U of Toronto University Professor Emeritus Stephen A. Cook won NSERC $1 million Herzberg Medal – with interview by Kempton

Wednesday, 27 February, 2013

20130227 Professor Cook interview pix

Congratulations to University of Toronto Computer Science professor Stephen Cook, best known for formulating the P v. NP problem, for winning the $1M 2012 Gerhard Herzberg medal (also via CBC News)!

After all these years, I still remember the thrill in taking my first year UT Comp. Sci class in 1987 with prof. Cook! And it remains an honour (and bragging right) to have taken the famous third year CSC364 Computability and Complexity class with prof. Cook and seeing him proved to us 3-satisfiability and taught us P v. NP, etc. I am truly excited for prof. Cook!

Check out my 15 minutes interview with Prof. Cook this morning: Interview with Dr. Stephen A. Cook, 2012 Winner of NSERC’s $1m Herzberg Medal

By the way, as prof. cook mentioned in the interview, he came to the idea of the NP complete problem about 6 months after he came to Toronto in 1970. If you read the detailed & insightful oral history interview with Stephen Cook (courtesy of University of Minnesota), you will realize professor Cook could have easily stayed at UC Berkeley (if they had not denied him tenure) instead of joining us at University of Toronto! Lucky us!

Last week, I asked prof. Kelly Gotlieb “Father of Computing in Canada” for his thoughts about some giants in computer science, here is what Kelly has to say about Steve (video clip).

Here is “NSERC Presents 2 Minutes With Stephen Cook

Here is an excerpt from a great Q&A from U of Toronto.

What drew you to this field – and to this particular focus?
I enrolled as a mathematics graduate student at Harvard in 1961, thinking I’d concentrate in algebra. Computer Science did not yet exist as a discipline. After taking a course in `logic and computation’ from Hao Wang, my future advisor, I switched fields. My PhD thesis was inspired by a question posed by a pioneer in the field named Alan Cobham: Is multiplication (of large numbers) intrinsically harder than addition? Part of the challenge was to formulate this as a precise mathematical question.

Why U of T?
I joined the faculty of the computer science department at U of T in 1970. This was one of the world’s first CS departments, and Tom Hull, the department chair, had a powerful vision for its future. He already had recruited some aspiring young faculty, including my close colleague Allan Borodin, who continues to be a pillar of the department. It helped that Toronto is a good sailing venue on Lake Ontario, and sailing was (and is) a major hobby for my wife and me.

What advice would you give to a student just starting out in this field?
You’ve made a good choice. The possibilities are boundless.

Via this UT page, see more media coverage about the 2012 Herzberg Prize at these links below:

“- Globe & Mail

– Canada.com

– Calgary Herald

– CBC News

Interview with “Father of Computing in Canada” re Google Car, Google Glasses, Alan Turing

Wednesday, 13 February, 2013


20130212 Father of Computing Kelly interview - pix

Interview with “Father of Computing in Canada” Prof Gotlieb re Google Car, Google Glasses, Alan Turing

This is an extensive interview with Professor Emeritus C.C. Kelly Gotlieb, (Wikipedia) “Father of Computing in Canada”, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, Feb 2013 interviewed by Independent reporter Kempton Lam
KL: Kempton Lam
KG: Professor Emeritus C.C. Kelly Gotlieb
Table of content (with time codes):
0:00 KL: Introducing Professor Emeritus C.C. (Kelly) Gotlieb, “Father of Computing in Canada”, University of Toronto
0:29 KL: My question about Google Driverless Cars. Three US states already has law permitting testing of Google Driverless Cars. Talking about California governor signed the bill, “SB-1298 Vehicles: autonomous vehicles: safety and performance requirements” into law.
2:07 KL: Bill SB-1298 allows Google to test the Google Driverless Car provided Google pays a $5 million insurance, and provided there is a driver in the car.
2:21 KG: “That’s what I expected.”
2:35 KL: My concerns were concerns raised by Kelly in an earlier speech of his.
2:47 KG: listing some of the concerns he has with concepts like Google Driverless Cars. “United States is a very litigious society.”
3:12 KG: Google Driverless Car gets into an accident, whose to blame? And who can you sue? The person who wrote the program? Google who authorize the car? Car manufacture? The person who is in the car? Or all of the above? […] Lots of questions to be asked when failure happen. Read the rest of this entry »

Malcolm Gladwell 2011 Honorary Degree Recipient Speech at University of Toronto

Tuesday, 2 August, 2011

Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers) got a free degree from University of Toronto, his and my alma mater, and we the public get a free Gladwell story, not a bad deal. (Great story, worth watching again after first viewing: time code 5:58)

Happy 100th birthday, Marshall McLuhan in his own (and others’) words!

Thursday, 21 July, 2011

Marshall McLuhan - pix 00

Happy 100th birthday, Marshall McLuhan! [HT Gary]

Have a look of Open Culture,”Marshall McLuhan: The World is a Global Village

Marshall McLuhan – The World is a Global Village (CBC TV)

Check out “Tom Wolfe on Marshall McLuhan for His 100th Would-Be Birthday

Have a listen to CBC Jian Ghomeshi opening Q essay, “Jian on Marshall McLuhan’s 100th birthdayRead the rest of this entry »

Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto

Sunday, 26 June, 2011

Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto

Writing an earlier article reminded me of some fond memories during my time at the Department of Computer Science at University of Toronto. A quick visit to the DCS site later, it got me into wanting to write and share a few words.


I want to congratulate Professor Allan Borodin (my teacher in CSC238) for being named University Professor. The citation notes (emphasis added):

“Professor Borodin has a long and distinguished research career in theoretical computer science. His central area of interest, computational complexity and algorithm design, addresses the basic issue of determining the minimum resources required to solve computational problems. A common theme in Borodin’s research is that he explores fundamental questions that seemingly should be well understood but often defy answers to even the most basic aspects of these questions. Hence, he has often been at the forefront of developing new models and problem formulations that have become standard frameworks for computer science studies.”

Prof. Borodin’s “full citation may be found on the U of T Vice-President and Provost Web site. Also, the U of T Bulletin released an article on the 2010-2011 University Professors.”

Congrats Prof. Borodin!


I noticed University Professor Stephen Cook (my teacher in CSC158(?) and CSC364) now has “Emeritus” added to his formal title, I supposed meaning he is retiring. But I also noticed that he is still teaching CSC2401F (Sept – Dec 2011) so I hope Prof. Cook is still teaching a course or two from time to time.

I haven’t been back at DCS for many years now, but I think it will be a bit strange, for future students, to study at DCS  without being taught or exposed to NP-complete problem by the man who first described the problem in 1971 or simply attending seminars or colloquium with Prof. Cook in the audience, which I had the pleasure doing when I was doing my B.Sc. at DCS.

In Memoriam – Professor Kenneth C. Sevcik

While I was student of Professor Sevcik for a brief time (part of CSC158 and for CSC354(?)), I remember Prof. Sevcik as a very warm and helpful teacher. So it saddens me to read that Prof. Sevcik passed away on October 4, 2005. But reading the “Ken Sevcik Memorial Blog“, especially Prof. Sevcik’s wife Carmen’s October 1, 2010 entry touched me very much as it reminds me that when we pass on, we will live in the hearts and minds of others who stay behind. When we have lived a good life, we stay on thorough the memories of others.

Have a read of Carmen’s loving entry and you will know what I mean.

more Vote Mobs – Vote on May 2 (or Advance polls Apr 22, 23, 25)

Saturday, 23 April, 2011

University of Toronto’s Vote Mob – “This is What Democracy Looks Like”

University of Lethbridge Vote Mob

Brandon University Vote Mob

Vote Mob at University of Regina


Click here for more entries and videos about vote mob!

The Man Who Saved Geometry – Donald Coxeter – TVO documentary

Friday, 22 October, 2010

The Man Who Saved Geometry (TVO 2009) (56:21 video)

By the middle of the 20th century, Geometry looked dead. The excitement in math had moved to computers and chaos theory. But one man – Donald Coxeter – kept the torch burning. Inspired by Siobhan Roberts book, King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry.

I had the honour to have one lecture by Prof. Donald Coxeter, it was a really cool class even I had little idea how important a person he was in math and in life.

[HT Erik Demaine who is in the documentary]

Da Vinci’s dream fulfilled: Record-breaking human powered ornithopter flight (flying by flapping its wings)

Friday, 24 September, 2010

Human-Powered Ornithopter - pilot Todd Reichert and University of Toronto team

I am really excited that an U of Toronto engineering team has finally fulfilled Da Vinci’s dream of human powered ornithopter flight (flying by flapping its wings, see really cool video at the end of this article). Some information about the team members and photos (really cool).

Here is an excerpt from a Toronto Star article (emphasis added),

“The human-powered aircraft with birdlike wings and its pilot, Todd Reichert, are garnering international attention since news broke of its record-breaking continuous flight. Now they’re popping up on newsites, blogs and tweets from Canada to India to Switzerland.

Reichert, an engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto, piloted the first continuous flight of an ornithopter back in August. Using just his legs, Reichert powered the bird for about 20 seconds, covering 145 metres.

The craft weighs just 43 kilograms and has a wingspan of 32 metres. It works by pumping a set of pedals attached to pulleys and lines that bring down the wings in a flapping motion.

The vice-president of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the governing body for aeronautical world records, witnessed the flight. The organization is expected to confirm the world record in October.

“I understand the significance of this but in terms of dealing with the hype, I’m reasonably relaxed,” Reichert said Thursday.”

This last bit is very telling,

“Robertson said it was nostalgic being back at the barn where they spent so much time. He’s now working on an unmanned aircraft at an engineering firm in Brampton. Reichert still has to complete his Ph.D. but he doesn’t anticipate having trouble finding a good job afterward.

“Something like this,” he said of his dream job. “Where you can design and build and innovate and put into practice really quickly. At big aerospace firms, you sit at a computer and you design a very small component for 10 years.

“I need to be out building. I don’t really like doing what other people are doing.”

Here is a pretty cool video of some info and the flight set to music.

Here are some raw clips of the test flights.

Check out more Ornithopter Project videos here.

More information from U of Toronto:

Human-powered Ornithopter Becomes First Ever to Achieve Sustained Flight

U of T’s human-powered ornithopter becomes first ever to achieve sustained flight – Fulfils aeronautical dream first envisioned by da Vinci

U of Toronto engineers honoured for Apollo 13 aid

Saturday, 10 April, 2010

CBC News, “U of Toronto engineers honoured for Apollo 13 aid

CP, “A team of University of Toronto engineers helped save ill-fated Apollo 13 crew

First hand account in a 2008 UTIAS article, “An Account of UTIAS Involvement in the Rescue of Apollo 13“.

Roger Martin, dean of Rotman School @ UT, talks about The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage

Monday, 22 March, 2010

In this Business Innovation Factory podcast, Roger Martin, dean of Rotman School @ UT, talks about The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage.

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