Introducing the team — Kees

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I come to the Sassy project from two directions: 
 
First, I’m intrigued by experts’ ability to “see through” complex formulas (once they’ve been trained up properly): these folks just look at the formulas and understand what they mean. Many of us are not so fortunate, and are finding this more difficult. Wouldn’t it be nice if computers could be programmed in such a way that they can help? They might be programmed to process the formula, restructure it in clever ways if necessary, then use English sentences (and perhaps a well-chosen diagram) to explain what they say. My students would love a tool like that, particularly in the area of mathematical logic, which they tend to find difficult.
 
Second, I’m intrigued by “big data”. In many areas of work (medical, industrial, meteorological, astronomical, the stock market), sensors are flooding us with data. There’s so much data that we can’t make much sense of it unless someone helps us by leaving out details that do not matter, summarising lots of numbers by simply saying “It will be a warm day, especially along the coast”, for example. I’m interested in the way in which ordinary language supports this process, for example by giving us vague words like “warm”. I’m also interested in the question what summaries work best, and how computers can be used to leave out precisely those details that do not matter for people. If we can’t program it, we don’t really understand it! (That’s what I think, anyway.) In case you’re interested, I’ve written a popular science book on the topic, entitled “Not Exactly: in Praise of Vagueness”: Check out http://homepages.abdn.ac.uk/k.vdeemter/pages/NotExactly.
 
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