Saturday was all talks by invited speakers. I found Gregory Chaitin’s talk the most energizing. I took copious notes for my personal satisfaction. Though I would like to concentrate on experimental computer science — like modeling — in my future research, I would like to learn some theory of computation purely for my own enjoyment.
I was fortunate to have a few more in-depth interactions with participants. Frank Bitonti and I talked about a live sculpture — a tree whose “leaves” are LEDs, whose colors are determined by the outer median cellular automaton rules on graphs. When the user touches one of the “leaves,” it changes the current color of the node and spreads the difference throughout the tree. The evolution would continue forever, unless the user wants to either turn off the tree, or change the rule number using a physical slider on the base of the sculpture. Of course, this could be a sculpture, furniture, or a simple design piece. I thought it would be very interesting from an experimental perspective, to have the ability to watch the evolution of particular rules real-time, and interact with the evolution. I think the interaction, moreso than the static evolution, would yield the most interesting results.
Frank and I also discussed Mathematica-driven robots. Turns out there are these neat programmable devices called Sun SPOTs, which are controlled wirelessly, and programmed with Java. Since Mathematica can talk to Java programs using JLink, I thought this could be one way of programming robots using Mathematica.
I also enjoyed the talks by David Deutsch, Ed Fredkin, and Stephen Wolfram. I’m much too young in my computer science career to have an opinion on anything that was said…or even approach describing the technical details of the claims made by the speakers. I’ll say this, however: Deutsch put forth a rather strong statement that the universe can be described using quantum information theory, Fredkin thought a traditional cellular automaton model would be sufficient, and Wolfram veered more in the direction of evolving tri-networks.
Sunday featured the roundtable debate/discussion between the physically present invited speakers. It was extremely entertaining. I enjoyed Chaitin’s boldness, and found Leggett’s conservativeness telling of a fundamentally OKS way of thinking. Stephen and Toffoli has some good exchanges, with Stephen having some of the clearest (and least “magical”) responses, and Fredkin was also very entertaining. I can’t wait to rewatch the video, once it is up on the website. It was a lot of information to absorb and process all at once. I agree with Jason Cawley that this final discussion was about 75% philosophy, which of course speaks to the necessity of adopting a particular worldview, and being able to argue its reason, when making claims about the nature of science.