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Elwyn Berlekamp has died (wikipedia.org)
125 points by ColinWright 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments





There are people who come into your life and change it for the better. Elwyn did that for me as a mentor, an investor and a teacher. We regularly had lunch near his office in Rockridge to discuss math and clinical trials, a particular shared interest of ours.

Elwyn spent a lot of time at MSRI and this Numberphile video captures him doing something he loved: playing mathematical games. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KboGyIilP6k

Elwyn came from Kentucky and KET, the PBS affiliate there, did a really nice retrospective on his life and work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHotBRJW4-0

Thanks for everything Elwyn.


what sort of clinical trials?

Elwyn was very active in bringing pulmonary fibrosis medications to patients, spending substantial amounts of his own time and money. From that experience, he was interested in how novel clinical trial designs could assess the effectiveness of therapies faster for patients while controlling for bias and luck.

I am sorry to learn that Elwyn Berlekamp has died. He was a master of mathematics and, with John Horton Conway, explored its recreational aspects including the game of life and pentomino coverings. His company, Cyclotomics, was the go-to place for custom error correcting codes.

eecs page: https://www2.eecs.berkeley.edu/Faculty/Homepages/berlekamp.h... home page: http://math.berkeley.edu/~berlek/ math page: https://math.berkeley.edu/~berlek/index.html


Some months ago a colleague of mine and I were working on coming up with an intuitive lay explanation of the Berlekamp–Massey algorithm as part of a greater explanation of some of our work that uses it ( https://github.com/sipa/minisketch/ ).

It isn't terribly difficult to work through the algorithm mechanically and see that it solves the equations that it's intended to solve, but that is a long way from a good intuitive understanding of it. We spent some time going back through the original literature describing it and related contemporary work, but what we found also focused on a rather procedural description that didn't really strike the insight we were looking for.

At one point, I quipped that I should reach out to Berlekamp and inquire if this work really weren't the product of reverse engineering instruments found in a 1967 UFO crash-- given what a remarkable advance it was. :)

I'm sad to hear that the world will never know for sure now.

Although Berlekamp's work has already been important to the world-- impacting most of the communications and storage devices we interact with--, I expect that its importance will increase in the future.

Many advances in computer science and related fields have their utility gated or multiplied by the power and pervasiveness of computing technology. I am always struck when I read older papers-- even ones as late as the 90s-- and find them discussing problem sizes at the limits of their computer technology which my laptop is solving thousands of times per second as part of my application (or just as part of my research). So I find that my recent work using the berlekamp-massey algorithm casually applies to problem sizes that would have probably been unthinkable in the 80s, even using Cyclotomic's expensive specialized hardware. The increasing power and decreasing cost of general purpose computing increases the importance and broadens the applicability of the algorithms we run on it.


I really loved discovering the Winning Ways books as an undergrad: https://www.amazon.com/Winning-Ways-Your-Mathematical-Plays/...

I had the opportunity to meet him while he was at Berkeley Quantitative, and it was an honor.


I still remember when he interviewed me for a job at ~his hedge fund about 8 years ago. It's incredibly humbling and a bit inspiring to be talking with the man who is responsible for, at the time, DVDs working, but these days, probably most reliable data storage and transmission.

Very sad to hear. From what I know of Berlekamp's academic work, he always had a good sense of fun in his research. Such researchers are a rarity in my experience, and thus bring a very valuable aspect to the research enterprise.

As an aside, not many in information/coding theory know that he was the advisor of Ken Thompson (of UNIX fame) according to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elwyn_Berlekamp


Elwyn was a pioneer of combinatorial game theory and often put his ability to strategize to good work. Once in the CS department at Berkeley, when someone proposed a motion of no-confidence against the current department chair, Elwyn immediately seconded the motion. After a round of laughter, the motion was dropped. That was during Elwyn's tenure as chair. He will be missed by so many of us...

Is he the one after whom the 'Berlekamp's Bat' is named?Though I forget what it is, some thought experiment in probablity/statistics?

I can't immediately find a definitive attribution, but David MacKay seems to have coined the name (https://books.google.com/books?id=AKuMj4PN_EMC&q=Berlekamp's...), and both were at the ECC Design Center (http://www.eccdesigncenter.com/researchers), so it seems reasonably likely. It appears to be a description of the geometry of code-word space with respect to the Hamming metric.

Where is obituary or news ?

{{citation needed}}

“Professor Emeritus of EECS & Mathematics Elwyn Berlekamp passed away on April 9th. He was Chair of EECS from 1977-79 and left an enormous legacy in the department's Computer Science Division which is still felt today. He will be dearly missed. @Cal_Engineer @UCBLettersSci”

https://twitter.com/Berkeley_EECS/status/1116034902305042432


Also here, though with even less information: https://math.berkeley.edu/about/history/in-memoriam

How did he pass?

He was associated with Rentech and the Medallion fund.

https://digit.hbs.org/submission/renaissance-technologies-ge...




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