Vineet Nair — WACT 2016

Vineet Nair talks about his visit to Tel Aviv for the 2016 Workshop on Algebraic Complexity Theory

To begin with, all the excitement went down the drains when my flight from Mumbai got delayed.This meant that I would miss my connecting flight from Ethiopia. Anyways, I landed at Ben Gurion airport in the morning. Adding to my miseries, the airline misplaced my luggage.In short, my journey was far from pleasant.Finally, I reached the student dorms around 5 in the morning, welcomed by an amicable smile of Gaurav Sinha, who remained my roommate for the next ten days. We had several interesting conversations over the next few days mostly on our research related topics, sometime we went off the track and shared our philosophical sides.

We had a bootcamp for the first three days, those were the best three of my total ten days stay. It was well structured by the organizers. Amir Shpilka started with the introduction of VP and VNP and some basic structural results in the area. This was followed by some interesting lower bound results by Ramprasad Saptharishi. Further, Ankit Gupta presented the famous depth reduction results. The bootcamp was concluded by two set of talks: Michael Forbes presented results in connection to Polynomial Identity Testing (PIT), and Chandan Saha spoke about shifted partial derivatives – a measure used heavily to prove lower bounds in the recent literature. These set of talks were insightful and helped me better understand the literature surrounding the problems I wish to solve, but I gained most by the interaction with fellow attendees in between the lectures and during lunch and tea breaks. Special thanks to Rohit Gurjar who patiently answered all my queries.

The main theme of the workshop was connections between `Algebraic Complexity Theory’ and other areas like `Geometry Complexity Theory’ and `Proof Complexity’. All the talks were informative and the topics were dealt nicely enough to not give a gibberish feeling even to novices like me. Some of the talks that peaked my interest were `Perfect matching for bipartite graphs is in quasi-NC’ by Rohit Gurjar, `Factors of polynomials of low individual degree’ by Rafael Oliveira, `An almost cubic lower bound for depth three circuits’ by Neeraj Kayal and `Pseudo randomness for bounded space’ by Parikshit Gopalan. The videos of all these are available at the following link https://www.cs.tau.ac.il/~shpilka/wact2016/videos/index.php .

The participants had a day’s break due to Shabbat between the bootcamp and workshop. Shabbat meaning `the day of rest’ in Hebrew, is a day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.We ventured out to Old Jerusalem on this day. The city was mostly closed due to Shabbat, but it still had a lot to offer for a wanderer’s eye. We walked through the Damascus gate absorbing the cultural richness of this place.  A few of the places we visited were the western wall, new Jewish quarter,  Al-Aqsa mosque,  Church of the Holy Sepulchre, king David’s tomb, the room of last supper. By the time we headed back in the evening I remember feeling overwhelmedby the history and culture of this city.

Apart from this, we had a guided walking tour of the Old Jaffa port arranged by the organizers. Our guide explained the significance of each place really well, though I don’t remember much of it now. Imagine a place having history of at least four to five thousand years and has been conquered multiple times by a number of emperors. This place ought to be special and a few lines cannot justify the experience one has visiting this place.

At the end, my experience of attending this workshop was numinous.  I would like to thank the organizers: Amir Shpilka, Michael Forbes and Ramprasad Saptharishi for supporting my travel and accommodation that provided me the opportunity to attend this enlightening workshop.

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