CSCI (Math) 361
Theory of Computation

Fall, 2002
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. 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, random access machines, 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.

We will take a somewhat unusual approach to this course this semester. Rather than start with very simple machines and build our way up to Turing machines, we will begin with the fundamental notion of computability as seen from the point of what can be programmed in a very simple imperative programming language. I believe that this point of view will allow us to approach the issue of undecidability from a more intuitive point of view. Moreover, the notion of universal computer can now be approached more simply through the idea of an interpreter.

Exams: There will be two midterms and a final. All will be take-home exams. The midterms will be distributed in class on Oct. 16 and November 13. 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:

Back to:

  • CS 361 home page
  • Kim Bruce's home page
  • CS Department home page