We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What is Computer Science ...

I so wish, the lecturers all over India who start teaching Computer Science to numerous engineering students, read this article. Atleast they will understand something in Computer Science and how it is supposed to be taught.

Courtesy - Great Ideas in Computer Science Spring 2008, from OCW MIT.

What is computer science?

Computer science is not glorified programming. Edsger Dijkstra, Turing Award winner and extremely opinionated man, famously said that computer science has as much to do with computers as astronomy has to do with telescopes. We claim that computer science is a mathematical set of tools, or body of ideas, for understanding just about any system—brain, universe, living organism, or, yes, computer. Scott got into computer science as a kid because he wanted to understand video games. It was clear to him that if you could really understand video games then you could understand the entire universe. After all, what is the universe if not a video game with really, really realistic special effects?

OK, but isn’t physics the accepted academic path to understanding the universe? Well, physicists have what you might call a top-down approach: you look for regularities and try to encapsulate them as general laws, and explain those laws as deeper laws. The Large Hadron Collider is scheduled to start digging a little deeper in less than a year.

Computer science you can think of as working in the opposite direction. (Maybe we’ll eventually meet the physicists half-way.) We start with the simplest possible systems, and sets of rules that we haven’t necessarily confirmed by experiment, but which we just suppose are true, and then ask what sort of complex systems we can and cannot build.


  1. True, nice approach for learning computer science that what is taught in Indian collges(at least true abt my college)

  2. I had written an essay on similar thinking in my Artificial life course, its the concept of 'emergence'