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Hal AbelsonHal Abelson
Amorphous Computing
Wednesday December 18, 2002
Building 3 Auditorium - 11AM

(Refreshments at 10:30 PM)

Dr. Hal Abelson will talk about Amorphous Computing. Progress in microfabrication and in bioengineering will make it possible to assemble computing systems at almost no cost, provided that 1) the units need not all work correctly; 2) the units are identically programmed; and 3) there is no need to manufacture precise geometrical arrangements of the units or precise interconnections among them. We can imagine constructing such systems, but we have very little idea how to program them: How do we obtain coherent behavior from the cooperation of large numbers of unreliable parts that are interconnected in unknown, irregular, and time-varying ways?

The talk will also review some initial work that is aimed at programming real biological cells through a technique that implements digital logic in terms of DNA binding proteins.

Dr. Harold (Hal) Abelson Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and a Fellow of the IEEE. He holds an A.B. degree from Princeton University and Ph.D. degree in mathematics from MIT. Professor Abelson joined the MIT faculty in 1973. In 1992, he was designated as one of MIT’s six inaugural MacVicar Faculty Fellows, in recognition of his significant and sustained contributions to teaching and undergraduate education. Professor Abelson was recipient in 1992 of the Bose Award (MIT’s School of Engineering teaching award).

Professor Abelson is the winner of the 1995 Taylor L. Booth Education Award given by IEEE Computer Society, cited for his continued contributions to the pedagogy and teaching of introductory computer science. He has a longstanding interest in using computation as a conceptual framework in teaching. He directed the first implementation of Logo for the Apple II, which made the language widely available on personal computers beginning in 1981; and published a widely selling book on Logo in 1982. His book “Turtle Geometry”, written with Andrea diSessa in 1981, presented a computational approach to geometry. It has been cited as “the first step in a revolutionary change in the entire teaching/learning process.” Abelson was also a founding director of the Free Software Foundation, and he serves as a consultant to Hewlett-Packard Laboratories. Professor Abelson is co-director of the MIT-Microsoft Research Alliance in educational technology, and co-head of the MIT Council on Educational Technology.

IS&T Colloquium Committee Host: John Schnase