Department of Mathematics

Mathematicians and computer scientists celebrated Donald Knuth in Piteå


In January, the world star and TeX creator Donald Knuth turned 80. Due to his birthday, mathematicians and computer scientists from several universities arranged a conference in Piteå. In connection with the conference, his organ composition Fantasia Apocalyptica had its world premiere.

Svante Janson at the conference
(photo: Anders Öberg)

- The conference was very successful, both scientifically with many excellent lectures by world-leading researchers, and practically, in every way, says Svante Janson and continues:

- I was in the organizing committee, and I hired Anders Öberg and Sofie White, who together arranged almost everything in Piteå except the organ concert, so it was a big relief for me that everything worked.

You also gave a talk at the conference. What was it about?

- I chose to talk about random permutations. Because Don Knuth has a large scientific width, there was also a wide range of participants, and most of the audience was probably computer savvy rather than mathematicians. I therefore tried to keep it on a fairly clear and easy-to-understand level, while speaking of some of my newer research results, including some I have not yet written down.

How did it go?

- I thought it went well. The response was, as usual, not very high-keyed. I received some interesting comments and questions, but it's hard to know what the rest of the audience thought.

Donald Knuth (photo: Alex Handy)

One of those who arranged the conference and made sure everything worked at the location was Anders Öberg. He shares his thoughts:

- It was a good and star-studded conference, with several big names. In addition to Donald Knuth himself and some celebrities in computer science, some very famous mathematicians such as Persia Diaconis and Richard Stanley participated. I myself thought that the most exciting person was Ron Graham, who used to be the Chief Scientist at Bell Labs. I think that he gave the best talk. I have even started reading one of his books on Ramsey theory!

- It worked well to be in Piteå. The town offered nice winter weather and everything worked without any major organizational problems. Piteå turned out to be well equipped to have a big and friendly conference. It was also fun for me who went to high school there a long time ago.

Donald Knuth also visited Uppsala after the conference and gave a lecture in Siegbahnsalen. Over 300 people attended.

Read more:

Dagens Nyheter

Valentina Chapovalova's blog

Conference Page

Fantasia Apocalyptica