[plt-scheme] Boston Lisp Meeting 2009-04-27: Noah Goodman on Lambda the Ultimate Gamble.

From: Francois-Rene Rideau (fare at tunes.org)
Date: Thu Apr 23 01:09:32 EDT 2009

Boston Lisp Meeting:
This Monday April 27th -
Noah Goodman on Lambda the Ultimate Gamble


A Boston Lisp Meeting will take place on
Next Monday, April 27th 2009 at 1800 at MIT 34-401B, where
Noah Goodman will speak about MIT-Church, a non-deterministic Scheme.

Additionally, we are still accepting proposals for up to two volunteers
to each give of a 5-minute Lightning Talk (followed by 2-minute Q&A).

Also, there will be a buffet offered by ITA Software.
Registration is not necessary but appreciated. See details below.


Noah Goodman will talk about
Church: a language for probabilistic modeling, or,
Lambda, the Ultimate Gamble.
He will describe the probabilistic programming language Church.
Probabilistic generative models have exploded in recent years,
becoming central to machine learning and AI.
These models are usually described with a mixture of
informal english, math, and box-and-arrow diagrams.
Such descriptions can be error prone and are difficult to scale in model complexity.
Church is a formal language for probabilistic generative models,
derived from the pure subset of Scheme and extended with probabilistic constructs.
As a description language Church is a convenient and powerfull way to construct models;
in this talk I will show several examples drawn from recent machine learning research.
Beyond mere description, Church makes it possible to automate
the process of inference in probabilistic models.
The MIT-Church implementation of Church is a universal inference engine
based on Markov chain monte carlo.
I will indicate the design of this implementation and
highlight some of the unique challenges of probabilistic programming languages
relative to standard languages.
I will close with some examples of MIT-Church in action.

Noah D. Goodman is a research scientist in
the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT,
and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
He studies the computational basis of human thought,
merging behavioral experiments with formal methods from statistics and logic.
He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin,
several years later he joined the Computational Cognitive Science group at MIT,
working with professor Joshua Tenenbaum.
Goodman has published more than twenty-five publications in
psychology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence.
Goodman is project leader of the MIT-Church probabilistic programming project.

His website is at http://www.mit.edu/~ndg/

                                      * *

Having observed the success of the formula at ILC'2009,
we have instituted Lightning Talks at the Boston Lisp Meeting.
At every meeting, before the main talk,
there are two slots for strictly timed 5-minute talks
followed by 2-minute for questions and answers.

The slots for next Monday are still open.
Step up and come talk about your pet project!

                                     * * *

The Lisp Meeting will take place on Monday April 27th 2009 at 1800 (6pm)
at MIT, Room 34-401B.

As the numbers indicate, this is in Building 34, on the 4th floor.
This is the usual location, on 50 Vassar Street, Cambridge.

MIT map: http://whereis.mit.edu/bin/map?selection=34

Google map: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=50+Vassar+St,+Cambridge,+MA+02139,+USA

Many thanks go to Alexey Radul for arranging for the room,
and to MIT for welcoming us.

                                    * * * *

Dinner: ITA Software, a fine employer of Lisp hackers
(disclaimer: I work there), is kindly purchasing a buffet
to accompany our monthly Boston Lisp meeting.
Anyone who attends is welcome to partake.

We appreciate it if you let us know you're coming,
and what food taboos you have,
so that we can order the correct amount of food.
Tell us by sending email to
boston-lisp-meeting-register at common-lisp.net.
We won't send any acknowledgement unless requested;
importantly, we'll keep your identity and address confidential
and won't communicate any such information to anyone,
not even to our sponsors.

                                   * * * * *

The previous Boston Lisp Meeting on March 30th
had between 30 and 40 participants.
Carl Eastlund gave a talk about Modular ACL2.
We also had our first Lightning Talks:
François-René Rideau talked about "Better Stories, Better Languages",
and Dan Stanger gave a short introduction to BRL.
(Matt Knox couldn't be there to speak about GoaLoC as previously announced.)

In the near future, we expect to have
Norman Ramsey on 2009-05-25 about
purely functional dataflow optimization in Haskell,
Bruce Lewis on 2009-06-29 about BRL and ourdoings,
Christine Flood on 2009-08-31 about Fortress.

                                  * * * * * *

We're always looking for more speakers.
The call for speakers and all the other details are at

For more information, see our new web site boston-lisp.org.
For posts related to the Boston Lisp meetings in general, follow this link:
or subscribe to our RSS feed:

Please forward this information to people you think would be interested.
Please accept my apologies for your receiving this message multiple times.
My apologies if this announce gets posted to a list where it shouldn't,
or fails to get posted to a list where it should.
Feedback welcome by private email reply to fare at tunes.org.

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