Monday, November 29, 2010

Kyoto Prize Winner Revolutionizing IT Network Design

    Kyoto Prize Winner Revolutionizing IT Network Design
  • Tools for accurately modeling very large networks—from server farms to wireless sensor nets—are being enabled by the pioneering mathematical tools of this year's Kyoto Prize winner, Laszlo Lovasz. Half-million dollar awards were also made to stem-cell innovator Shinya Yamanaka and artistic groundbreaker William Kentridge.
  • Tools for accurately modeling very large networks—from server farms to wireless sensor nets—are being enabled by the pioneering mathematical tools of this year's Kyoto Prize winner, Laszlo Lovasz. Half-million dollar awards were also made to stem-cell innovator Shinya Yamanaka and artistic groundbreaker William Kentridge.The Kyoto Prize—which has for 25 years aimed to rival the Nobel Prize—this year bestows three $550,000 awards to Laszlo Lovasz for his contributions to information technology (IT); Shinya Yamanaka for discovering that skin, instead of embryos, can be regressed into stem cells; and  William Kentridge for his artistic invention called "drawings in motion."

    Three Kyoto Prizes were awarded this year to Shinya Yamanaka, Laszlo Lovasz and William Kentridge (left to right). 
    The key to accuracy in IT simulations is to define their boundaries—such as the minimum number of servers required for a given latency or the maximum capacity of a wireless network. The mathematical principles to enable such accurate IT simulations are being delineated by Kyoto Prize winner and algorithm pioneer Lovasz. The Hungarian-born naturalized U.S. citizen has applied geometric "graph theory" to many long-standing mathematical problems, and as a result has enabled a new generation of simulators for very large-scale networks.

    Ceremonial globes were presented by Japanese children to Kyoto Prize winners, Kentridge, Lovasz and Yamanaka during the ceremony.
    "I am especially pleased to congratulate Dr. Laszlo Lovasz on receiving the Kyoto Prize this year," said President Barak Obama in a statement read at the Kyoto Prize Ceremony (Obama could not attend the ceremony, since the recent G20 summit was being held simultaneously). "Americans like him have contributed to myriad advancements in mathematical sciences and other fields of study. These efforts help advance all humankind and create a brighter future for all nations."
    Lovasz's mathematical theorems have commentators likening him to a modern-day Claude Shannon—the inventor of IT and recipient of the first Kyoto Prize in 1985. In particular, Lovasz enabled geometry to extend the point-to-point radio links of Shannon's day for the tower-hopping era of modern cellular radio communications. Lovasz used graph theory to place an upper bound on an information channel's "Shannon capacity," which has come to be called its "Lovasz number."
    Other principles useful in IT include "Lovasz' local lemma" and the "LLL-algorithm," which are both used in standard encryption algorithms, such as RSA, as well as for the multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) wireless communication techniques used by WiFi, 4G, WiMax and LTE.
    Lovasz served as a senior scientist at Microsoft Research from 1999 to 2006, and is currently a professor at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. Next year, he will be returning to the United States, where he will spend a year at Princeton University pioneering new ways of using graph theory to manage very large-scale networks.
    This year, Kyoto Prizes were also bestowed on Japanese medical researcher Shinya Yamanaka, who defused the moral issues surrounding human embryos by showing that skin could be regressed into stem cells too. South African artist William Kentridge also received an award for the invention of his self-described "stone-age technology" that he calls "drawings in motion."
    EDITOR'S NOTE: The author of this story, R. Colin Johnson, also is a winner of the 2010 Kyoto Prize Journalism Fellowship.

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