Talk:Diversity of computer science

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For the record, here is a definition of computer science by Professor Steven J. Gortler, Director of Undergraduate Studies at Harvard University (

"Computer science" has many meanings. Although the professional society for computer scientists is still called the Association for Computing Machinery, the discipline of computer science has less to do with how devices work than with the concepts behind what they do and how they do it. According to one popular but abstract definition, computer science is the study of algorithms: finitely specified, executable procedures for obtaining output values from input values. This definition embraces both the mathematical theory of algorithms (do algorithms for solving a problem exist and which is best?), and the more concrete study of the programming languages and machine architectures used in solving real problems with algorithms. Other definitions stress other features. For some computer scientists the data on which computations are performed are more fundamental than the computational processes themselves; they would define computer science as the study of the structure and transformation of information. Others would stress the craft of problem solving with computers--a craft involving techniques as rich and varied as the formal and exact methods of algorithm design, specification, and mathematical analysis. Still others would argue that computer science has no exclusive domain of its own, and that its importance comes from the problems to which it is applied.

The concentration in Computer Science is designed to educate students from several perspectives. Computer scientists must know basic mathematics, the lingua franca of all the quantitative sciences; they must understand something about the abstract models that describe universal computational phenomena; and they must have some knowledge of how computers are currently designed, programmed, and used. ... Dfletter 21:06, 29 November 2005 (UTC)

I would not be so quick to cite an arbitrary faculty member from an arbitrary department in this particular article without at the same time citing about 100 others. As someone in the same department as Gortler, I should point out that positions such as "Director of Undergraduate Studies" are usually not indicative of any special status with regard to the field as a whole, and simply represent a wider set of responsibilities in the department. Quoting administrators, lecturers, or researchers is, thus, a rather tricky affair. -vdl


I've tried to put as much as I can into this article, but I don't even understand some of the disputes. I've marked this a stub. Please help fill it in! Sbwoodside 06:07, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Science vs mathematics[edit]

The origins of computer science lie heavily in mathematics...

Please provide sources for this claim or links to related text. — Dzonatas 15:02, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

I dont thing there is a need for references to that. CS was founded upon mathematical logic and computability.
Otherwise, references would be citing work of Church, Turing, Kleen, etc...--Powo 15:27, 18 December 2005 (UTC)
Where in those works do they conclude themselves that the origins of computer science lie heavily in mathematics? I would like some references so I made verify these statements made. I've seen other articles that create footnotes and reference marks to back up the claims made in the article. That is what we need to do. It doesn't made if we personally agree upon the claim or not. — Dzonatas 00:38, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

"How" vs "What"[edit]

Dzonatas, you just added: ...In essence, mathematics shows us how to compute, yet the mechanical provides what can be computed.... Sorry to tell but once again I totally diagree. The question of "what" can be computed is, in CS, adresses by the field of computational complexity, which is arguably one of the most mathematized subfields of CS. Therfore, I cant agree with your statement. Since it seems me and Dzonatas disagree in almost everything, could others please give their point of view on this? Thx.--Powo 15:33, 18 December 2005 (UTC)

I have patiently asked many times for awhile now to show the sources about how mathematics fits in as an origin, a root, or a foundation.
As I see from your explaination above, there is some confusion. You can keep your point of view, but do try to look at this from a different perspective. After I have discussed things with you for awhile, I have a proposed conclusion. That is, it appears you have a strict epistemological perspective on CS, but you tend to express a lack of an ontological analysis on your perspective.
I'm personally convinced that computer science has a lot in common with physics. Both are about how the world works at a rather fundamental level. The difference, of course, is that while in physics you're supposed to figure out how the world is made up, in computer science you create the world. - Linus Torvalds, "The Beauty of Programming" [1]

JUST a NOTE (from hjoab): yes we are constructing the machine, but we equally are imaging first how it should work, and then we proceed. Yes, mathematicians discovered (or invented) the fundamentals. My humble opinion is, that we cannot make clear any distinction between to invent or to discover. Are we inveting or discover it (the machine)? Surely nobody here can tell me what to understand about anything in itself. Like words on a dictionary, things define themselves by distinction and comparison with the other things.

Why is Computer Science not Mathematics? To consider computer science as math means programs are purely mathematical entities, which would mean it's just metaphysical mathematics. There is, however, a great deal of reality for computability in CS. Physical properties, the "what," that allow us to compute is not a complexity theory. The design of computer hardware and computer software in the likes of ontology, rather than by epistemology alone, is not an engineerial or mathemical field; it is another aspect of what computer scientists do in their work: "hardware realization."

In the archives, this is what I've noticed:

I said, "Some have said that CS is about "what" can be computed while math is about "how" it can be computed."
Powo replied, "So now, you claim mathematics is about what can be computed?"

That is what I mean to point out. I don't know how you got that mathematics is about "what" when, instead, I stated CS is about "what" and math is about "how".

However, the semantic abstraction of computability is a mathematical entity, and it appears to be the "root" in computer science so stated. That is true for computational systems based on sets. Our ability to even express sets is a part of computability in this physical world. You can draw out a set, as Turing did, to show in mathematics how to compute and do the computation by hand, or you can build a mechanical device to do the computation, but both essentially are congruent in terms of computability but with different tools in regards to computer science. Powo, as a computer scientist myself, I dig really really deep into computability. I even ask the question: "did the computation start with the invention and the event of the drawn set or just at the event of a notion for a previously discovered computability?" — Dzonatas 00:38, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

Well, it seems for once we shall agree. Indeed: I completely agree that CS has both mathematical and physical aspects (btw, the pic you added on the main CS page is very cute!).

However, I dont see how this would infringe anyhow on the assertion that foundations of CS lie heavily in mathematics, and I still dont like your manichean separation of HOW vs WHAT in terms of math vs physics.

I would rather say that (as you say) WHAT can be comnputed comes from physics (except when considering non physical mathematical models, which is still CS (I know you disagree with that)...), whereas understanding of what can be computed is done mathematically.

The HOW things can be computed is typically adressed by algorithmics. Although algorithmics are done with pencil and paper, although this can be viewed as theroretical CS, I would not see that as mathematics, but rather as being pureley and typipcally CS (I understand some would call that maths, perhaps discrete maths, but.. nah, I would not...), so I dont really agree with your statement that mathematics say HOW things can be computed.

Nevertheless, all this is a minor disagreement, since typically it will not directly influence the content of the article page, and since we agree that CS is at the same time abstract (mathematical), physical (most of the time, like physics!!!) and constructed (rather than natural, although they would arguably be exceptions to that...).

I presonally feel that saying that foundations of CS lie heavily in mathematics is fairly accurate, but I would easily settle for something smoother, like CS has roots in mathematic(s | al logic), since typically the heavily is all but NPOV. I think this is typically what people think about when they talk about mathematical foundations of computing (as in the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on Mathematical Foundations of Computing), (and I do feel in this context computing and CS are almost synonyms).

BTW, I would also agree that CS has some very strong connection to the physical world, but the article needs to be mild, (and some would probably disagree with "strong" in the previous statement). It seems that the minor (at least this time) difference on our POV's is that you seem to be placing physical aspects of computing more exclusively than me as the essence of CS (whereas I would more easily agree that some purely abstract aspects of CS are aslo fundamental), and that your usage of the word mathematics is MUCH broader than mine: I did my initial studies in pure maths, and I consider I stopped doing mathematics at 50% when I started working in complexity theory, and I stopped doing mathematics 100% when I started working in algorithmics, and I think you would call all of this mathematics... Maybe we can start collaborating on the page again, if our differences in POV stay this little (although not that little...) and that we are carefull not to assert things strongly going against one of our POVs.

Consider a Different Point of View[edit]

The definition of computer science as a field is always very difficult (I suspect this is due mostly to its youth). In my experience with both mathematics and computer science, I've adopted the following interpretation of the relationships based on their content and origins: computer science is the study of the processes and principles underlying mathematics -- mathematicians, in performing computations, writing theorems, and creating new languages to express their ideas (set theory, topology, etc.) are implicitly using the principles of computation and representation. In some sense, mathematicians (though they do not yet know it) are applying computer science. Likewise, one could argue that mathematics (at least in its origins) was applied before it was ever studied for its own sake -- it was applied in what we might now consider physics.

I suppose to some the above might seem controversial, and perhaps exhibit oversimplification. I'm not entirely certain this article can exist without being largely POV, though I think the topic needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with any literature or faculty whose definitions of computer science I could cite without feeling as though an injustice is done to the field -- most attempts at definition are vague and indecisive. -vdl

Merge into CS?[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

The result was merge into Computer science. -- Nazgul533 talk contribs 03:00, 29 June 2007 (UTC)

Given the resolution of the big CS definition debate, does anyone currently object to merging a few parts of this article into computer science and deleting the rest? I think the quote on the youth of the field is good, and the "alternative nomenclature" subsection is quite informative; also, the discussion of whether CS is a science (Short answer: some parts are, some probably aren't, and a lot of people disagree strongly. Let's discuss.) may be good if refined. --bmills 16:40, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Don't merge or delete. — Dzonatas 16:58, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
I'm in favor of a merge. Reasons:
That doesn't leave much in this article other than the ACM definition. I suppose that could be integrated into Computer science somewhere, although I'm not sure that's really necessary.
--Allan McInnes 18:17, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
That is because this article split off from the CS article. There are other issues not even covered by the debate. Let the article have some time to expand and improve. There barely is any history to this article. For example, after we add sources and notes to this page, it'll be more lengthy. To have that in a seperate article leaves more room in the CS article for other aspects. There are other aspects to the diversity that can be added here. — Dzonatas 18:35, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
Other aspects such as? IMHO it makes sense to address the diversity of computer science in the computer science article, particularly since its such a fundamental debate (witness the recent mediation over the first sentence of the CS article). --Allan McInnes 19:55, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
Exactly why we want to keep it out of the article and part of the reason why these were taken out. There are already some majority views on and in the CS article. This article can have all the majority, minority, and other views on CS. Consider there are several published articles on this matter, the article has its own merit. — Dzonatas 20:12, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
You haven't answered the question. The bulk of this article duplicates material already found in the computer science article, or only adds minor details that can be readily merged. You claim there are "other aspects to the diversity that can be added here". So, what are they? --Allan McInnes 08:38, 1 February 2006 (UTC)
I'm against to merge a part or two into the CS article, but to merge a few just to get rid of this article is what I am against. It seems like there is only one view acceptable and that decision is made upon "some consensus" to what is to be merged. Anyways, I'm sure we really don't want it like that even if we only want to show the positive aspects that have already been included here. We need an article the explores the why to the diversity exists. There is an obvious strong objection here be a few that don't want to include to full view of the diversity. I've gathered a few articles that addresses these issues, and I have already cited a few. Some of it seem like it fits well into the history, but most of it is argumentive. To answer your question, one aspect is the nature of CS, and another is to the question of why it is diverse. I don't doubt we'll move text back and forth. Just give it time to develop. — Dzonatas 18:50, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
Merge per Allan. —Ruud 18:30, 31 January 2006 (UTC)
Support Merge as described by Allan--Boson 15:56, 11 October 2006 (UTC)
Thx for all the good work. The problem as i see it is not that this material is or should be covered in Computer_science -- it's good WP style to break out a subtopic so the main article doesn't get bloated. The problem is that this article is about disagreement about what the label should be and should cover, which is not the same as the diversity of what is in fact incl in CS. So it is a mistake to link to this article from CS "sub-fields" or "relationship with other fields", as is the case right now. Sub-fields are actually covered well in CS and not at all here, and relationships better there than here. IMO, the dispute treated here is worth an article, but one that should be differentiated from the "diversity" of CS. Hope this helps, "alyosha" (talk) 17:48, 23 June 2007 (UTC)
I rem the "sub-field" link, left the "how CS is defined" link that is appropriate, and left the "diversity" one pending the outcome of the broader editing effort. "alyosha" (talk) 17:57, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Employment destinations[edit]

Most people who study computer science go on to become programmers, leading some to
believe that the discipline is the study of software and programming.

By that token, mathematics is the study of accountancy, and history is the study of advertising. -- EdC 18:36, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps a stereotype, but as actual practictioners and academics will attest, it is largely true in this particular field. -- Evanx(tag?) 20:45, 17 May 2006 (UTC)