Tutorial Grinnell College Fall, 2006
Computing: Limitations, Developments, and Ethical Issues

Third Writing Assignment

Report Topic by: Thursday, November 9
Paper and Oral Report Due: Tuesday, November 14

During the October, the Tutorial is considering both various aspects of parallel algorithms and some categories of ``Risks'' that can arise from computing.

Related to this study, you should write a paper that explores one of the following topics thoughtfully in about 2 (but not more than 3) pages.

  1. The computer science literature contains descriptions of a very large number of parallel algorithms. For example, the Google search engine identified about 1,490,000 documents under the term ``parallel algorithm''. Similarly, textbooks on parallel algorithms describe many specific algorithms which run on many specific types of machines. Select one parallel algorithm, identify what problem it attempts to solve, and describe some main elements of the solution.

  2. Within the tutorial, we have described result parallelism, specialist parallelism, and agenda parallelism as three conceptual approaches for using multiple processors to solve problems. Illustrate each of these three approaches by describing your solution(s) to one of the following problems:

  3. The "Risks" sections of several recent issues of Software Engineering Notes contain many examples of practical difficulties that have arisen in computer hardware and software. A further discussion of "Risks" is available over the World Wide Web at http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/ . After reviewing some of this material, identify two or three major types of difficulties that can arise from the use of computers. Use relevant examples from your reading to illustrate these difficulties and/or to indicate possible consequences of such problems. If appropriate, suggest some conclusions about the use of computers, or propose some guidelines that might help minimize the difficulties.

In this paper, you will need to define your topic clearly and explain how it relates to the subject of computing in general or to distributing computing in particular. (In other words, you must focus your paper clearly, and you must put your topic in context.) Your paper should also discuss your topic in some depth (within the constraints of a 2-3 page paper).

Your paper should be written for others in this tutorial. Thus, your description of algorithms or themes should provide adequate background for other tutorial students to understand the problems, solutions, and/or issues involved. Also, it will be necessary to keep the amount of jargon low, so that the reader will not be overwhelmed by specialized terminology.

If your paper follows option 2 and uses only your own ideas, then a bibliography may be unnecessary; in this case, your work does not draw upon ideas of others. Otherwise, as with all papers that draw upon ideas of others, you must cite other people's ideas in footnotes, and you must include a bibliography (including all references mentioned above).

You must use word processing software to prepare your paper, you must turn in 2 copies of your paper, and your paper must be printed on a laser-quality printer.

Discussion Presentation: Since each person in the tutorial will be considering a different topic, the class on November 2 will be devoted to brief (about 5 minute) presentations by each student concerning the material that he or she studied.

For this presentation, you will want to clearly identify your topic and highlight some of your main findings. As with the writing of a paper, you should state the topic, place the topic in context, and identify the organization of your remarks early in your talk.

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created 23 August 23 1997
last revised 5 November 2006
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For more information, please contact Henry M. Walker at walker@cs.grinnell.edu.