Friday, March 20, 2009

Father of the Analysis of Algorithms

In the fall of 1999, Donald was invited to give six public lectures at MIT on the general subject of relations between faith and science, during which he touched upon such topics as the interaction of randomization and religion, language translation, art and aesthetics, and the 3:16 project. During his talk at Google, Donald will similarly be focusing on the interactions between faith and science.

Knuth has been called the father of the Analysis of Algorithms and he explains his decision to embark in this particular field. He says, "If I consider the entire class of all interesting algorithms, then it's bound to be full of problems just as interesting as queuing and hashing...So that's why, right at that point, I said 'Hmm, that wouldn't be spend a lifetime on it, because you have a huge number of problems, not only do they have beautiful mathematical structures that tie together, you know, hang together in nice patterns, but also there are customers out there; so that when you solve the problem, the people say, 'Hey, thanks for solving the problem, Don.' So it's a great field to embark in."

Some books recommended by Knuth;

* Life A Users Manual by Georges Perec (perhaps the greatest 20th century novel)
* Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers (captures Oxford high-table small-talk wonderfully)
* An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears (also Oxford but in the 1660s)
* Death of a Salesperson by Robert Barnard (who is at his best in short stories like these)
* The Haj by Leon Uris (great to read on a trip to Israel)
* Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk (in-depth characters plus a whole philosophy)
* On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee (applied biochemistry in the kitchen)
* Food by Waverley Root (his magnum opus, a wonderful history of everything delicious)
* The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth (the Great California Novel, entirely in 14-line sonnets)
* The Age of Faith by Will Durant (volume 4 of his series, covers the years 325--1300)
* Efronia by Stina Katchadourian (diaries and letters of a remarkable Armenian woman)
* The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel (biographies of Ramanujan and Hardy)
* Hackers by Steven Levy (incredibly well written tale of our times)
* The Abominable Man by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (one of their brilliantly Swedish detective novels)

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