From Session Types to Data Types: RA posts and PhD studentships
We are recruiting for research associate positions in design and implementation of programming languages, and also may have PhD studentships available this year and next. The posts are on the project "From Data Types to Session Types: A Basis for Concurrency and Distribution" which is a programme grant funded by EPSRC for five years from 20 May 2013, joint with Simon Gay at the University of Glasgow and Nobuko Yoshida at Imperial College London.
The RA post at Edinburgh for an initial period of 24 months, with possibility of extension, and is on the UE07 scale (£30,424 - £36,298). Deadline for applications for the RA post is Monday 20 May 2013, anyone interested in a PhD studentship should apply as soon as possible. Glasgow and Imperial are also recruiting.
Please contact me if you are interested in either the RA post or a PhD studentship. Further description of the Edinburgh RA post is below.
Just as data types describe the structure of data, session types describe the structure of communication between concurrent and distributed processes. Our project has particular emphasis on putting theory into practice, by embedding session types in a range of programming languages and applying them to realistic case studies. The research programme is joint between the University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, and Imperial College London, and includes collaboration with Amazon, Cognizant, Red Hat, VMware, and the Ocean Observatories Initiative.
The successful candidate will join a team responsible for extending the functional web programming language Links with session types to support concurrency and distribution. We will test our techniques by providing a library to access Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing infrastructure, and perform empirical experiments to assess how our language design impacts the performance of programmers.
You should possess a PhD in a relevant area, or be nearing completion of same, or have comparable experience. You should have a track-record of publication, or other evidence of ability to undertake research and communicate well. You should have a strong background in programming languages, including type systems, and strong programming and software engineering skills.
It is desirable for candidates to also have one or more of the following: a combination of theoretical and practical skills; experience of web programming or cloud programming; knowledge of the theory or practice of concurrent and distributed systems; knowledge of linear logic; or training in empirical measurement of programming tasks.
We seek applicants at an international level of excellence. The Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science is internationally renowned, the School of Informatics at Edinburgh is among the strongest in the world, and Edinburgh is known as a cultural centre providing a high quality of life.
Further details of the RA post, including how to apply, are here.
Bike lanes, fewer accidents, better for business
A study conducted in New York City last year shows that bike lanes decrease accidents by up to 58%, while increasing retail business by up to 49%. Spotted via Boing Boing. Edinburgh has plans to install a bike lane on George Street downtown. I hope it will be the first of many.
A new study from the New York Department of Transportation shows that streets that safely accommodate bicycle and pedestrian travel are especially good at boosting small businesses, even in a recession.
NYC DOT found that protected bikeways had a significant positive impact on local business strength. After the construction of a protected bicycle lane on 9th Avenue, local businesses saw a 49% increase in retail sales. In comparison, local businesses throughout Manhattan only saw a 3% increase in retail sales.
Elixir and prettier printing
Elixir adds meta-programming to Erlang.
Elixir is a functional meta-programming aware language built on top of the Erlang VM. It is a dynamic language with flexible syntax with macros support that leverages Erlang's abilities to build concurrent, distributed, fault-tolerant applications with hot code upgrades.Jonn Mostovoy kindly requested my permission to name the pretty printing module Wadler.ex, after my work on prettier printing, which extends John Hughes's work, and appears in Richard Bird's festschrift. See also Dan Leijen's Haskell version.
Hawking and academic boycott of Israel
boycott the President's Conference in Israel. It is a courageous action, for which he is taking a lot of flack. Arguments in favour of academic boycott are set out by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine.
Pedal on Parliament returns!
Last year 3000 cyclists, young and old, pedalled on the Scottish Parliament to call for safer cycling for everyone. Despite plenty of warm words from politicians since then, nothing fundamental has changed so we’re doing it again.
A recent visit to Copenhagen, which has proper cycle lanes parallel to all main roads, make me especially keen on Point 2. Imagine Edinburgh with the same. Cycle as if you lived in the early days of a better nation!We need you join us to add your voice in support of our eight-point manifesto for a cycle-friendly Scotland.
Gather at the Meadows in Edinburgh on Sunday 19th of May 2013.
What we want
- Proper funding for cycling.
- Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
- Slower speeds where people live, work and play.
- Integrate cycling into local transport strategies.
- Improved road traffic law and enforcement.
- Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians.
- A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training.
- Improved statistics supporting decision-making and policy.
Nautilus is a new, beautifully produced, online magazine devoted to science. From its preview issue I enjoyed articles on myths of the golden ratio and an interview with Benoit Mandelbrot (conducted three years after his death!), and from its first issue fiction on the future of literature.
5 Broken Cameras
An infographic summarising the amazing film 5 Broken Cameras, mentioned in a previous post. The film itself provides a graphic summary of life in the shadow of the settlements and the wall. From Visualising Palestine, which features many infographics (some information rich, some less so).
Austerity is justified by an error
Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing writes:
A new paper called Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin from UMass Amherst tries and fails to replicate the classic work on austerity, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff's 2010 Growth in a Time of Debt.Reinhart-Rogoff is the main research cited in favor of cutting public services and spending in bad economic times. It's a big part of why the local library is shutting down, why they're kicking people out of public housing, shutting down arts programs, slashing education and public transit, and laying off public employees. It purports to show that countries with high debt-to-GDP ratios of 90 percent or more are a "threat to sustainable economic growth."Diagram above is from the original paper; open diamonds are the incorrect figures from Reinhart-Rogoff, filled circles are the correct figures. Here's the analysis from the original paper on the spreadsheet error:
In the new Amherst paper, the authors reexamine Reinhart-Rogoff's original data and conclude that the numbers don't add up. They show that Reinhart-Rogoff cherry-picked which years of high-debt GDP they measure, that they put their thumbs on the scales with "unconventional weighting" and made a "coding error" that "entirely excludes five countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, and Denmark." This last error -- literally the wrong formula in a spreadsheet cell -- badly skews the outcome.
Here's the tl;dr: "the average real GDP growth rate for countries carrying a public debt-to-GDP ratio of over 90 percent is actually 2.2 percent, not -0.1 percent as [Reinhart-Rogoff claim]."
A coding error in the RR working spreadsheet entirely excludes five countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, and Denmark, from the analysis. (RR averaged cells in lines 30 to 44 instead of lines 30 to 49.) The omitted countries are selected alphabetically and, hence, likely randomly with respect to economic relationships. This spreadsheet error, compounded with other errors, is responsible for a -0.3 percentage-point error in RR's published average real GDP growth in the highest public debt/GDP category. It also overstates growth in the lowest public debt/GDP category (0 to 30 percent) by +0.1 percentage point and understates growth in the second public debt/GDP category (30 to 60 percent) by -0.2 percentage point.
First Libor, now ICAP: The biggest price-fixing scandal ever
Matt Taibbi at the Rolling Stone continues to uncover unconscionable behaviour by the banks coupled with failure of governments to prosecute.
Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world's largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.
You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that's trillion, with a "t") worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it "dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets."
That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world's largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world's largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.
Science is Vital: Increase Government R&D contribution to 0.8% GDP
We, the undersigned, urge the Government to increase its direct contribution to research and development to at least 0.8% of GDP – the G8 average.
We are asking the Government to demonstrate its long-term commitment to funding science and engineering as part of an overall strategy of innovation and training to boost growth and enable the UK to meet the social and technological challenges of the 21st Century. Committing to this target, endorsed by some of the UK's top scientists, will send a clear message to industry, potential investors and the brightest minds of the next generation that the UK will continue to be amongst the best places in the world to do research now and in the future.
In 2010, the core research budget set by the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills was ring-fenced, but frozen in cash terms. However, cuts to capital expenditure and the R&D spend of other departments, combined with the effects of inflation, have significantly eroded the overall science budget, despite the introduction of substantial additional funds targeted to specific research areas.
We call on the Government to reverse this decline and, by setting an ambitious target to increase its R&D spending, to demonstrate to citizens and investors alike its vision that science is vital for the United Kingdom.
Divestment win at UC Berkeley
Jewish Voice for Peace writes:
Last night, the President of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) announced that he would not veto a UC Berkeley Student Senate resolution in favor of divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation.Sad to say, I think boycott, divestment, and sanctions are becoming the best way forward.
Snoopers' Charter - Tell the Home Office to drop it from the Queen's Speech
Open Rights Group writes:
Nick Clegg and David Cameron are deciding this week whether to keep the Snoopers' Charter in May 8th's Queen's Speech. The Home Office are trying to force their revised internet and email monitoring plans into the speech without asking what anyone thinks about them first.More information on the Snooper's Charter is available from the Open Rights Group and Liberty.
In December, a Joint Committee of MPs and peers set up to scrutinise the Bill told the Home Office that they had been wrong to publish draft legislation without first consulting the public. Now it seems like the Home Office are doing their best to make the same mistake again.
Please write to the Home Office now to ask them to drop their surveillance plans. It'll just take a couple of minutes.
keynote at the Fourth Annual Scala Workshop, in Montpellier, colocated with ECOOP, ECFMA, and ECSA. I'm looking forward to an update on developments in the Scala community.
Two tributes to Kohei
Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."—Henry David ThoreauLawrence Lessig of Rootstrikers describes the one problem Americans must solve before we can solve any others.
There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way, and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond.Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim
Lawrence Lessig has already transformed intellectual-property law with his Creative Commons innovation. Now he's focused on an even bigger problem: The US' broken political system.
Fix the CFAA, or become a racketeer
In Swartz's memory, responsible members of the US Congress proposed a new bill to fix the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the legislation under which he was prosecuted. Now, the Judiciary Committee is moving to amend the bill to make it worse, not better. Violating those innumerable service agreements will now be classified as racketeering, on a par with the activities of the Mafia, entitling the government to sieze your assets as well as send you to prison. There may be a move to pass the amendment this week. If you are a US citizen, go here to learn more and send a message to your congressman. Or shortly you, me, and everyone else will be eligible for the same treatment as a mobster.
Leveson and Blogs: Act now!
Anyone living in the UK will be aware of the active debate over Leveson and freedom of the press, but few will be aware of the alarming way in which this applies to blogs and web publishing. The Open Rights Group is on the case:
Lord Leveson’s regulations are being applied to UK websites – in ways that could catch more or less anyone who publishes a blog. Ordinary bloggers could be threatened with exemplary damages and costs. If this happens, small website publishers will face terrible risks, or burdensome regulation – and many may simply stop publishing.Open Rights Group has a web page that will let you express your opinion to the relevant parties in less than a minute it. Do it now!
We have until Monday to stop this happening.Lord Leveson said he wanted to regulate print media. He proposed that judges be allowed to award exemplary damages and full costs against unregulated publishers. These are stringent and controversial measures, but he only envisaged them applying to large and powerful publishers. Not websites, unless they belonged to print publishers.
Last weekend, the proposals were agreed in a rush, without public consultation, and with no attention to the detail.
Outrageously, they have given the Lords until Monday to fix their mistakes.The result is that they apply to any size of web publisher – if there’s more than one author, the content is edited and there’s a business involved, then you must join a self regulator.
Most blogs like this aren’t powerful publishing houses. Even ORGZine would need to be regulated, or face punitive measures if it ended up in court.
The threat of websites being regulated like this was never the purpose of Lord Leveson’s recommendations. Websites weren’t involved in phone hacking. There is no evidence that they need to be forced into self-regulation like this.
We need you to email Nick Clegg, Harriet Harman, and David Cameron to ask them to back off and leave the Internet out of Leveson.
The Antikythera Mechanism in Lego
Lego can simulate the past and predict the future. The video is superbly presented, as much of an achievement as the recreation itself.
At Lambda the Ultimate, Sean McDirmid points to the intriguing paper Twenty Reasons You Should User Boxer (Instead of Logo), by Andrea di Sessa (co-author of Turtle Geometry). What happened to Boxer? Is it available to try out? The Boxer website appears inactive, and only lists a Macintosh version. How hard is it to simulate a Mac on current hardware?
Labels: Programming Languages
Organising Everyday Disarray
Arthur responded to a previous comment by pointing me to an article on the remarkable work of Ursus Wehrli.
Ellsberg salutes Manning
Daniel Ellsberg argues that Bradley Manning is a classic whistleblower, and deserves not life in prison but the Nobel Peace Prize.
Things Organised Neatly
tumblr, curated by Austin Radcliffe, spotted via Boing Boing. Does what it says on the tin. Bound to come in as useful to supply an illustration for a talk, someday.
Informatics 1: Functional Programming
online from the University of Edinburgh. There seems to be a cottage industry in videos explaining monads, see Lectures 18 and 19 (and 16 and 17) for my version, or see How to Declare an Imperative and Monads for Functional Programming if you prefer text to video.
Newtown vs. Drones
compares sympathy for the victims of Newtown to indifference for civilian victims of drone strikes in Pakistan. He draws on a detailed report from Stanford and NYU.
From June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562–3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474–881 were civilians, including 176 children. — The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
paper by J.-Y. Girard that I will recommend to my students. Reveals deep insight into the techniques used by theoreticians—the payoff is in the final line. Via Franck FS and Conor McBride.
Siteswap is a notation for describing juggling patterns. This video from the BBC features Colin Wright, Siteswap's inventor, explaining how between the patterns 4,4,0 and 4,4,2 they spotted the pattern 4,4,1, and thus notation enabled them to discover a way to juggle that no one had seen before. What better story to illustrate the power of programming languages?
Labels: Programming Languages
Pillar of Cloud three months on - The Infographic
From Al Jazeera.
Three months after the last major Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip, the "period of calm" is only "calm" for Israel.
The IP of PI
Library of Babel more than Life of Pi. From The Math Kid, spotted via Into The Continuum.
Into the Continuum
Best proposal ever?
Miriam Haskell. I'm not sure whether the image above features Haskell herself, or just her jewellery.
Growing a Language meets Strunk and White
Today I had the occasion to re-read part of Guy Steele's classic speech, Growing a Language, which uses only words of one syllable or words defined previously in the text. I thought the end of his talk worth quoting here, in part because it has something to say about Strunk and White, of which I have recently spoken and blogged. If you've not heard or read the talk previously, I urge you to follow the video or text link above and enjoy it in its entirety.
One of the good things I can say for short words is that they make for short talks. With long words, this talk would run an hour and a half; but I have used less than an hour.
I would like to tell you what I have learned from the task of designing this talk. In choosing to give up the many long words that I have come to know since I was a child, words that have many ﬁne shades of meaning, I made this task much harder than it needed to be. I hope that you have not found it too hard on your ears. But I found that sticking to this rule made me think. I had to take time to think through how to phrase each thought. And there was this choice for each new word: is it worth the work to deﬁne it, or should I just stick with the words I have? Should I do the work of deﬁning a new word such as mirror, or should I just say “looking glass” each time I want to speak of one? (As an example, I was tempted more than once to state the “ly” rule for making new words that change what verbs mean, but in the end I chose to cast all such words to one side and make do. And I came that close to deﬁning the word without, but each time, for better or for worse, I found some other way to phrase my thought.)
I learned in my youth, from the books of such great teachers of writing as Strunk and White, that it is better to choose short words when I can. I should not choose long, hard words just to make other persons think that I know a lot. I should try to make my thoughts clear; if they are clear and right, then other persons can judge my work as it ought to be judged.
From the work of planning this talk, in which I have tried to go with this rule much more far than in the past, I found that for the most part they were right. Short words work well, if I choose them well.
Thus I think that programming languages need to be more like the languages we speak— but it might be good, too, if we were to use the languages we speak more in the way that we now use programming languages.
All in all, I think it might be a good thing if those who rule our lives—those in high places who do the work of state, those who judge what we do, and most of all those who make the laws—were made to deﬁne their terms and to say all else that they say in words of one syllable. For I have found that this mode of speech makes it hard to hedge. It takes work, and great care, and some skill, to ﬁnd just the right way to say what you want to say, but in the end you seem to have no choice but to talk straight. If you do not veer wide of the truth, you are forced to hit it dead on.
I urge you, too, to give it a try.
Princes Street for People
On Monday, 13 August 2012, while passing a bus on Princes Street my bike got caught in the tram line and I was thrown to the ground. A second bus was behind me, and stopped in time. Perhaps I am fortunate that the trams have been so delayed, for if it had been a tram behind me I doubt it could have come to a halt quickly enough to avoid running me over. In my case, I merely had to wait in ER four hours to have my little finger x-rayed and stitched, plus further hospital visits later to check that the fracture healed correctly. The current street signage suggests bicyclists should ride down the middle of the tram tracks, which seems a recipe for disaster. I've met with others who have had bicycle accidents on Princes Street, and we are convinced that if nothing is done it is only a matter of time until there is a fatality. To save lives, and to improve the quality of life in Edinburgh, I've joined with others to petition that Princes Street be made car-free, with separate zones for pedestrians, bicycles, and trams. This will provide a much needed bicycle route west-to-east across the city centre, connecting existing routes. You can sign the petition here.
Murray Pittock: Yes vote vital to realise potential
Murray Pittock, first professor of Scottish literature at an English university, puts the case for independence.
But, in fact, Scotland isn’t selfish or parochial, it’s just small. Small countries are adept at networking, and it’s a networking age. They are adept at finding new solutions in education (Finland, for example) or fish farming (Norway) and many other things. The top five countries in the world for global competitiveness in 2012 are all small, as are four of the top five for innovation and four of the top five for prosperity.
Seth Godin on airports
Eleven things organizations can learn from airports.
5. By removing slack, airlines create failure. In order to increase profit, airlines work hard to get the maximum number of flights out of each plane, each day. As a result, there are no spares, no downtime and no resilience. By assuming that their customer base prefers to save money, not anxiety, they create an anxiety-filled system.Spotted via Boing Boing
You and Your Research and The Elements of Style
Many thanks to the organisers of PLMW for inviting me to give a talk. Additional resources are listed below.
- Philip Wadler, lectures on communication skills (video).
- Richard W. Hamming, You and Your Research (video).
- William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, Longman, 1999 (Fourth edition), £4.71 from Amazon.
- Free Online Edition of William Strunk, Jr.'s 1918 original.
- Geoffrey Pullum, 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice. I stand by my claim that the modest monetary and time cost to read Strunk and White is the best investment you can make in your career, but do take into account Pullum's critique. (My thanks to those who alerted me to Pullum's article.)
- Donald Knuth, Technical writing. Section 1 is particularly valuable.
- George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, from Inside the Whale and Other Essays, Penguin, 1969.
- C.A.R. Hoare, Advice, offered at Marktoberdorf 2006.
- C.A.R. Hoare, Envoi, in Essays in Computing Science, C.A.R. Hoare and C.B. Jones, editors, Prentice Hall, 1989.
- Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words, Penguin, 2004 (Third revised edition.) [Recommended to me by others.]
- Joseph Williams, Style: Towards Clarity and Grace, University of Chicago Press, 1995 (new edition). [Recommended to me by others.]
- Lyn Dupre, Bugs in Writing: A Guide to Debugging Your Prose, Addison-Wesley Professional, 2nd edition, 1998. [Recommended to me by others.]
- Max Atkins, Lend Me Your Ears: All you need to know about making speeches and presentations, Vemilion, 2004.
- David Allen, Getting Things Done: How to achieve stress-free productivity, Piatkus, 2001.
- Edward Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Graphics Press, 2001 (second edition).
- Edward Tufte, Envisioning Information, Graphics Press, 1990. (Challenger is discussed on pages 38–52.)
- Edward Tufte, Visual Explanations, Graphics Press, 1997.
- Edward Tufte, Beautiful Evidence, Graphics Press, 2006. (Powerpoint is discussed on pages 156–185.)
- Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.
- Randy Pausch, Time Management.
- Bret Victor, Inventing on Principle.
- Bret Victor, Magic Ink.
- TED Talks.