Editorial, March 2011

Dear LPers,

as we all know this is a scientific newsletter that tries to keep real-world problem outside as much as possible. But we believe that this cannot be the case this time and we’ll spend a couple of words on what is happening in North Africa and in Japan, where a lot of our friends (and readers) live and work.

Following the temporal order of events happened after last issue, first, the strong wind of freedom blowing in North Africa caused a proud mass (initially)  pacific protest. This protest, also allowed by digital communication either via cellular phones or personal computers, forced the renewal of the state leadership in Tunisia and Egypt, while the situation is currently under evolution in Libya and Syria. No one knows what will be the sequel. What it is sure is that currently several thousands of people have been killed and a similar number has reached the Italian coasts traveling on overbooked ridiculous boats looking for a new life (hopefully better than the one they left behind, but how this can happen is still unclear). Our thoughts are with our colleagues and friends that are working in these countries.

And now Japan. We editors experimented personally the power of earthquakes since we both lived in Friuli (North of Italy) in 1976, and we are of course aware of the terrible effects of L’Aquila’s earthquake two years ago. Our colleagues from L’Aquila escaped the event unharmed, but they are still living and working in terrible conditions. The earthquake in Japan was 1,000 times stronger than L’Aquila’s one. We  admired  Japan’s preparation and immediate response to such an event. But after few minutes the incredible Tsunami destroyed large parts of the country.  Sendai, that hosted FLOPS 2010, together with all of the north coast of the country have been seriously damaged. The number of victims is still unknown but it probably extremely high. And now the nuclear issue. We don’t want to open here a discussion on nuclear yes/nuclear no. It’s neither the correct place nor the time. We personally would just thank the group of 50/100 heroes that are trying to save their country by switching off as the best as they could the nuclear plant. They probably will not see the effects of their work. But we really hope to see that.

Sometimes LP can help in solving some real-world problems, as witnessed by several applied contributions presented during our  favorite meetings. But we cannot do too much for the above problems. We just hope that our colleagues and friends working in the above countries are safe and feel less lonely in these difficult days – e.g., Islam Elkabani in Alexandria, Egypt,   Chiaki Sakama from Kyoto, Japan, but we have readers from Tunisi, Cairo,  from Casablanca, Algeri, etc. , not counting  all people from Japan that have contributed and are contributing to the history of Logic Programming,  with the FGCS project, and  that regularly read these newsletters (from 22 towns).

After that just a few words on the content of this issue of the newsletter. We are ready to register and buy tickets for going to our main meetings. In this year we have LPNMR in Vancouver (see the list of accepted papers) and  ICLP in Kentucky (the list is not yet “official” due to the additional round of review for TPLP papers). We’ll post these on this website as soon as possible. We hope to meet most of you there.

What’s in this issue?

We have an exciting contribution from Adam Lally and Paul Fodor that shows the main ideas of the Prolog code implemented in the Watson program used to win the Jeopardy! Man vs. Machine Challenge. You can see  it at work by clicking on the figure below:

The system must promptly understand and answer questions expressed in natural language. The use of Prolog in part of the inference process enabled the developers to achieve excellent response times.

Then we have a  contribution by Jacob M. Howe and Andy King on their effective SAT implementation in Prolog using blocking literals. Their code can be used for implementing a SAT modulo theory solver as well, but in its simple form is a nice piece of code that we believe can be used in any Prolog course.

Last but not least,  Paul Tarau discusses the difficult problem of integrating the declarative nature of Prolog and its intrinsic non determinism with  low level primitives for multi-threaded execution, separating, as much as possible, concurrency for performance from concurrency for expressiveness.

OK, for spring it’s enough. Let’s hope to have better news in the summer issue after the first LP events.

As usual, we welcome your comments/suggestions/criticisms/…. ‘Till the next time.

Agostino & Enrico

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