We’ve received a lot of positive feedback on our new MIT theory blog. But one thing has confused a number of readers: why is the blog titled “Not so Great Ideas in Theoretical Computer Science?” Is the purpose of the blog to discuss, say, crackpot attempts to prove P≠NP? Those can certainly contain some “not so great ideas.” Or is the purpose of the blog to modestly showcase the work of MIT students?
The answer is none of the above. The origins of the name lie deep in MIT theory history1. Our group holds weekly lunches in which students present short, interesting results in TCS. We call this lunch series “Great Ideas in TCS”, a name which was borrowed from Scott Aaronson’s popular introductory course (which also shares a similar name with Steve Rudich’s legendary CMU course). To complement these intellectual gatherings, we began organizing weekly social outings to local pubs, which we christened “Not so Great Ideas in TCS” to emphasize their informal nature2. The name stuck, and the tradition has become an institution within MIT theory.
In short, the title of the blog refers to a weekly event in the robust social lives3 of MIT graduate students, rather than the quality of the works discussed. We hope this clarifies things, and we’ll return to normal programming shortly. Next up will be a report on our theory retreat and more paper reviews — stay tuned!
- Namely, my first year at MIT.
- Granted, great ideas can be discussed in a pub too. Rumor has it that a number of STOC/FOCS papers have been conceptualized in the nearby Cambridge Brewing Company.
- Well, at least for mathematicians!