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Pioneers of Computer Science: From Turing to Harel

26 apr 2012
Locatie, plaats: 
Zwarte Doos, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Eindhoven

David Harel, one of the leading computer scientists in the world, will receive an honorary doctorate from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) on April 27th 2012 during the Dies Natalis of TU/e. On April 26th, his contributions are honored in a symposium, entitled “Pioneers of Computer Science: From Turing to Harel”.

This symposium is also related to the Turing Centenary and in his keynote Harel will link his work to the work of Alan Turing. This symposium is recommended by the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (KHMW), and sponsored by the Institute for Programming research and Algorithmics (IPA) and the Netherlands Research School for Information and Knowledge Systems (SIKS). Attendance is free but you are kindly invited to register for the symposium before April 24th, 2012. Please contact the secretariat of the Information Systems Group (IS), Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, e-mail:

13.50 – 14.00 Welcome by Prof. Wil van der Aalst

14.00 – 14.40 Invited talk by Prof. Jan van Leeuwen (Utrecht University): ”Computation after Turing”

14.40 – 15.20 Invited talk by Prof. Jan Friso Groote (TU/e): ”Software Modeling and Verification: System Design is Maturing”

15.20 – 16.00 Invited talk by Prof. Grzegorz Rozenberg (Leiden University and University of Colorado at Boulder): ”A Formal Framework for Processes Inspired by the Functioning of Living Cells”

16.00 – 16.30 Break

16.30 – 17.30 Keynote by Prof. David Harel (Weizmann Institute of Science): ”Standing on the Shoulders of a Giant: One Person’s Experience of Turing’s Impact”

17.30 - Reception



*** Computation after Turing *** Prof. Jan van Leeuwen (Utrecht University)

Alan Turing thought about computing because he needed a clear concept of effective calculability. He probed the computable and the undecidable, and extensively studied numerical calculation. His question whether machines can be intelligent belongs to the heart of AI. Now computing is considered to be a key notion in every system we design and in every system we try to understand. Algorithms push the limits of what is practically computable or decidable. "Intelligent" machines like Watson compete with humans and win. What drives this development? What was Turing's view of computation and how do we think about it now? What is the role of algorithmics, described both as the spirit (Harel) and the poetry (Sullivan) of computing? In his talk, Van Leeuwen aims to answer these and other questions.

*** Software Modeling and Verification: System Design is Maturing *** Prof. Jan Friso Groote (TU/e)

Computers are stupid machines that execute sequences of instructions in an extremely fast way.

Humans construct such instruction sequences, but while doing so, they must deal with all conceivable situations that the computer can encounter. This is not a natural task for humans. If not all behavior has been foreseen, the computer fails to deal correctly with such a situation. This is one of the reasons for computer failure. Formal techniques, for instance in the form of statecharts and modal logics are a way to model and study system behavior to establish that all situations have been dealt with. Harel has been a pioneer in this area, dealing with both the theoretical as well as the practical side of the spectrum. Slowly, formal techniques are moving from the academic realm into industrial system design. In this talk, Groote will explain the essence of these techniques, illustrated with various examples.

*** A Formal Framework for Processes Inspired by the Functioning of Living Cells *** Prof. Grzegorz Rozenberg (Leiden University and University of Colorado at Boulder)

Rozenberg will present a formal framework for investigating processes inspired by the functioning of the living cell, where this functioning is determined by interactions between individual reactions, and the interactions are regulated by two mechanisms: facilitation and inhibition. The framework is motivated by explicitly stating a number of assumptions that hold for these processes - these assumptions are very different from the ones underlying traditional models of computation. Rozenberg discusses a number of research topics - they are motivated either by the biological background of the framework or by the need to understand its computational nature. Throughout the lecture he will point out how this framework reflects ideas, methodology, and inspiration by both Alan Turing and David Harel.

*** Keynote: Standing on the Shoulders of a Giant: One Person's Experience of Turing's Impact *** Prof. David Harel (Weizmann Institute of Science)

In his keynote, Harel will describe three of Turing's major achievements, in three different fields: computability, biological modeling and artificial intelligence. Interspersed with this, he will explain how each of them directly motivated and inspired him to carry out a variety of research projects over a period of 30 years, the results of which can all be viewed humbly as extensions and generalizations of Turing's pioneering and ingenious insights. Although the symposium is organized to honor Harel's remarkable scientific contributions, he will try to convince the audience that he is just a dwarf standing on the shoulders of a true giant!

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