[Edu-sig] quantum instance

Scott David Daniels Scott.Daniels at Acm.Org
Tue Sep 13 21:14:45 CEST 2005

Arthur wrote:
> Scott David Daniels wrote:
>>ajsiegel at optonline.net wrote:
>>>I think teaching programming outside a context - as an abstract
>>>discipline - is unavoidably problematic in this regard.
>>I would have more sympathy if you would subscribe to the same philosophy
>>for "geometry" and "mathematics."  As someone who has concentrated on
>>computer science and "The Art of Computer Programming" for a huge number
>>of years, I am offended at the denigration of my field of study (or at
>>least what I perceive to be a denigration).
OK, here I may have been unclear.  TAoCP is a set of books I love, but I
was, in fact, referring to the art of computer programming, and engaging
in a bit of a pun.  It seems to have helped confuse the issue.  I also
understand most of the best programmers I know are not computer
scientists, though many of them read in it from time to time.

> And I would have more sympathy if you were willing to deal  separattely 
> and distinctly with computer science, as science and the "Art of 
> Computer Programming" as an art.  
OK, we are getting to a nub here, but we are also moving to my personal
biases rather than that of the field itself.  I went to the Univ. of
Penn., where Mathematics was definitely classified an Art; even Applied
Math.  I view computer programming as an Art, not engineering nor a
science.  The art is in the clear expression of a solution to a problem.
Much of what you need to know to develop that art involves things like
brushwork -- technical skills at which you must become proficient in
order to work (the _craft_ part of computer programming), but the art
lies not only in a perfected craft, but an ability to see a problem and
find a solution that seems obvious once found.  But, to confuse the
issue a bit, I also find Mathematics and Computer Science equally arts.

> I personally have very little interest in (but great respect for) 
 > the former [Computer Science], and a  good deal of personal
> interest in the latter [Computer Programming].  Maybe its harder for 
 > those who started by  writing machine code to make the distinction
> than it is for those of us who only came to the party when and because
 > high level languages were developed.

> It is indeed stimulating and challenging to attempt to communicate with 
> a complex machine, and do so  with elegance.
Ah -- is that what computer science is to you, or is it programming?
In my view the communication is with the reader of the program (who
may be reading for the joy, but more likely is reading in order to

> But I don't find it difficult at all to maintain that the pursuit is 
> different in nature from the study of mathematics and geometry.  Some 
> would argue that mathematics and geometry are there whether we as a 
> race are or are not.  Certainly though they are there whether my machine 
> powers up or does not.
>>>I am not convinced "programming" as a stand-alone subject cannot be optimum as an approach.
Could you restate this?  I presume (but am unsure) this means:
    I believe teaching "programming" without computer science is optimal.

> I believe computer science is a stand alone subject, and that 
> programming is natural in the context of a computer science 
> curriculum. 

> But I do that think someone like yourself is in fact  actually
> studying programming in a particular context.  Maybe its most
> general context. But a quite specific context nonetheless.
Hmmm.  I think you know me less than you think you do.  I think a
core computer science question is how efficiently some values can
_ever_ be calculated, based on as few assumptions as we can get
away with making about the nature of the machines (and languages)
doing the computation.  These kinds of results should inform how
you (or even whether you attempt to) build programs to solve these

> Perhaps an attempt to liberate programming from the control of computer 
> scientists is bound to annoy a computer scientist, a bit. ;)
I suppose you might call me a computer scientist, but if so I am an
amateur computer scientist; my CS is from the love of the ideas, not
from a compensated position.  My pay has come, almost exclusively,
from being a programmer.

I would say that writing computer programs without an understanding of
computer science is certainly possible (and I've worked with lots of
people who do so), but to write well, and to write are not the same
skill at all.

--Scott David Daniels
Scott.Daniels at Acm.Org

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