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CACM Reports: Turing Award Winner Milner Remembered as Elegant Pragmatist

June Issue Reports on Managing Scientific Data, the Parallel Computing Comeback, Privacy by Design

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

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK, NY, May 27, 2010 –  Pioneering computer scientist Robin Milner graces the cover of the June Communications of the ACM (CACM). Described as a man of quiet brilliance and a natural leader, Milner, who passed away in March, recognized that the computer is a tool to help researchers find the proofs of their discoveries.  For his work in verification, languages, and concurrency, he received the ACM A.M. Turing Award in 1991.  Also in this issue, a team of researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland explores the key requirements for generic database management systems needed to help scientists cope with the increasing volume of data produced by their own experiments.  Anastasia Ailamaki, Verena Kantere, and Debabrata Dash analyze solutions that promise to integrate the automation, online processing, integration, and file management functions, and conclude that the database community has the expertise to solve the problems in existing scientific databases.  

            Communications, the flagship publication of ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery),  offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format

            To manage the deluge of data resulting from advances in sensing, networking, and data management, a team of computer scientists from Stanford University presents the visualization process as an aid to making sense of this data.  Their article provides a brief tour through the “visualization zoo,” showcasing some of the more sophisticated and unusual techniques that deal with complex data sets.  Each visualization is accompanied by an online interactive example that can be viewed via a URL link. 

            Parallel computation is making a comeback after a quarter century of neglect, contend Peter J. Denning of the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, CA, and Jack B. Dennis of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Their column recalls the most important parallel architecture research of the 1960s and 1970s, which solved many problems that are encountered in today’s desire for ever-faster, ever-cheaper computation.  They conclude that although parallelism is not new, the realization that it is essential for continued progress in high-performance computing offers a fresh impetus toward its widespread resurgence.           

            Stuart S. Shapiro of MITRE Corp. probes the frequency of major flaws in security and privacy associated with system development.  He cites the whole-body imaging machines at airports, which perform “virtual strip searches” that are arguably compliant with Fair Information Practices, and calls for designing privacy into systems at the beginning of the development process rather than bolting it on at the end.  

            The “smart grid” has become a catchphrase in technology and political circles as a way to motivate energy conservation.  Technology writer Tom Geller writes that these systems need an easy-to-understand interface for monitoring and controlling the devices if they are to be useful to consumers.  His proposed solution goes beyond energy conservation to include new ways to integrate home automation, safety, security, and entertainment applications with smart grid data.                       

            Other June Communications articles:

  •        Science writer Neil Savage examines the impact of online commerce on consumer behavior as evidenced by the “long tail” or “heavy tail” shape of the probability distribution graph.  He proposes a better understanding of heavy-tailed probability distributions that can improve activities from Internet commerce to the design of server farms.
  •        1994 A.M. Turing Award recipient Edward A. Feigenbaum recounts his path to the pinnacle of computing innovation in an excerpted interview based on oral interviews by computing luminaries Donald Knuth and Nils Nilsson.  A self-described technogeek, Feigenbaum loved the hands-on, experimental approach to computer science, and applied his passion at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), where he worked with other legends in the field.
  •        Researchers in computer science departments are violating federal law and their own organization’s regulation regarding research on human subjects, write Simson L. Garfinkel of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and Lorrie Faith Cranor of Carnegie Mellon University.  They cite growing research performed with the Internet, including human behavior observed via social networking sites, which must be reviewed by Institutional Review Boards if federal research funding is to be secured, and recommend ways to facilitate more rapid IRB review.   
  •        Guest blogger Greg Linden, founder of Geeky Ventures, writes about the Internet as a peripheral resource; Ed H. Ch of Palo Alto Research Center discusses lessons learned from the DARPA Network Challenge; and Georgia Tech’s Mark Guzdial asks if there are too many IT workers or too many IT jobs.   

            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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