Important Conference Results
Wednesday, 17 April 2024

The SIGBOVIK conference has just finished and its proceedings can be downloaded, but only at your peril. You might never see computer science in the same way ever again.


The Special Interest Group on Harry Q. Bovik (SIGBOVIK) is an annual event at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science’s Association for Computational Heresy and if you know what the Ignobles are all about this is the Ignoble of computer science.

Yes, it's a spoof annual conference but it makes serious points - sometimes. To quote:

SIGBOVIK 2024 is the eighteenth edition of this esteemed conference series, which was formed in 2007 to celebrate the inestimable and variegated work of Harry Quartet Bovik. We especially welcome the three neglected quadrants of research: joke realizations of joke ideas, joke realizations of serious ideas, and serious realizations of joke ideas. (In other words: SIGBOVIK is an evening of tongue-in-cheek academic presentations, a venue for silly ideas and/or executions.)

Well we would all have our favourites, but can I warn you about Paper 5. If you are just learning lambda calculus you may well read it and smile, but you run the very real risk of never managing to understand it again or, more likely you will just not want to understand it:

"This again, is all you need to do any computation. In other words, this model: the three syntactic forms and the V rule is all you need to write Linux and Clang which you can then use to program a simulator of a Turing Machine. However unlike Linux, the lambda-calculus does not require less, and unlike Clang it’s not developed by a group, and unlike Turing Machines there are no tapes. What’s common across them? The state. Church, by inventing the lambda-calculus, stated computationally and constructively the separation between Church and state"

The Ballmer Peak, the subject of Paper 7, is now known not to exist:

"The concept of a ‘Ballmer Peak’ was first proposed in 2007, postulating that there exists a very specific blood alcohol content which confers superhuman programming ability. More generally, there is a commonly held belief among software engineers that coding is easier and more productive after a few drinks. Using the industry standard for assessment of coding ability, we conducted a search for such a peak and more generally investigated the effect of different amounts of alcohol on performance. We conclusively refute the existence of a specific peak with large magnitude, but with p < 0.001 find that there was a significant positive effect to a low amount of alcohol—slightly less than two drinks—on programming ability."

This paper is very flawed as it misunderstands, willfully, the notion of a Ballmer Peak. It is not the absolute programming ability that should be measured, but the percieved programming ability.

As one who like shuffling algorithms, I have to admit a soft spot for Paper 10. The idea of a "best shuffled deck" is fun and the paper parodies papers in general:

"Any person with a basic understanding of combinatorics
should understand that there are many shuffled
decks, so the task implied by the title of this paper
was incredibly difficult to achieve. However, it was
managed to be done in this paper, and conveyed here
in word form in passive voice without personal pronouns,
because this is an abstract."

I also found Paper 24 "An empirical performence evaluation between Python and Scratch" by Morgan Nordberg great fun as I have used both and liked the idea of comparing them on an irrelevant characteristic. 

Almost too serious to be included Paper 54 "Overdrive: An Aesthetic Evaluation of Numeric Error Stephen Longfield amd Charles Eckman:

"In this paper, we explore another dimension, and investigate how different ways of representing small numbers distort the world differently.  To get a vibe check on numerical imprecision, we rendered two fractals using various numeric formats. We got some neat pictures. Wanna see?"

The results are interesting and pretty.  The same is true of Paper 69 "A Genius Solution: Applications of the Sprague-Grundy Theorem to Korean Reality TV" by Jed Grabman.

I think that Paper 34 "I'm going to Hurl" by Nicole Tietz-Sokolskaya is on to something:

"Modern programming languages have begun to use
exceptions but have yet to explore the full utility
of this feature. This work introduces Hurl, an ex-
ceptional programming language, which leverages the
full power of exceptions to toss out any other control
flow constructs. We show that this language produces
nothing of value."

You should smile at just the title of Paper 41, An Empirically Verified Lower Bound for The Number Of Empty Pages Allowed In a SIGBOVIK Paper" by Frans Skarman - just guess how this is achieved.

You might be amused or worried by Paper 60, "A computer-assisted proof that e is rational" by Rmi Garcia and Alexandre Goldsztejn. Clearly this has to be wrong, but where is the error? Is it using a computer proof assistant?

Perhaps the most important is Paper 29, "Quantum Disadvantage: Simulating IBM’s ‘quantum utility’ experiment with a Commodore 64". This anonymous paper makes some fun of IBM's claim to have achieved quantum supremacy or less controversially a quantum advantage. The paper shows how a Commodore 64 can do the same calculation in reasonable time by using the most efficient classical calculation possible.

"Our simulation requires less than 15kB of memory and
approximately four minutes of wall-clock time per data point. To accomplish this we use a variant of the sparse Pauli
dynamics (SPD) method recently developed by Beguŝić and Chan. We show that aggressive truncation combined with
a shallow depth-first search avoids the prohibitive (for a C64) memory cost of storing the truncated Pauli basis in SPD, while maintaining sufficient accuracy to match the error-mitigated results obtained from the quantum device."

It's all in fun, but still a remarkable effort.

There are a lot more interesting papers and you can download the PDF or buy a printed copy of the procedings.


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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 17 April 2024 )