Kirankumar Shiragur writes about his trip to Osaka, Japan to present a paper at CDC 2015. The paper was based on his M.Sc. thesis work at IISc. Kiran will join Stanford MS&E as a Ph.D. student in Fall 2016.
The purpose of the visit was to present my work with Prof. Arnab Bhattacharyya in the area of Opinion Dynamics. The research work investigates the convergence behaviour of different variants of the Hegselmann-Krause system (HK system for short). The HK system is one of the most popular models for the dynamics of opinion formation in multiagent systems. Agents are modeled as points in opinion space, and at every time step, each agent moves to the mass center of all the agents within unit distance. The rate of convergence of HK systems has been the subject of several recent works. In our work, we investigated two natural variations of the HK system and their effect on the dynamics. These results collectively were accepted in CDC 2015. We were invited to the conference and I got the opportunity to present our paper. I enjoyed being at Japan and the remaining part of the blog would give you different reasons for it.
I reached the airport (Osaka, Japan) on Dec 14th. From there, I took one of the fast-running trains which connects the airport to a place nearby my designated stay. The train ride was pretty nice! Japan is a developed country and you can see tall buildings located on both sides of pathway of the train. The architecture of these buildings is very different and is eye pleasing. I reached my destination after an hour of train ride and looked out for signs to take an exit near to my Hotel. As my stay was nearby I decided to walk. The Japanese people are really nice and helpful beyond one can think. I approached one of the old Japanese person for help as I couldn’t find my hotel and he ended up walking with me for fifteen minutes to my hotel. Japanese have nice tradition to greet people which feels great!. We bowed to each other and he left. If you are in Japan, you would be greeted very often and even by strangers.
On the next morning (Dec 15th), I visited the conference and attended couple of interesting talks on Sum of Squares (which I was exploring at that point) and some other interesting topics on the next day as well. On the third day (Dec 17th), I attended one of the talks by Prof. Behrouz Touri, CU-Boulder. Prof. Touri has published a lot of articles on the convergence of the Hegselmann-Krause system. I read a lot of his work in this area and was very excited to meet him in person!. I attended the talk and waited for an hour to meet him after everybody in the audience left.
The experience of meeting him was great!. I discussed with him about his work and described to him my current work and the work we published at the conference. During our discussion on other related topics, it turned out that we both independently were trying to find the convergence proof for Heterogenous Hegselmann-Krause system. We discussed about this topic for an hour, and also pointed out each other some recent work in this area. He redirected me to one of his work where they prove convergence of a system very close to Heterogenous HK system. I enjoyed meeting him and consider it to be the best part of the conference. He too was impressed by my work and wanted to write me a letter of recommendation in case I am applying for a Ph.D and I did take his recommendation :).
Dec 18th was the day of my presentation and last day of the conference. My presentation was on the very first session of the day and my talk was first in the session. The talk was about 20 mins long with 5 minutes for QnA. I was nervous but had a wonderful experience delivering the talk in front of a large and varied audience. After the end of my session, I went on to explore more of the beautiful Osaka city.
The last two days is when I explored more of Osaka city. During this period I visited couple of tourist places and apart from these the city itself is beautiful. I visited some of the top places to visit in Osaka (Google recommendation) mentioned below.
Osaka Castle : A very beautiful place, the pictures describe themselves. It has a museum worth visiting.
Dōtonbori: Great shopping place, you will be surprised by their shopping streets.
Tempozan Ferris Wheel: One of the biggest wheels in Japan giving awesome view over city and located at the right spot.
Osaka Aquarium: Largest aquarium and they even allow you to touch fishes which is pretty cool!.
Shitennō-ji: It is the first Buddhist and oldest officially administered temple in Japan and Buddhism is one of the two major religions. A must visit place. It is a very quite and peaceful place.
Ōsaka Tenman-gū: is a Shinto shrine in Osaka near to my hotel and Shinto is another major religion in Japan. The temple is very beautiful.
Apart from all these my last experience is the one which made my trip memorable!.Finally when I was all set to leave the city. I decided to take a train to Airport. My train was scheduled at 12:04 PM. I took the ticket and rushed to the platform. I reached a platform at 12:02 PM and there was a train already standing there. Just to confirm, I showed my ticket to the train operator and realised I was at the wrong platform. I rushed to the right platform and found a train ready to departure. It was 12:08 PM and I boarded this train. The train duration was one hour and my flight was scheduled around two and half hours later to that. Just to confirm, I asked an old couple sitting next to me if I boarded the right train. They looked panicked 🙂 even though it was me who boarded the wrong train. Yes, I boarded a wrong train and they took me to ticket checker. The ticket checker explained that I boarded a wrong train. He was uncomfortable with english, and we ended up communicating using Google translator 😀 and it is really hard. He took out the route map and wrote down schedule for next three trains to reach airport. My flight boarding was suppose to start at 2:50 PM and the last train in this schedule reached the airport at 2:25 PM. I panicked and was almost certain to miss my flight. Impatiently I waited for next stop of this train which was at 1:10 PM. My next connecting train was at 1:20PM. I was nervous about not making to one train properly and was wondering on how would I board three of them consecutively with a time difference of 5-10 minutes for each. I was also worried about any of these trains getting delayed. However that was not the case, I reached at each of these station at the accurate time he wrote (Accurate in seconds!). Japanese are punctual in time and that was the reason I missed my initial train in the first place :). I got down from my first train at 1:10 PM and was lost to find my next train. Suddenly a train station police came in my direction and asked “Airport?” I said yes and he took me to the next train which I was suppose to board and this happened in all other further stations. My train checker called and informed these people to pick me up and drop me on to next train. This is the level of help they do. This incident was remarkable and made my trip most memorable. I reached airport at 2:25 PM and finally caught my flight.
All these incidents made this trip the best of all. I love Japan and wish to visit it again. I am even considering to spend some years there ;). Thank you Prof. Arnab Bhattacharyya for providing me such an opportunity!.