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CACM Reports: In Memory of Computing Pioneer Amir Pnueli

January Issue Reports on a Parallel Computation Debate, New Research in Automated Negotiators and Advances in Automated Translation of Indian Languages

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK, NY, December 17, 2009 – The January Communications of the ACM (CACM) is dedicated to the memory of Amir Pnueli, a Turing Award winner. Technology writer Leah Hoffmann remembers Pnueli, who died suddenly in November, as a man ahead of his time.  His 1977 landmark paper, "The Temporal Logic of Programs," laid the foundation for the development of model checking, an automated formal-verification technique, and gave researchers a set of tools that enabled them to specify and reason about the ongoing behavior of programs.  Pnueli also coined the term "reactive system" to describe systems that maintain an ongoing interaction with their environment. 

            Communications, the flagship publication of ACM, offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format. The January issue will be available the week of December 21

            A technical debate also appears in this issue on the relative merits of MapReduce (MR), a software framework that supports distributed computing on large datasets on computer clusters, and parallel database management systems.  Google’s Jeffrey Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat point to MR as a highly effective and efficient tool for large-scale fault-tolerant data analysis, with many significant advantages over parallel databases.  On the other side of the debate, a team led by Michael Stonebraker of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory cites performance tradeoffs between the two technologies, and concludes that they are complementary rather than competitive technologies.  In his editor’s letter, Editor-in-Chief Moshe Y. Vardi notes that many issues in computing inspire differing opinions, reinforcing his belief that vigorous debate exposes all sides of an issue, and helps to achieve more knowledgeable conclusions.  He urges more debate to highlight differences rather than pretending they don’t exist. 

                        Also in this issue is a progress report on the effectiveness of automated agents that negotiate with humans by Raz Lin and Saris Kraus of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University; and an article by technology writer Gary Anthes on a language-translation system developed by a team led by the International Institute of Information Technology in Hyderabad that is showing significant promise in assisting in the translation of India’s 22 official languages.            

            Phillip G. Armour, a senior consultant at Corvus International, illustrates the difference between individual and team skills.  He traces the evolution of  “a really bad programmer” from a perennial low-level performer to the only person on the team ever to receive a perfect  score for his work submitted for inspection.  Sometimes, Armour notes, the best teams are not made up of all superheroes.  By adopting a team goal that they would not accept bad work or discard weaker members, they agreed to do what was necessary to allow the person to meet the team’s standards.  This higher ethic, he concludes, made them a better team.            

            For search engines, the enormous variety of data and formats is providing both new challenges and new opportunities, and navigating is not an easy task, says technology and science writer Neil Savage.  He reports on University of Washington computer scientist Oren Etzioni’s attempt to get more information out of text using a technique that examines natural language text and tries to derive data about the relationship between words.  Savage quotes 2008 ACM-Infosys Foundation Award recipient Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University that “The real issue with a search engine is not just to serve up results, but to help people accomplish what they’re trying to do.” 

            Other January Communications articles:

  •     ACM, with about 1,800 professional and 1,300 student members in India, is in the process of establishing ACM India as a legal entity with its first conference in Bangalore in late January.  Among the speakers will be several A.M. Turing award winners, including 2008 recipient Barbara Liskov of MIT.
  •     Researchers use computer vision techniques to preserve culturally significant sites as high-resolution 3D models, writes Tom Geller.  Digital representations can capture structures forever, as well as invite researchers to apply computer-based analytic tools to draw out new discoveries in such fields as archaeology, history, and architecture.  Improvements in technology include high-end laser scanning equipment for accurate digitization to the sub-millimeter level, and video or photo collections as the basis for analysis and reconstruction.
  •     The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) meeting on Internet architectures in October focused on designs related to emerging social and economic realities, writes Kirk L. Kroeker.  NSF is establishing funding in 2010 for up to four multimillion-dollar research projects.  This Future Internet Design initiative is aimed at expanding the scope of research from a component-focused agenda to the design of overarching architecture for future networks.
  •     At BLOG@CACM, Greg Linden writes about frequent software deployments; Ruben Ortega reports on smartphones and health systems research, and Jason Hong discusses designing effective security warnings.            

            For more information on Communications of the ACM, click on .


About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking. 


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