Abel Laureates Lectures at CWI with László Lovász and Avi Wigderson

On 8 April 2022 the two 2021 Abel Prize Laureates - László Lovász and Avi Wigderson - gave lectures at CWI during a festive afternoon programme for the Dutch science community. Below a part of the announcement or this event.

Publication date
4 Apr 2022

On Friday 8 April the two 2021 Abel Prize Laureates - Hungarian mathematician László Lovász and Israeli computer scientist Avi Wigderson - will give lectures at CWI during a lively afternoon programme for the Dutch science community. Three additional speakers, whose research is inspired by the work of the laureates, also will give talks at the 2021 Abel Laureates Lectures: Dion Gijswijt (TUD), Michael Walter (UvA, Ruhr-University Bochum), and Jeroen Zuiddam (UvA). CWI is looking forward to welcome its guests. Organizer Monique Laurent (CWI, UvT) says: "Lovász and Wigderson are old friends, cooperating since long with several researchers at CWI".

Postscript: We look back on a great event. Both the videos and the presentations (in pdf) are published and available online.
Our tweets from @CWInl gave an impression of the day, see the bottom of this web page.

Abel Prize

The Abel Prize is awarded yearly by the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters, and is considered as the missing Nobel Prize in mathematics. In 2022 the Abel Prize was awarded to László Lovász from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest (Hungary) and Avi Wigderson from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (USA) “for their foundational contributions to theoretical computer science and discrete mathematics, and their leading role in shaping them into central fields of modern mathematics”.


The work of Lovász and Wigderson plays an important role in bringing mathematics and computer science together, which is also a focus of CWI. Indeed, both awardees have been cooperating with several researchers at CWI. With Lovász and Hendrik Lenstra, Arjen Lenstra designed in 1982, while being a PhD-student at CWI, the famous LLL-algorithm to find a short basis of a lattice. This algorithm has numerous applications in cryptanalysis and optimization. With Andrew Odlyzko, Herman te Riele at CWI used the algorithm to disprove the long-standing Mertens conjecture in number theory.


Harry Buhrman, group leader of the Algorithms and Complexity group at CWI and director of QuSoft, published in 1998 an article with Richard Cleve and Avi Wigderson “Quantum vs. Classical Communication and Computation“, which exhibited the first example of an exponential quantum advantage in  communication for distributed computing tasks. “It was a fun time of learning and exploring the new paradigm of quantum computing," Buhrman says. "It was amazing to cooperate with Wigderson who sees seemingly instantaneously deep connections between different research areas".

Ronald de Wolf (CWI and UvA) recently wrote an article on Wigderson about his results, which influenced many fields. Wigderson worked, for instance, in zero-knowledge proofs, which impacted computational complexity, proof theory, and cryptography. He also studied distributed computation, communication complexity, randomness in computation, parallel computing, data structures, quantum computing, pure graph theory, and many other areas. De Wolf: “He has a very broad perspective on the theory of computing, with a keen eye for how it can learn from, interact with, and illuminate other parts of science”. Wigderson's research in technical computer science has growing relevance for physics, biology, economics, cognitive science and many other areas.


Monique Laurent, CWI Fellow and organizer of the meeting, tells more about Lovász. “The work of Lovász has been very influential for my field of research’’, she says. “In 1979 he introduced a new spectral parameter to settle a long standing open question in information theory about the Shannon capacity of graphs. This also offered a first breakthrough application of semidefinite optimization, a now widely used powerful tool to design efficient approximation algorithms. His work combines in an elegant way algebraic, geometric and algorithmic insights, and remains a constant source of inspiration.”

CWI Fellow Lex Schrijver elaborated on his collaboration with Lovász, in an internal CWI newsletter in 2021: “In 1979-1980 I spent an inspiring year with Lovász in Hungary. We kept cooperating throughout the years, and, according to MathSciNet, with 27 co-publications we are each other's most frequent co-author (while I obviously learned much more from him than he from me). We wrote a book together and worked on many topics revolving around graph structure, discrete optimization and statistical physics. One of Lovász's biggests merits is the novel application of methods from classical mathematics to solving long-standing problems from more modern areas. His original methods, pleasant modesty, and eagerness to cooperate and share ideas have inspired many discrete mathematicians and theoretical computer scientists worldwide and have shown them the way to important new directions in their research”.

More information

Lectures at KNAW

The lectures at CWI on 8 April 2022 are paired up with lectures on 7 April 2022 by the two laureates at the KNAW. The lectures on the Evening of the Abel prize 2021 at the KNAW are aimed at a general public, while those at CWI are directed towards scientists. At the KNAW, the other three speakers are Frank den Hollander (UL), Harry Buhrman (CWI, QuSoft, UvA) and Lex Schrijver (CWI, UvA).


The two Abel Prize events at the KNAW and CWI are sponsored by the Gravitation projects NETWORKS and Quantum Software Consortium (QSC).

Our tweets from @CWInl gave an impression of the day:

Great to see so many people here and online at the Abel Prize Laureates Lectures at CWI! Monique Laurent welcomed speakers and audience in style: 'We are very glad you could come today, because picking dates can be NP-hard, as you know.' https://bit.ly/3JlGFDg @_knaw @PagesNetwork

CWI director Ton de Kok also welcomed guests and speakers on this unique day. "With unique, I mean: how many people can say they were in a room with one Nobel Prize winner - and with two? There are more Nobel Prizes than Abel Prizes... So this is really a very special event".  :)

During his sparkling lecture on 'The Value of Errors in Proofs', Avi Wigderson asked: 'How can you show someone your view is correct? Can a convincing proof be uninformative?' 'We tolerate uncertainty in life, why not in algorithms?' More info: https://math.ias.edu/avi/book. @the_IAS

After Michael Walter (@UvA_Amsterdam,@ruhrunibochum) talked about 'Symmetries of Computational Problems and Optimization', he had a lively discussion with Peter van Emde Boas in the audience. @michael_quantum

After László Lovász' talk 'Graph limits meet Markov chains' at the 2021 Abel Laureates Lectures at CWI, he received a big round of applause. Lovász: 'I am pleased to be here and meet people I have known for a long time and worked with'. @ELTE_UNI

At the 2021 Abel Prize Laureates Lectures, Dion Gijswijt (@tudelft) gave a lecture on 'Excluding point configurations over a finite field', telling about a tantalizing open problem.

Jeroen Zuiddam (@UvA_Amsterdam) gave a lecture on 'Asymptotic spectrum duality in computer science and discrete mathematics: Matrix multiplication and Shannon capacity', showing much pleasure in his collaboration with Avi Wigderson.