For the current term (Fall 2006), this seminar series is organized by Amit Chakrabarti.

**To non-Dartmouth theoreticians:** If you are going
to be visiting any nearby institutions (in Boston, New York, or Amherst,
say) and would like to give a talk as part of the Dartmouth Theory
Seminar series, please contact Amit.

Schedules from past terms: [ Fall 2005 | Spring+Summer 2005 | Winter 2005 | Fall 2004 | Spring 2004 ]

Oct 4 (Wed) | Josh Buresh-Oppenheim, Simon Fraser University Towards Models for Backtracking and Dynamic Programming Room: Carpenter 013 (note unusual location!) Time: 4pm - 5pm. |

Oct 30 (Mon) | Sidharth Jaggi, MIT Fighting Byzantine Adversaries in Networks: Network Error-Correcting Codes Room: Carson L02 Time: 4pm - 5pm. |

Nov 27 (Mon) | Nick Harvey, MIT The Conjugate Gradient Method with Automatic Preconditioning Room: Carson L02 Time: 4pm - 5pm. |

Dec 4 (Mon) | Leslie Valiant, Harvard University Biology as Computation Room: Carson L02 Time: 4pm - 5pm. |

**Josh Buresh-Oppenheim, Simon Fraser University
Towards Models for Backtracking and Dynamic Programming**

Since most algorithms that people use can intuitively be classified into large paradigms of algorithms such as greedy, dynamic programming, linear and semidefinite programming, local search, etc., it is natural to ask what problems can be computed by these paradigms. This question can be seen as an alternative to asking what problems can be computed by all, say, poly-time algorithms in that the restriction on the algorithms is more conceptual rather than complexity-theoretic. Of course, to ask a question about an algorithmic paradigm, you first have to formally define the paradigm. We offer one very natural model, pBT, which captures many algorithms generally considered to be dynamic programming or backtracking. This model is an extension of the Priority Algorithm model of Borodin, Nielsen and Rackoff, which captures greedy algorithms. We demonstrate many upper and lower bounds in this model for problems such as interval scheduling, knapsack and SAT. We then define a stronger model, pBP, and show that it seems to capture some aspects of dynamic programming that pBT does not, but still does not solve even tractable problems that do not intuitively have dynamic programming algorithms.

This is joint work with Mikhail Alekhnovich, Allan Borodin, Sashka Davis, Russell Impagliazzo, Avner Magen and Toni Pitassi.

**Sidharth Jaggi, MIT
Fighting Byzantine Adversaries in Networks: Network Error-Correcting Codes
**

It was shown by Ahlswede et al. that in general network coding is required to attain the multicast capacity. But since network coding involves mixing of information inside the network, a single corrupted packet generated by a malicious node can end up contaminating all the information reaching a destination, preventing decoding. This talk introduces the first distributed polynomial-time rate-optimal network error-correcting codes that work in the presence of Byzantine nodes. We present algorithms that target adversaries with different attacking capabilities. When the adversary can eavesdrop on all links and jam z links, our first algorithm achieves a rate of (C - 2z), where C is the network capacity. In contrast, when the adversary has limited snooping capabilities, we provide algorithms that achieve the higher rate of (C - z). Our algorithms attain the optimal rate given the strength of the adversary. They are information-theoretically secure. They can be designed and operated in a distributed manner, assume no knowledge of the topology, and can be designed and implemented in polynomial time. Furthermore, only the source and destination need to be modified; non-malicious nodes inside the network are oblivious to the presence of adversaries and implement a classical distributed network code. Finally, our algorithms work over wired and wireless networks.

This is joint work done with Michael Langberg, Sachin Katti, Tracey Ho, Dina Katabi, and Muriel Medard.

**Nick Harvey, MIT
The Conjugate Gradient Method with Automatic Preconditioning**

Solving a linear system is one of the most fundamental computational problems. Unfortunately, the basic algorithm that most of us learn (Gaussian Elimination) is often useless in practice due to slow running time or stability issues. Instead, it is more common to use iterative solvers, the simplest ones being steepest descent and conjugate gradient. The snag with iterative solvers is that their performance often depends on the "condition number" of the given system, so it is common to modify the system by applying a "preconditioner" matrix which reduces the condition number. This raises a key question: given a linear system, how can we find a good preconditioner?

In this work, we develop a variant of conjugate gradient method which *automatically* constructs good preconditioners. The general idea is very simple. We run the conjugate gradient method until it "gets stuck". The fact that it is stuck then implies a way to modify the preconditioner so that the conjugate gradient steps will be "less stuck" in the future.

This talk will be self-contained -- the audience only needs to know basic linear algebra, and how to interpret pictures of algorithms that are stuck.

Joint work with John Dunagan, Microsoft Research.

**Leslie Valiant, Harvard University
Biology as Computation**

We argue that computational models have an essential role in uncovering the principles behind a variety of biological phenomena. In particular we consider recent results relating to the following three questions: How can brains, given their known resource constraints such as the sparsity of connections and slow elements, do any significant information processing at all? How can evolution, in only a few billion years, evolve such complex mechanisms as it apparently has? How can cognitive systems manipulate large amounts of such uncertain knowledge and get usefully reliable results? We show that each of these problems can be formulated as a quantitative question for a computational model, and argue that solutions to these formulations provide some understanding of these biological phenomena.

This talk will be accessible to graduate *and* undergraduate
students.