Is Informatics an indiscrete science?
Chaired by the Head of the College of Science and Engineering, Professor Lesley J. Yellowlees
One of the first lessons that every student of informatics learns is that computers operate with digital logic in a discrete world of bits. Starting from this view, the right way to reason about and predict the behaviour of programs is then to use discrete mathematics to prove logical properties of interest because discrete methods are precise and exact.
While this approach is clearly justifiable and sensible it is also ultimately unhelpful because it does not scale to allow us to reason about larger systems with many interacting components. At these larger scales it becomes appropriate to adopt a continuous view of the discrete entities which are involved and to work instead with approximate numerical methods rather than exact ones. To go too far in this direction and abandon discrete methods altogether would be wrong because it would move too far away from the essential nature of informatics but perhaps it is worthwhile to explore more in the direction of continuous methods and see if informatics is an indiscrete science after all.
In this inaugural lecture I will tell the story of my journey along the path from the discrete world to the continuous world with PEPA, a modelling language which was invented in Edinburgh and now is used by research groups all over the world.
There will be a reception in the Informatics Forum at 10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB
RSVP Marjorie Dunlop: mdunlop2 [at] inf.ed.ac.uk