Featured in Five is a monthly section where we pose five questions to a Computing Reviews featured reviewer. Here are the responses from our October featured reviewer, James Davenport (University of Bath, UK).
Q: What is the most important thing that's happened in computing in the past 10 years?
A: The fact that mobile phones have become genuine computers. For me, as a computer algebraist, the fact that Macsyma, which 40 years ago ran only on the largest PDP-10, now runs on Android phones exemplifies this. People in developing countries using computers to support education in mathematics are talking about leapfrogging PCs and laptops, and going straight to mobile phones.
Q: By the end of your career, where do you think computer science will have taken us? What are you working on that might contribute toward that?
A: I am most excited by the Todai robot project challenge to pass university entrance examinations automatically. My team's work on algorithms for real algebraic geometry is contributing to this, and I hope to contribute more.
Q: Who is your favorite historical figure? Why?
A: In many ways, it's Archimedes, for his "thinking outside the box": thinking outside the box of Platonic solids to discover the Archimedean ones, thinking outside the box of metallurgy to solve Hiero's crown problem, his use of infinitesimals, etc.
Q: If you weren't working in the computer science field, what would you be doing instead?
A: Probably mathematics, as if there's a difference for me.
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
A: I am not musical, but, having been to King's College Choir School in Cambridge, I still get a lump in my throat when a boy sings "Once in Royal David's City.”