CSCI (Math) 361
Theory of Computation

Fall, 1999
Course Description

The phrase theory of computation refers to the study of the mathematical foundations of computation: what is an appropriate mathematical model of a computer, what types of computations are possible in the model, what types are not, the inherent complexity of certain computations and so forth. Perhaps surprisingly, many concepts from the theory of computation have become of fundamental importance in other areas of computer science, such as computational linguistics, compiler design, hardware design, object-oriented design, and even the syntax of the UNIX grep and awk commands.

In this course we will investigate the interaction between various models of computation. Along the way the intimate connection between computation and language recognition will be developed. We will study several classes of abstract machine including finite automata, push-down automata and Turing machines along with several classes of languages such as regular and context-free languages. In addition we will examine some of those problems, such as the Halting Problem, which are not amenable to computer solution. Time permitting, some further topics in concurrency will be covered.

Exams: There will be two midterms and a final. All will be take-home exams. The midterms will be distributed in class on Oct. 20 and November 17 and will be due 47 hours later. Details on the midterms will be available the week before the exam.

Grades: Each midterm will be worth approximately 20% of your grade, with the final worth 30%. Homework will make up the other 30%. In all cases, however, the judgment of the instructor determines the final grade. In particular, class participation can affect a student's final grade.

Homework: The best way to learn the material in this course is by doing; consequently, most of the work for this course will consist of working through the problems assigned for homework. Problems will be assigned and collected daily. You should do all of the problems, but only a few will be designated as problems to hand in.

Homework must be turned in at the beginning of class on the day it is due; late homework will not be accepted. However, the two lowest homework grades of each student will be dropped when computing the final grade.

Honor Code:

Exams: You may refer to your text and your class notes while taking these exams, and you may talk to me. No other sources of information are permitted.

Homework: Collaboration on problems is permitted; copying of solutions is not. The work you hand in should be yours. While some students find studying together quite beneficial and enjoyable, I strongly encourage you to attempt to solve homework problems on your own first as this is the only way to ensure that you have mastered the material. Students who rely too heavily on collaboration on homework may find the exams to be much more difficult than expected.

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