Tuesday, December 25, 2007

give a bit; make a difference


Bytesize Giving

‘a bit’ means money, all the world over

A. MORRISON, Mean Streets (1894)

the [...] units may be called binary digits, or more briefly bits, a word suggested by J. W. Tukey

C. E. SHANNON in Bell Syst. Techn. Jrnl.(1948)

Season's Greetings to all and very best wishes for a happy New Year

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

£5M DTC Renewal

Congratulations to all those responsible for the DTC renewal.

The EPSRC/MRC funded Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) in Neuroinformatics and Computational Neuroscience offers an innovative 4 year PhD programme, unique to the UK.

The DTC is now half-way to its first century. Starting in 2002, it has already awarded some fifty studentships. The £5M of new funding just announced will support fifty more studentships—around ten new PhD entrants per annum until 2012.

The renewal follows a successful external review, the review committee commenting particularly on the excellence of the students.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Informatics Reception and Ceilidh

From the OED


In Scotland and Ireland:     a. An evening visit, a friendly social call.    b. A session of traditional music, storytelling, or dancing.

1959 Times 10 Jan. 7/6 All over the British Isles today at ceilidhes, hootennanys and similar gatherings in pubs, clubs and private houses, folk music is flourishing as it has not done for over a century.


The University of Edinburgh views Informatics as a discipline central to a new enlightenment in scholarship and learning, and critical to the future development of science, technology and society. In the age of information, computing technology is changing the ways we live, work and play. Informatics is changing the way we think.

On this occasion, which marks the fifth anniversary of the 2002-12-07 South Bridge Fire, we plan to celebrate our Renaissance.


Reception 1700-1900 Appleton Tower
Guests will have the opportunity to visit our newly refurbished accommodation for teaching and commercialisation.
Ceilidh 1900-2300 Appleton Tower Concourse, cash bar, supper, and social dancing.

By invitation: RSVP Diana Sisu

This is not a black tie event; anything goes! We normally have a mix of business casual, student casual, and national dress - the Informatics research community includes over 50 nationalities.

For those wishing to brush up, in advance, on their ceilidh skills (or even start to build them from scratch), there is an ALP (adult learning project) ceilidh at St Brides on 10th November with the Robert Fish Band

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

AI at 50

From Programs to Solvers, Models and Techniques for General Intelligence

Hector Geffner

4pm, Wednesday, 5 December 2007
Psychology Lecture Theatre F21,
7 George Square, Edinburgh

Over the past 20 years, a significant change has occurred in AI research. Many researchers have moved from the early AI paradigm of writing programs for ill-defined problems to writing solvers for well-defined mathematical models such as Constraint Satisfaction Problems, Strips Planning, SAT, Bayesian Networks and Partially Observable Markov Decision Processes.

Solvers are programs that take a compact description of a particular model instance (a planning problem, a CSP instance, and so on) and automatically compute its solution. Unlike the early AI programs, these are general-purpose in the sense that they are not designed to deal with a particular problem but with a large, in fact, infinite collection of problems.

This presents a crisp computational challenge: how to make these solvers scale-up to large and interesting problems given that all these models are intractable in the worst case. Work in these areas has uncovered techniques that accomplish this by automatically recognizing and exploiting the structure of the problem at hand.

My goal in this talk is to articulate this research agenda, to go over some of ideas that underlie these techniques, and to show the relevance of these models and techniques to those interested in models of general intelligence and human cognition.

Hector Geffner is a Distinguished Visiting Researcher in the School of Informatics, and a recently elected Fellow of AAAI. He was a student of Judea Pearl, and won the ACM Distinguished Dissertation Award in 1990. Hector has worked at IBM (Yorktown Heights, NY, USA) and the Universidad Simon Bolivar (Caracas, Venezuela). He is currently a researcher at the Institucion Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA) and a professor at the Departamento de Tecnologia, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, where he heads the Artificial Intelligence Group.

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Professor Austin Tate has been appointed as the school's representative on the College Research ethics Committee

PRC has approved the following code, adapted from the seven principles of the universal ethical code for scientists, aimed at building trust between scientists and society, proposed by Prof. Sir David King, then Chief Scientific Advisor to H.M. Government, in September 2007.

The School General Meeting will be asked to endorse this code in the New Year.


  • Act with skill and care, keep skills up to date
  • Prevent corrupt practice and declare conflicts of interest
  • Respect and acknowledge the work of other scientists
  • Ensure that research is justified and lawful
  • Maximise positive impacts on society and the environment
  • Discuss issues science raises for society
  • Do not mislead; present evidence honestly
The seven points in this code are part of what separates researchers from charlatans

Dr Evan Harris

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