Joel Spencer, Courant Institute
Two Needles in Exponential Haystacks
Abstract: When the probabilistic method sieves an event with exponentially small probability the usual randomized algorithms will not find an actualization. We discuss two recent startling successes: Moser et.al. on the Lovasz Local Lemma and Bansal on the speaker's "Six Standard Deviations Suffice."
Some Open Problems in Approximation Algorithms
Abstract: Together with David Shmoys of Cornell University, I have recently completed a book surveying techniques in the design of approximation algorithms ("The Design of Approximation Algorithms", published by Cambridge University Press). We decided to conclude the book with our "top ten" list of open problems in the area. In this talk, I will review the problems that made our list, discuss a few problems we left out, and give some reflections on the area prompted by writing the book, including some challenges for the area as a whole.