Browsing Around a Digital Library

by Prof. Witten, Waikato University
Thursday 19 July, 6pm
To be held in Clore Lecture Theatre, Birkbeck College

What will it be like to work in the digital library of the future? We begin by browsing around an experimental digital library of the present, glancing at some collections and seeing how they are organized. Then we look to the future. Although present digital libraries are quite like conventional libraries, we argue that future ones will feel qualitatively different. Readers - and writers - will work in the library using a kind of context-directed browsing. This will be supported by structures derived from automatic analysis of the contents of the library - not just the catalog, or abstracts, but the full text of the books and journals - using new techniques of data mining.

Ian H. Witten is professor of computer science at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. He directs the New Zealand Digital Library research project. His research interests include information retrieval, machine learning, text compression, and programming by demonstration. He has published widely in these areas, including six books, the most recent being Managing gigabytes: Compressing and indexing documents and images (second edition, Morgan Kaufmann, 1999) and Data mining: practical machine learning tools and techniques with Java implementations (Morgan Kaufmann, 2000). He received an MA in mathematics from Cambridge Unversity, England; an MSc in computer science from the University of Calgary, Canada; and a PhD in electrical engineering from Essex University, England. He is a fellow of the ACM and of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Chaired by Harold Thimbleby.


by Prof. Lessig, Stanford University
Friday, 14 September, 6pm

An evening with Prof. Lawrence Lessig, author of Code and other laws of cyberspace.

Chaired by Harold Thimbleby.

The Computer Science of Everyday Things

Monday, 15 October, 6pm

Moore's Law predicts substantial, sustained improvement in computing power. Yet while the technology gets better and better, the usability of "everyday things" is low (video recorders being a notorious example). Obsolescence, a symptom of Moore's Law, hides flawed design: poor products are replaced rather than fixed. The poor quality of the computer science of everyday things is continually eclipsed by the hope for fixing today's problems with tomorrow's developments. This lecture shows that computer science can improve usability with ease. Improvement will be essential when ethical and environmental issues become, as they will, unavoidable design criteria.

From Henry Briggs to Modern Calculators

Thursday, 29 November, 6pm

Henry Briggs, the first Gresham Professor of Geometry, developed what we now call common logarithms to make multiplication easier. Nowadays few of us use logarithms as hand-held calculators make everything much easier. But do they? This lecture will show how bad many current calculators are, and it will show how ideas in computing science can circumvent many of their problems.

Future Computers

Thursday, 24 January, 6pm

Today's computers don't understand us. In the future we will wear them and they will be inside us, as implants — so we had better get them sorted out while we have a chance. This lecture looks at how common problems with today's computers may be solved, and what sort of new problems will arise.

Conventional Cryptography

Thursday, 21 February, 6pm

Keeping secrets is one of the earliest inventions of civilisation, and has become the science of cryptography. The World War II Enigma machine was just lots of scrambling, done in ways that could be understood in principle by a school child — though it took daring and powerful computing to crack it. This lecture introduces the key ideas behind conventional cryptography, and explains why it is not good enough for modern applications such as international commerce on the Internet. The lecture also serves as an introduction to the following lecture (28 February) on modern cryptography.

Modern Cryptography

Thursday, 28 February, 6pm

Computers need not just automate what is already being done, but can do completely new things. In the 1970s a new form of cryptography was invented, which is usually presented as an esoteric application of number theory. This new cryptography is asymmetric, meaning that the coding and decoding methods are different. In fact, the basic ideas are easily explained using geometric arguments, and the amazing new applications of asymmetric methods — such as digital cash — become easy to understand.

Computer Viruses

Thursday, 21 March, 6pm

Every so often there is a panic when computers succumb to viruses. The theory behind viruses is rather fun, and shows how bugs can disappear and become impossible to find. In principle it's possible to construct viruses that cannot be detected, equally it's possible to avoid getting them in the first place.