Thursday, May 03, 2007

The joy of AMS Notices.

For the past few months, I've been reading articles from the Notices of the AMS, something I never did earlier. This is a direct consequence of reading In Theory and Ars Mathematica, both of which will regularly highlight articles from the latest issue of the Notices.

I'm amazed at how many of the articles I find interesting enough to peruse, or even print out to read offline. Most of these are technical articles, on specific topics in mathematics. Quite often, there will be discussions on topics tangentially related to theoryCS or even things that I'm interested in. For example, the May issue of the Notices has an article titled, "How to generate random matrices from the classical compact groups". Anyone who messes around in geometry and graphics will immediately see the connection to the standard problem of generating a random rotation, and in fact there's a very interesting explanation of the group theory underlying the standard procedure for generating a random orthogonal matrix.

A second article with the whimsical title, "If Euclid had been Japanese" discusses the constructibility of points using folding operations rather than "Euclidean" constructions. Apart from the obvious origami connections, this is particularly interesting to me because I've been experimenting with a short presentation that tries to explain algorithms via origami (folds are like steps in a program, etc..).

I could go on like this. Every issue has at least one article that is both acecssible and interesting to me, and I'm not even a mathematician ! Why can't we have such a delightful magazine for computer science, or even for theoryCS ?

SIGACT News does a valiant job. And it's hard work to manage a newsletter, along with all one's other activities. But it comes out far too rarely, and one doesn't often find the kind of short vignettes that entertain and illuminate at the same time. I enjoy the algorithms column and the geometry column. I will make valiant attempts to read the complexity column, but it's often too "structural complexity" for me. But in a way I am unable to articulate, I find SIGACT News somehow less stimulating than the Notices. I wonder if others share this view as well ?

Update (5/3/07): I think I just had an epiphany. The above post is the equivalent of my standing in front of the Model T, wondering why my horse-buggy can't go any faster. In other words, we already have excellent publications that write expository surveys and cute vignettes that connect the community together. They're called blogs !!

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