CAG Schedule of Talks: Spring 2003

Schedule of Talks: Spring 2003

If you would like to give a talk in our seminar series, please contact Wendy Myrvold (

Schedule for Friday Talks:

Date Place Time Speaker Abbreviated Title
Jan. 17 EOW 430 3:30 Stefan Pantazi The Simple Perceptrons: have we seen the last of it?
Jan. 24 EOW 430 3:30 Thomas Britz Extensions of the Critical Theorem
Jan. 31 EOW 430 3:30 Romeo Rizzi Permutation routing in POPS networks
Feb. 21 EOW 430 3:30 Wendy Myrvold Hunting for Torus Obstructions
Mar. 13 EOW 430 1:30 Mohammad Salavatipour Maximum Capacity Broadcast
Mar. 14 EOW 430 3:30 Michael Molloy Random constraint satisfaction problems
Mar. 17 Cornett A 121 1:30 Peter Winkler Optimality and Greed in Dynamic Allocation
Apr. 4 EOW 430 3:30 Valerie King Phylogenetic Tree Reconstruction and a Colouring Problem
Apr. 11 EOW 230 3:30 Timothy Walsh Generating Gray codes in O(1) worst-case time per word

Previous talks:

The Simple Perceptrons: have we seen the last of it?
Stefan Pantazi
Jan. 17, EOW 430, 3:30

The simple perceptron was one of the first invented models of feed-forward artificial neural networks. Together with its elegant learning algorithm, the simple perceptron allows one to perform a classification into linearly separable classes. More complex models (e.g. the multi-layer perceptron) that evolved from it are considered able to approximate virtually any arbitrary input-output relation. However, the learning and generalization capacities of artificial neural networks are still affected by local minima and by the quality of the training examples which, in real applications, are noisy. Thus, an improved learning capacity, robustness to noise and increased generalization performances are features which should characterize a good classifier. The newly introduced support vector machines, by combining kernel methods with the simple perceptron model, seem to attain many of the goals of a good classifier. With the help of simulation examples and considering some relatively recent results in the field machine learning, I will try to argue that the days of the simple perceptron are not over yet.

Extensions of the Critical Theorem
Thomas Britz
Jan. 24, EOW 430, 3:30

Historical reviews of matroid theory often begin with Hassler Whitney's 1935 article. In it, Whitney defined and derived most of the theory contained in the introductory chapters of any exposition on matroids, in an attempt to obtain an axiomatic description of linear dependence between vectors. As Whitney pointed out himself, this attempt was not fully successful, for matroids exist that do not correspond to any set of linear dependencies between vectors. However, this suggested several natural programmes of research, including that of determining how much a matroid can say about the vectors that it represents.

A breakthrough in this programme was the Critical Theorem, discovered in 1970 by Henry Crapo and Gian-Carlo Rota, which has been celebrated for quite a different reason. One of the important applications of this theorem was conducted by Curtis Greene in 1976. He demonstrated how the weight enumerator of a linear code was obtained by evaluating in a certain way the Tutte polynomial of the associated matroid. The MacWilliams identities for linear codes is one of several immediate consequences.

In this talk, I will describe how the Critical Theorem may be extended and generalised in a large number of ways. Each of these ways also leads to generalisations of Greene's result, and these may be combined to give an even larger number of generalisations of the MacWilliams identity.

No prior matroid knowledge is necessary, since all objects will be introduced, partly through a historical introduction.

Permutation routing in POPS networks
Romeo Rizzi

University of Trento, Italy

Dipartimento di Informatica e Telecomunicazion
Jan. 31, EOW 430, 3:30

We show that a Partitioned Optical Passive Stars (POPS) network with g groups and d processors per group can route any permutation among the n = d * g processors in one slot when d=1 and 2 * ceiling[d/g] slots when d>1.

This is joint work with Alessandro Mei.

Keywords: Optical interconnections, passive stars, permutation routing.

Hunting for Torus Obstructions
Wendy Myrvold
Feb. 21, EOW 430, 3:30

A graph is embeddable on a surface if it can be drawn on the surface with no crossing edges. This talk will begin by introducing the basic theory and algorithmic issues for embedding graphs on surfaces.

A torus is a surface shaped like a doughnut. A topological obstruction for the torus is a graph G with minimum degree three that is not embeddable on the torus but for all edges e, G-e embeds on the torus. A minor order obstruction has the additional property that for all edges e, G contract e embeds on the torus.

The aim of our research is to find all the obstructions to the torus (both minor order and topological). To date, we have found 239,322 topological obstructions and 16,629 minor order obstructions. Previously, only a few thousand had been determined. This talk discusses the techniques used to find these obstructions.

The contents of the talk will include joint work with many of my students including Eugene Neufeld, John Chambers, Matthew Skala, Hongmei Wang, Jianping Roth, John Boyer, Angus Argyle, and Stephen Barker.

Keywords: topological graph theory, embedding graphs on the torus, algorithms for graph embedding

Maximum Capacity Broadcast
Mohammad Salavatipour
Department of Computer Science
University of Toronto
Thursday March 13, EOW 430, 1:30

Consider the following scenario: in a network N having n nodes there is a broadcaster B which wants to send some big data streams to k other nodes that are the receivers (k<=n-1). Each of the other nodes in the network are routers and pass the streams they receive on to adjacent nodes. Therefore, each data stream will traverse a tree which contains all the receivers and starts at B. Due to the huge sizes of the streams, no two of them can traverse a network link at the same time. Therefore, for each data stream we have to find a different tree, disjoint from the others. The goal is to send the maximum number of different data streams through the network. These trees are known as Steiner trees and the problem of packing Steiner trees is a generalization of two fundamental theorems in graph theory. We talk about the first linear approximation algorithm for this problem.

Random constraint satisfaction problems
Mike Molloy
Microsoft Research
March 14, EOW 430, 3:30

A constraint satisfaction problem is a generalization of a satisfiability problem. We are given a set of variables, and a domain of values that the variables can take. Some subsets of the variables have ``constraints'' which restrict the value-assignments that can be made to those variables. A problem is satisfiable if there is an assignment of values to the variables which does not violate any of the constraints.

For example, one special case is k-SAT. Here the domain only has two values, {True and False}, and the constraints come in the form of clauses, for example (x1 or not(x4) or x7) which says that (x1, x4, x7) cannot be assigned the k-tuple (F,T,F). Another special case is k-colourability of a graph. The domain is the set of k colours, the variables are the vertices of the graph, and each edge forms a constraint which says that the two vertices it is joining cannot be assigned a pair of identical values.

In this talk, we discuss models of random constraint satisfaction problems. The main issue is the following: if we form a random problem by adding random constraints one-at-a-time, how does the probability of the problem being satisfiable change? It is clear that this probability is monotonically decreasing as the number of constraints increases, but how suddenly does it decrease? How many constraints must be added before the decrease is significant? (In formal terms, these questions can be rephrased as "does the problem have a sharp threshold of satisfiability?" and "how many constraints must be added before it is no longer almost surely satisfiable?") These questions generalize the well-studied notions of the threshold of satisfiability for a random instance of k-SAT and the threshold of k-colourability for a random graph.

Optimality and Greed in Dynamic Allocation
Peter Winkler
Bell Labs
Monday March 17, Cornett A 121, 1:30

In dynamic storage allocation objects arrive according to some sort of random process, are assigned space in a facility, and terminate randomly, freeing space for further use. Constraints on space may sometimes force an arrival to be rejected, costing money.

Often in such a problem intuition tells us where in the facility to place an arrival, but it is notoriously difficult to prove that an on-line algorithm is best possible unless the process is completely specified. We will describe a new technique which can sometimes prove optimality without a specified arrival distribution, provided one assumes that it's wrong to reject an arrival when there is space for it. Problems to which this technique can be applied have already risen twice at Lucent Technologies; in each case we can show that if it's right to be greedy, then it's right to be space-efficient.

Dr. Peter Winkler is the Director of Fundamental Mathematics Research, Mathematical Sciences Research Centre, Bell Labs (Lucent Technologies), Murray Hill, New Jersey. His research interests are in discrete mathematics and the theory of computing; especially combinatorics, probability theory and applications. Dr. Winkler received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Yale University in 1975. He is a member of the American Math Society, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Computing Research Association and the IEEE Computer Society.

Phylogenetic Tree Reconstruction and a Colouring Problem
Valerie King
Friday April 4, EOW 430, 3:30

A phylogenetic tree is an unrooted tree with weighted edges whose leaves are labeled by distinct species. The distance between a pair of species is the sum of the weights on the path between the species. The phylogenetic tree reconstruction problem is to reconstruct this tree given only an oracle which outputs the distance between a given pair of species. We start the talk by proving a tight lower bound for evolutionary trees of degree k.

Now, we suppose an oracle in which there is some bounded error, and for a parameter p, if the oracle outputs a distance greater than p, the distance information is considered unreliable and useless. This model more closely captures assumptions about distances between species as determined by DNA comparisons, based on common models of evolution. In particular, the longer the DNA sequence, the larger the parameter p. We prove lower bounds, and give the first o(n^2) algorithm to reconstruct trees.

(This is work with Li Zhang and Yunhong Zhou and appeared in SODA 03)

Generating Gray codes in O(1) worst-case time per word
Timothy Walsh
Department of Computer Science, UQAM
Friday April 11, EOW 230, 3:30

We give a definition of Gray code that, unlike the standard "minimal-change" definition, is satisfied by the word-lists in the literature referred to by their creators as Gray codes and we give examples to illustrate the various concepts of minimality. We show that a non-recursive generating algorithm can be obtained for any word-list such that all the words with the same prefix (or, equivalently, suffix) are consecutive and that the Bitner-Ehrlich-Reingold method of generating each word in a time bounded by a constant works under the additional condition that in the interval of words with the same prefix or suffix the next letter assumes at least two distinct values. Finally we generalize this method so that it works under a weaker condition satisfied by almost all the Gray codes in the literature: if the next letter assumes only one value, then the interval contains only one word.

CAG Schedule of Talks: Spring 2003 / maintained by Wendy Myrvold / / revised April 30, 2003