worst case depth on the stack.
nibble  q-n-a  overflow  cs  algorithms  tcs  data-structures  functional  orders  trees  cost-benefit  tradeoffs  roots  explanans  impetus  performance  applicability-prereqs  programming  pls  c(pp)  ubiquity
june 2019 by nhaliday
Bareiss algorithm - Wikipedia
During the execution of Bareiss algorithm, every integer that is computed is the determinant of a submatrix of the input matrix. This allows, using the Hadamard inequality, to bound the size of these integers. Otherwise, the Bareiss algorithm may be viewed as a variant of Gaussian elimination and needs roughly the same number of arithmetic operations.
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june 2019 by nhaliday
What's the expected level of paper for top conferences in Computer Science - Academia Stack Exchange
Top. The top level.

My experience on program committees for STOC, FOCS, ITCS, SODA, SOCG, etc., is that there are FAR more submissions of publishable quality than can be accepted into the conference. By "publishable quality" I mean a well-written presentation of a novel, interesting, and non-trivial result within the scope of the conference.

...

There are several questions that come up over and over in the FOCS/STOC review cycle:

- How surprising / novel / elegant / interesting is the result?
- How surprising / novel / elegant / interesting / general are the techniques?
- How technically difficult is the result? Ironically, FOCS and STOC committees have a reputation for ignoring the distinction between trivial (easy to derive from scratch) and nondeterministically trivial (easy to understand after the fact).
- What is the expected impact of this result? Is this paper going to change the way people do theoretical computer science over the next five years?
- Is the result of general interest to the theoretical computer science community? Or is it only of interest to a narrow subcommunity? In particular, if the topic is outside the STOC/FOCS mainstream—say, for example, computational topology—does the paper do a good job of explaining and motivating the results to a typical STOC/FOCS audience?
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june 2019 by nhaliday
Analysis of Current and Future Computer Science Needs via Advertised Faculty Searches for 2019 - CRN
Differences are also seen when analyzing results based on the type of institution. Positions related to Security have the highest percentages for all but top-100 institutions. The area of Artificial Intelligence/Data Mining/Machine Learning is of most interest for top-100 PhD institutions. Roughly 35% of positions for PhD institutions are in data-oriented areas. The results show a strong interest in data-oriented areas by public PhD and private PhD, MS, and BS institutions while public MS and BS institutions are most interested in Security.
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june 2019 by nhaliday
algorithm - Skip List vs. Binary Search Tree - Stack Overflow
Skip lists are more amenable to concurrent access/modification. Herb Sutter wrote an article about data structure in concurrent environments. It has more indepth information.

The most frequently used implementation of a binary search tree is a red-black tree. The concurrent problems come in when the tree is modified it often needs to rebalance. The rebalance operation can affect large portions of the tree, which would require a mutex lock on many of the tree nodes. Inserting a node into a skip list is far more localized, only nodes directly linked to the affected node need to be locked.
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may 2019 by nhaliday
Complexity no Bar to AI - Gwern.net
Critics of AI risk suggest diminishing returns to computing (formalized asymptotically) means AI will be weak; this argument relies on a large number of questionable premises and ignoring additional resources, constant factors, and nonlinear returns to small intelligence advantages, and is highly unlikely. (computer science, transhumanism, AI, R)
created: 1 June 2014; modified: 01 Feb 2018; status: finished; confidence: likely; importance: 10
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april 2018 by nhaliday
If Quantum Computers are not Possible Why are Classical Computers Possible? | Combinatorics and more
As most of my readers know, I regard quantum computing as unrealistic. You can read more about it in my Notices AMS paper and its extended version (see also this post) and in the discussion of Puzzle 4 from my recent puzzles paper (see also this post). The amazing progress and huge investment in quantum computing (that I presented and update  routinely in this post) will put my analysis to test in the next few years.
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november 2017 by nhaliday
Rank aggregation basics: Local Kemeny optimisation | David R. MacIver
This turns our problem from a global search to a local one: Basically we can start from any point in the search space and search locally by swapping adjacent pairs until we hit a minimum. This turns out to be quite easy to do. _We basically run insertion sort_: At step n we have the first n items in a locally Kemeny optimal order. Swap the n+1th item backwards until the majority think its predecessor is < it. This ensures all adjacent pairs are in the majority order, so swapping them would result in a greater than or equal K. This is of course an O(n^2) algorithm. In fact, the problem of merely finding a locally Kemeny optimal solution can be done in O(n log(n)) (for much the same reason as you can sort better than insertion sort). You just take the directed graph of majority votes and find a Hamiltonian Path. The nice thing about the above version of the algorithm is that it gives you a lot of control over where you start your search.
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Correlated Equilibria in Game Theory | Azimuth
Given this, it’s not surprising that Nash equilibria can be hard to find. Last September a paper came out making this precise, in a strong way:

• Yakov Babichenko and Aviad Rubinstein, Communication complexity of approximate Nash equilibria.

The authors show there’s no guaranteed method for players to find even an approximate Nash equilibrium unless they tell each other almost everything about their preferences. This makes finding the Nash equilibrium prohibitively difficult to find when there are lots of players… in general. There are particular games where it’s not difficult, and that makes these games important: for example, if you’re trying to run a government well. (A laughable notion these days, but still one can hope.)

Klarreich’s article in Quanta gives a nice readable account of this work and also a more practical alternative to the concept of Nash equilibrium. It’s called a ‘correlated equilibrium’, and it was invented by the mathematician Robert Aumann in 1974. You can see an attempt to define it here:
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Talks
Quantum Supremacy: Office of Science and Technology Policy QIS Forum, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, White House Complex, Washington DC, October 18, 2016. Another version at UTCS Faculty Lunch, October 26, 2016. Another version at UT Austin Physics Colloquium, Austin, TX, November 9, 2016.

Complexity-Theoretic Foundations of Quantum Supremacy Experiments: Quantum Algorithms Workshop, Aspen Center for Physics, Aspen, CO, March 25, 2016

When Exactly Do Quantum Computers Provide A Speedup?: Yale Quantum Institute Seminar, Yale University, New Haven, CT, October 10, 2014. Another version at UT Austin Physics Colloquium, Austin, TX, November 19, 2014; Applied and Interdisciplinary Mathematics Seminar, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, November 25, 2014; Hebrew University Physics Colloquium, Jerusalem, Israel, January 5, 2015; Computer Science Colloquium, Technion, Haifa, Israel, January 8, 2015; Stanford University Physics Colloquium, January 27, 2015
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Peter Norvig, the meaning of polynomials, debugging as psychotherapy | Quomodocumque
He briefly showed a demo where, given values of a polynomial, a machine can put together a few lines of code that successfully computes the polynomial. But the code looks weird to a human eye. To compute some quadratic, it nests for-loops and adds things up in a funny way that ends up giving the right output. So has it really ”learned” the polynomial? I think in computer science, you typically feel you’ve learned a function if you can accurately predict its value on a given input. For an algebraist like me, a function determines but isn’t determined by the values it takes; to me, there’s something about that quadratic polynomial the machine has failed to grasp. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here, just a cultural difference to be aware of. Relevant: Norvig’s description of “the two cultures” at the end of this long post on natural language processing (which is interesting all the way through!)
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Equivalence between counting and sampling
also: every counting problem either has FPTRAS or no approx. w/i polynomial factor
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february 2017 by nhaliday
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