Boston Computation Club

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This podcast has
49 episodes
Date created
Average duration
60 min.
Release period
18 days


The Boston Computation Club is a small seminar group focused on mathematical computer science, and computational mathematics. Its name is plagiarized from the London Computation Club. Boston Computation Club meetings occur roughly every other week, on weekends, around 5pm EDT (modulo speaker availability). The usual format is a 20m presentation followed by 40m of discussion. Some, but not all, meetings are posted on YouTube and in podcast form.

Podcast episodes

Check latest episodes from Boston Computation Club podcast

01/13/24: How to Fund your Projects by Remembering One Number with Joe Shiraef
Joe Shiraef is a professional card counter and indie game dev.  Today he joined us for a very fun, free-form conversation on advantage play, indie game development, avoid arrest, and pursuing your passions.
12/15/23: Q&A on Puzzles, with Roger Barkan in conversation with Jacob Denbeaux
Today puzzle-maker Roger Barkan joined us to talk about the creation and solution of cave puzzles, a category of puzzle for which he's quite famous as a puzzle author. Jacob lead the conversation, using an interactive puzzle that he implemented with the help of ChatGPT (:0), and it was a ton of fun. We're super grateful to Roger for joining us today and we look forward to doing a follow-up event sometime in the future! Jacob's interactive: Buy Roger's book (you know you want to!):
11/19/23: Semi Open-Source Robotics with Jan Hennecke
Jan Hennecke is an engineer and roboticist in Boston, MA. Jan has been a buddy of mine for ages, ever since we met at the Bernardo Faria Jiu Jitsu Academy where he told me a hilarious story about placing top-3 in his first half ironman while munching down on snickers. Today Jan joined us to talk about his work at RBTX, a marketplace and platform for low-cost automation. This was a really fun talk with a lot of audience engagement and I think many of you will find it interesting!
11/04/23: Logic in Color with Christian Williams
Today Christian Williams joined us to talk about his dissertation project, Logic in Color.  This is a really exciting project which he is now working on post-graduation, which aims to re-frame the way we think about logic, and logics, using a largely visual medium.  The key insight is that certain mathematical observations are made completely obvious simply by adding color to the areas enclosed by arrows in monoidal string diagrams.  But from this key observation comes the more foundational view that really, all of mathematics and logic not only can be expressed visually, but in some sense, perhaps _is_ visual; that the medium is exposing something fundamental about the nature of thought itself.  This sounds a little pretentious but it's actually just the opposite: it's a fairly radical effort to _simplify_ logic and category theory using a visual medium.  And it's enormously exciting.  We were really happy Christian gave us this ground-floor view on his project and we're super excited to see where it develops.
10/21/23: How to Write a Coequation, with Todd Schmid
Todd Schmidan Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Department of St. Mary's College of California. They are generally intereted in the algebraic, coalgebraic, and logical foundations of program semantics, and recently completed a PhD as a part of the PPLV group in the Computer Science Department of University College London. Today Todd joined us to talk about coequations, a fascinating (categorical) subject relating to the how we add algebraic structure to a space, how we think about relationships between spaces, and more. It turns out that coequations show up all over the place -- in DFAs, Markov chains, various PL concepts, etc. -- and so this is a place where the more abstract categorical stuff turns out to be really useful and illuminating for fairly concrete computer science ideas. Plus, coequations are just plain neat! We were really lucky to steal a little over an hour of Todd's time on this beautiful Saturday and we hope you enjoy the talk as much as we did.
10/07/23: Artificial Intelligence, Openness, and "Existential" Risk: Well Informed Vibes on What is Hype and What is Real, with Avijit Ghosh, David Widder, and Fabio Tollon, moderated by Wei Sun
Avijit Ghosh is a Research Data Scientist at AdeptID and a Lecturer in the Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University. He's a good friend of mine and was an element of my PhD cohort at Northeastern. He's also a well-respected researcher at the intersection of machine learning, ethics, and policy. You can read about some of his innovative and cross-disciplinary work, for example, in the New York Times. David Widder is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Digital Life Initiative at Cornell Tech, and earned his PhD from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. If you know me personally, you might remember David because he and I were simultaneously involved in parallel antics to fight non-consensual workplace sensors at CMU and NEU, respectively. Another funny coincidence is that David and I attended the same international boarding school program, called United World College. But most importantly -- David is a first-class researcher in the space of AI ethics. Fabio Tollon is a South African philosopher of technology, currently completing a post-doc at the University of Edinburgh.  Coincidentally, he taught a philosophy of science class that my fiancé took as an undergrad! Fabio's research focuses on developing a robust meta-ethical grounding in our approach to the ethics of AI. Without rigorous conceptual apparatus, Fabio argues (and we concur) that we will be lost in our ethical analysis of these emergent and ubiquitous artificial systems. TODAY, we hosted a wonderful panel discussion on AI ethics, with the above three panelists, and moderated by the long-time Boston Computation Club member, mathematician, and data-scientist Wei Sun. This was extremely informative, a lot of fun, and wildly interdisciplinary. Wei guided the discussion in a number of interesting discussions, and then the panelists fielded questions form the audience at the end. We didn't have enough time to answer everyone's questions but listeners are highly encouraged to email the panelists for follow-up :) . I'd like to thank all the panelists and Wei again for showing up and making this event the special moment in time that it was, and the diverse and highly engaged audience for participating in this project. This was a lot of fun and highly intellectually stimulating, and I hope we can do more events like this in the future.
09/17/23: Open Problems in Probabilistic Programming Semantics with Eli Sennesh
Eli Sennesh is a recent graduate of the PhD program in computer science at Northeastern, in which I (Max) and many other BCC group members are currently enrolled. Eli's research is highly interdisciplinary, taking into consideration various topics in mathematics (statistics, measure theory, probability theory, optimization), programming language theory, and neuroscience, with the unifying goal of building useful probabilistic programming languages. Today Eli joined us to discuss that research, with a particular emphasis on important open problems -- problems which he intends to study as a post-doc! This was a fun one and an excellent introduction to the world of probabilistic programming, and we really appreciate that Eli took time out of his weekend to come talk to us. Eli's website: Eli's advisor's book on probabilistic programming:
09/09/23: Transferable and Fixable Proofs with Bill Dalessandro
Bill Dalessandro is a philosopher of science and mathematics at Oxford University. Today Bill joined us to discuss proofs -- specifically, what it means for a proof to be fixable, what it means for a proof to be transferable, and the apparent tension between these notions. This work built on prior work by Northeastern's Don Fallis, who attended the talk and participated in the lively and fascinating conversation that ensued. We also discussed what it's like to work in an interactive theorem prover. In such an environment, you don't really make mistakes -- because the prover doesn't let you -- but you might prove the wrong thing, and/or, you might not learn much despite having proven something. This was a great talk with a great with a really strong discussion section and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did! - Bill's website - The paper in question
09/01/23: ChipSec with Nathaniel Mitchell and Dan Scott
Today Nathaniel Mitchell and Dan Scott joined us from Intel to discuss the ChipSec project, an open-source platform security assessment framework, available at .  Specifically, ChipSec "is a framework for analyzing the security of PC platforms including hardware, system firmware (BIOS/UEFI), and platform components" -- for both Windows and Linux (although as we discuss, getting it to work on Windows requires some leg-work).  This was a really interesting talk and it included a very impressive demo!  We learned a lot and we're very thankful that not just one but two busy engineers from Intel took the time to talk to us today about their fascinating software tool.
08/12/23: Packing Chromatic with Bernardo Anibal Subercaseaux Roa
Bernardo Anibal Subercaseaux RoaMarijn Heule. He has a background in engineering and is passionate about mathematics and computer science. Bernardo's research attacks the following question from a variety of angles: what can and cannot be done (efficiently?) by a computer? Today, Bernardo joined us to talk about Packing Chromatic, a fascinating research area at the intersection of pure mathematics and SAT solving. Bernardo and his advisor recently solved an open problem in the space, finding the packing chromatic number for the infinite 2D grid. We discussed the proof and a bunch of related problems, including some intriguing (and open) questions about periodic vs aperiodic tilings. By the way, this work was also covered (briefly) in the NYT! (Not a lot of 2nd year PhD students get covered in the grey lady!!)
07/15/23: Symmetries, Flat Minima, and the Conserved Quantities of Gradient Flow with Bo Zhao
Bo Zhao is a 2nd year PhD student in computer science at UCSD, advised by Rose Yu. Her research focuses on deep learning theory and optimization, with a recent emphasis on the parameter space and dynamics of learning. Today Bo joined us to talk about her recent paper, "Symmetries, Flat Minima, and the Conserved Quantities of Gradient Flow", which was joint work at ICLR with Iordan Ganev, as well as co-authors Robin Walters, Rose Yu, and Nima Dehmamy. This is a really interesting paper which takes an algebraic approach to a problem typically only studied analytically. Bo gave a phenomenal presentation and then we had a really nice discussion with a variety of technical questions. We enjoyed this one a lot and we hope you do too!
06/30/23: ChatGPT on your Personal Corpus in Algovera with Richard Blythman
Today Richard Blythman joined us to talk about the big and exciting world of large language models. Richard has a PhD in fluid dynamics and is the CEO of Algovera, a cool company building a decentralized and personalized tech stack based on LLMs. His talk today was short and focused, explaining what in particular makes LLMs so magical. Then we had a phenomenal discussion section! We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. To learn more about Algovera, go here:

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