Miscellany

Craig Larson, Professor, Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics,
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)

Me + J9

Biographical

I am originally from California. My mom is German and my dad is Chicagoan. I have a younger brother Kevin (he's a researcher at Microsoft now). Dad was an aerospace engineer (he worked on Skylab, Shuttle, and the Space Station, among other things) and taught us a lot of math when we were kids. We grew up in Huntington Beach, where I still have a lot of buddies. I grew up a huge fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Boston Celtics (which was a little awkward). I'm still a huge fan of both.

I attended Mater Dei High School I was a Congressional Page, ran cross country and track (I ran a 4:50 mile as a sophomore), and was pretty geeky. I went to the University of Houston on a National Merit scholarship. In college I studied philosophy as well as math, and have advanced degrees in both. I taught for many years in the math department at the University of Houston, where I won a teaching award, and met my beautiful wife Jeanine. I was also a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity's Epsilon Omicron chapter, and later the faculty advisor.

Jeanine and I are both big music fans and cat lovers. We like to run, bike, travel, read, eat, see bands, movies and the ballet. We have a little guy, Linus Carl Larson, with us in our adventures. And now I'm at VCU, where I've also won a teaching award.

My research currently involves graph theory, combinatorial optimization and artificial intelligence; but I'm interested in many many many things. In the spring of 2012, I was at Texas A&M University, Galveston, working with, and learning from Doug Klein, a theoretical chemist and chemical graph theorist, and in Spring 2013, I was at Ghent University, Belgium, as a Fulbright Research Scholar, working with Gunnar Brinkmann, an expert in graph algorithms and graph generation.

I've been really lucky to learn from great, smart and inspiring advisors. These include Justin Leiber (Philosophy M.A.), Siemion Fajtlowicz (Math M.S.), Ermelinda Delavina & Klaus Kaiser (Math Ph.D.), Doug Klein (TAMUG), and Gunnar Brinkmann (Ghent). Here's my mathematical geneology.

I am a member of Heterodox Academy which aims to "improve the quality of research and education in universities by increasing viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding, and constructive disagreement." (I follow John Stuart Mill and Justice Brandeis on the importance of engagement and discussion). I am also a member of American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the Faculty Network of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), whose mission is to defend and sustain the individual rights of students and faculty members at America's colleges and universities.

The people whose work has inspired me include my parents and my wife, the Wright Brothers, Käthe Kollwitz, Alan Turing, Thomas Paine, Jack Edmonds, Jackie Robinson, John Wooden, Charlie Chaplin, Julian Simon, Jaime Escalante, John Coltrane, Woody Allen, Bill Russell, Laszlo Lovasz, Linus Pauling, James Randi, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, Paul Erdos, Milton Friedman, Noam Chomsky, Nels Cline, Louis Armstrong, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Edward Snowden, Alan Sokal, Martin Gardner, Socrates, and George Orwell.

Be a punk, question authorities, think for yourself, put yourself out there, and give it your all. Stop watching TV. Be active. Do stuff. "Start your own band. Write your own book. Paint your own picture!"


NSA Statement

I do not accept grant money from the NSA, I do not do any work for the NSA, including refereeing grant proposals. The NSA is a dangerous and anti-democratic organization. Here is what Senator Church (D-ID) said about the NSA in 1975:

"In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. (...) Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything-telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. (...)

I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."

For the background of Senator Church's remark, see: Church Committee (Wikipedia).

Here is a mathematician's perspective on the Snowden revelations.