Fun in the Afternoon
ICFP 2013. One session stood out in my mind, ''Fun in the Afternoon'', 15.30—16.30 Wednesday 25 September, chaired by Jeremy Gibbons.
- Fun with Semirings [Functional Pearl], Stephen Dolan
- Efficient Divide-and-Conquer Parsing of Practical Context-Free Languages, Jean-Philippe Bernardy and Koen Claessen
- Functional Geometry and the "Traité de Lutherie" [Functional Pearl], Harry Mairson
Links to the papers above. The content of the papers was excellent, and the presentations were engaging. The presentation of the second was particularly notable because neither of the authors could attend, and John Hughes presented it in their stead, spectacularly. (Note to self: figure out how to work the phrase ''Don't worry about it'' into my next presentation.)
The first explains how semirings generalised with a closure operator combine the power of linear algebra with the power of regular expressions, including an application building on Doug McIlroy's Power Series, Power Serious. The second explains how to bring parsing into the 21st century, devising an algorithm that can distribute across a large number of processors. And to bring computing into the 16th century, describing the design of violins and lutes in a DSL embedded in Scheme.
Indeed, I think this may have been my favourite session at a conference ever, with the exception of Guy Steele's presentation of Growing a Language at OOPSLA 1998. Which reminds me of a remark made by Jack Kennedy when hosting a dinner of Noble laureates in 1962: ''I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.''