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Princeton professor foresees computer science revolution

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Bernard Chazelle, professor of computer science at Princeton University, plans to issue a call to arms for his profession, challenging his colleagues to grab society by the lapels and evangelize the importance of studying computer science. According to the most recent data available, the top 36 computer science departments in the United States saw enrollments drop nearly 20 percent between 2000 and 2004.

"The big paradox is that the computer science revolution is just unfolding," Chazelle said. "Why, then, are students are running away from it; why is there this decline when the field has never been more exciting?"

Chazelle will be on the "Computer Science Behind Your Science" panel at AAAS on February 17. His presentation is titled "Why CS Theory Matters." In the following Q & A, Chazelle discusses the promise and potential of computer science.

What is computer science?

Most people think of computer science, if they think of it all, as being something useful -- the way that, say, people think of plumbing as being useful. And it is useful, obviously. But it is much more than that.

Such as?

Computer science is not just about gaming, not just about the Internet. Computer science theory offers a profound window through which to view the world. Computing promises to be the most disruptive scientific paradigm since quantum mechanics. It will transform society in profound way.

Isn't computer science really just a stepchild of mathematics?

As the recent breakthroughs on Fermat's Last Theorem indicate, the field of mathematics has never been more fertile with new ideas. Mathematics is original and deep, but it does not force you to think differently. If a math giant from the past - someone like Gauss were to come back to Earth, he would have a lot of catching up to do but he would find that math is done much the same way that
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Contact: Teresa Riordan
triordan@princeton.edu
609-258-9754
Princeton University
17-Feb-2006


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