AofA 2013

The invitation-only conference was held in Menorca 27-31 May 2013. I gave a talk there on diagonal asymptotics of combinatorial classes (paper available from my research outputs page). After missing 5 of these meetings in a row, it was good to return. The name of Philippe Flajolet was mentioned many times, and it is clear that this research community still misses him very much.

There were many very interesting talks including the longer invited ones, although the schedule was gruelling with too much time sitting down listening. Highlights for me, in no particular rank order, were:

  • Bob Sedgewick’s talk about his MOOC experiences. He urged us all to give it a try, both as producer and consumer of content.
  • Basile Morcrette showing that generating function methods can work for studying even unbalanced urn models, a nice tribute to the vision of Flajolet.
  • The survey talk of Mihyun Kang on phase transition results in random graphs.
  • Philippe Jacquet on green leader election algorithms (standard methods use too much energy in wireless networks).
  • Michael Drmota on singularity analysis of positive algebraic functions.
  • Konstantinis Panagiotiu’s survey of random k-SAT including his recent results with Coja-Oghlan.
  • The excellent organization of Conrado Martinez.

Lowlights: the hotel was isolated and although it had some good features, not completely suited to the conference. It was filled with English tourists many of whom, unfortunately, didn’t really mix well with the intellectual nature of the conference and didn’t understand how to use sunscreen. The weather was cool and the beach under attack from jellyfish who stung at least two conference participants. The talks were held in the piano bar, which had really good seats, but poor acoustics and visibility. The travel to and from Menorca was really arduous, even though I only came from San Francisco.

From the mathematical point of view, there were some interesting topics. The “Algorithms” part of AofA seemed to be even less prominent that previous years, and this may be a problem in future. A talk by Markus Nebel on Yaroslavskiy’s dual pivot quicksort showed that the old models used since the time fo Knuth are not very good at predicting actual performance, and some hard work is desperately needed there. The notion of a tradeoff between accuracy and other performance characteristics versus energy use as mentioned at least twice, and seems a promising approach.

Many community activities are planned. In particular, AofA2014 will be in Paris 16-20 June, with Donald Knuth as the Flajolet memorial lecturer.

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