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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Nikolaus conference 2016

Yet again I attended the Nikolauskonferenz in Aachen this year, funded by CoDiMa.

At the meeting Chris Jefferson and I presented our work with Rebecca Waldecker, and co-funded by CoDiMa, on search and canonical images in permutation groups. A recent submission can be found here, and a further one is coming out soon.

Another notable talk was given by Mikaël Cavallin from Kaiserslautern: He and Donna Testerman found a bug in a paper by Seitz from 1987 which is widely used in algebraic groups. This reminded me of our CoDiMa event in January, where Carmen Rovi visited us to learn about how GAP computes Schur multipliers, and we suspected that there was a bug in GAP, but it turned out to be a bug in an old paper.

Richard Parker and I met mainly at breakfast and discussed high performance low level algorithms such as his meataxe64, or multiplying permutations on millions of points, making full use of modern computer systems, which according to Richard, humanity is too stupid to program.

Two further talks that caught my attention were Imke Toborg’s talk on An Algebraic View on a Composite Functional Equation on Groups, because I first thought: why would you do that? and then: actually this is really interesting, and Julian Brough’s talk about Central Intersections of Element Centralisers, because I like this kind of group theory.

Of course all the other talks were interesting too, and I very much enjoyed being in Aachen again meeting everyone and doing research – Cambridge style! once more. A special thank you goes to Frank Lübeck for organising the event. I hope to see everyone back in Aachen next year!

Teaching good mathematical software practices at CoDiMa training school

On October 17-21, 2016 we organised the Second CoDiMa training school in Discrete Computational Mathematics in Edinburgh (our first school took place in Manchester in November 2015). This time it was hosted at the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences, and had been attended by 26 learners representing 11 institutions around the UK. The majority of them were PhD students in mathematics and computer science. Their participation was supported by the CoDiMa project, which covered their travel, accommodation and subsistence needed to attend the school.

The school started with the hands-on Software Carpentry workshop covering the UNIX command line and version control (instructed by Alexey Tarutin and Leighton Pritchard), and the Software Carpentry lesson on GAP given by Alexander Konovalov (for published versions of these lessons, see here, here and there on Zenodo). The 2-days Software Carpentry workshop created the basis for more in-depth explanation of the following topics on GAP and computational algebra during the remaining part of the week:

  • debugging and profiling
  • advanced GAP programming
  • GAP type system
  • distributed parallel calculations
  • demonstration of the new GAP Jupyter interface
  • examples of some algorithms and their implementations

delivered by Christopher JeffersonAlexander KonovalovSteve LintonMarkus Pfeiffer and Wilf Wilson. Furthermore, John Cremona gave a presentation of LMFDB (The L-functions and modular forms database project) which offered interesting insight into the internals of designing and maintaining mathematical database such as LMFDB. Also on Thursday Viviane Pons (Université Paris-Sud) gave an introduction to SageMath, and on the final day we had “Is your research software correct?” talk by the EPSRC Research Software Engineering Fellow Mike Croucher (Sheffield), and a panel discussion joined by Neil Chue Hong, who is the director of the Software Sustainability Institute.

For further details, please see the school webpage which contains links to the presentations and supplementary materials for all school’s programme. You can also find all #codima2016 tweets on Storify (they provide very good day by day coverage of the whole week), and school photos courtesy of ICMS here on Flickr. It was a really exciting event, and it is a great pleasure to thank everyone involved: all participants, speakers, instructors, helpers; Software Sustainability Institute and personally Giacomo Peru who coordinates Software Carpentry activities in the UK; all contributors to Software Carpentry lessons that we taught; ICMS staff for welcoming us and being attentive to all our requests; Blue Sky Catering for nice lunches; and Vittoria on the Bridge for the school dinner!

We plan at least three more such schools in 2017-2019. Besides training events, we also organise annual workshops. The first one was in the form of GAP-SageMath days at St Andrews in January 2016, and the next one is “Computational Mathematics with Jupyter” which we organise jointly with the Horizon 2020 project OpenDreamKit at the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences in Edinburgh on January 17-20, 2017.