Project: It's complicated.
Because we are Czech group, we do not have a single project. If you want to read about them in detail, please refer to this site.
Advisor: Periklis Papakonstantinou
- Jakub Tětek
- Martin Hora
- Michael Skotnica
- Radim Předstíraný
- Ondřej Šplíchal
- Aneta Šťastná
And... Our awesome graduate coordinator:
- Peter Korcsok
Weekly logWeek 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
For a more conventional log, visit Martin's site.
Day -113. I received an e-mail whether I want to join REU. I do not know how nor why, but I did. You should already know how I responded. I heard some strange rumors about it, but I didn't pay attention to them.
February to May. Papers, papers and more papers. Getting a US visa is complicated. But we somehow did it. At least we are still alive. I hope.
Day 0. It's May 29 2018, 11:30. We all came to the Prague airport, all happy and ready to take off to REU. But fate wasn't so nice to us. Our airplane, which was supposed to depart at 13:40, was delayed to 15:05. At least they gave us a food ticket as apology.
So we flew off Prague. And we arrived 8 hours later. Then we waited another 30 minutes before our plane got assigned a gate. After answering some useless questions at the security, we exit the arrival area safely. Almost, one dog snitched one of us and a policeman took a nice selfie.
We had paid a van to the campus, but where it could be? We figured out that in order to dispatch our van we had to call a phone. However, Roaming and their automatic system refused to cooperate. After a few tries we finally connected with the service. The van was, (un)suprisingly, just 10 meters outside of the airport.
At last. We are here! Parker gave us a nice welcome, keys to our apartment and free pizza, which was really good. Of course, it is part of our culture not to decline taking the leftovers. Previous generation had left us loads of dishes, very convinient. But there was also a note we couldn't decipher. Time to settle down and go sleep.
Somehow, I feel like there was some unknown force that tried to delay our trip as much as possible. Why would they do that, I don't know. By the way, did you know that there are plugs that only work when light is turned on?
Day 1. It's not easy to wake up at 8:00 and ignore the timezone difference. Yawn… Wait, doesn't that work the other way around if you move to the West? After a bit of more yawning and not falling asleep, we moved on to breakfast with other REU participants.
It's of course important to make friends, so after breakfast there was a presentation where every participant said something about themselves while lying to us. That wasn't nice from them, even though the lies were mostly obvious. Next up was a rather tiring presentation of what REU is and why it is so awesome. This was finished by a picnic lunch.
Every REU member was supposed to meet up with their mentor. But ours never came. How sad and strange. He's mentoring someone else too and he did meet them. But that wouldn't stop us! Instead of waiting for him, we looked at our projects alone and decided which to take.
How did they manage to do this? They mistyped my name not just once, but even twice! I was the only one whose name they mistyped, though.
Our office room contained a very nice suprise – three bikes! Unfortunately, they had flat tires and tools to fix them were nowhere to be found. Hopefully, we will be able to fix them soon.
Later afternoon, we left the campus to buy some groceries! We took the summer bus to New Brunswick to an alleged supermarket. It was very far from being a supermarket. A box of rice and bottle of oil somehow didn't arrive with us back. Is it possible that the cashier forgot to give us one bag? It wasn't definitely us. Cue dinner and night time.
Day 2. We all met together to prepare bridge workshop to fellow REU participants who will visit us in Prague. We also started working on our projects. Finally, we set up this website.
I must say though, I can't stay in our office for too long time. The artifical light there is very straining on my eyes. Maybe I will get used to it. Or maybe not. Could it be done on purpose? I started having an ominous feeling.
Apart from work, it was our first time we used the resident dining hall. The burger was very nice. But they do not accept valuable $50 bills. That was not so nice.
Day 3. Good news, everyone! We progressed with our projects. More importantly, we found a place where we can fix the bikes. Lunch in the student center is really expensive while our groceries were running out alarmingly fast. And so time to make some big shopping hath cometh. Our bikes will be really useful for this task.
A group of four brave people was chosen: Jakub, Aneta, Peter and Radim. It was decided for them to visit a nearby (5km) Walmart using the newly fixed bikes. Except Radim, he really likes running. There they stuffed their backpacks with a lot of food, but they also bought a very large cooking pot. Indeed, it can contain almost 20l. If you ask how did they manage to package it, the answer is quite simple. They simply hung it on one of their backpacks.
Everything seemed to be perfect until they boarded the bikes and found out even after service repairs… One of the bikes' tires was flat. Yet again. Due to that, instead of going directly home, they were crazy enough to walk 2km next to their bikes along with all groceries to a nearby petrol station. There they refilled the tires. Or at least they tried. It was that time they realized they should have bought new tires, just a bit too late. How (if) they returned back sane, I am yet to know.
Day 4. Weekend. Today morning, Radim suggested to go to the beach. My previous remark about their sanity was probably a foreshadowing. Why? He suggested: "Since we have only three bikes, we should split in half. First half will go to the beach by foot, the second will use bikes. When returning back, the roles will swap." Sounds a bit reasonable, until you realize the beach is 18km away. And that there are more than six of us.
After a bit of discussion, only people who wanted to go, apart from Radim, were Jakub and Aneta. At least they were more sane than Radim and decided to use bus instead after all. Others stayed at the campus.
It started raining hard outside. According to the forecast, the strongest rain is at the exact part of beach where they went to. Tough luck.
In the afternoon, the rest of group took bus to New Brunswick where we met our Hungarian neighbors on a festival. There was fresh European pastry! After enjoying ourselves, we took a stroll through College Avenue admiring the club houses. We also scolded a trash-picking squirrel.
We walked back to our apartments, the beach group arrived a bit later. But where is Radim?
Day 5. Weekend. Today we worked on our projects. We had some progress, so that's nice. But where Radim still hasn't returned. I hope he is okay. He doesn't answer our calls.
Meanwhile, I decided to ride a bike around the campus. Suddenly, I see a doe. I stare at her, she stares at me. I come a bit closer, she stays still. I grab a camera, she backs away. Right when I snap a photo, she starts running away. The result is a blurred photo. Sad face. Didn't know does are camera-shy.
After sun had set, Ondřej was returning from CoRE building when suddenly some scruffy person stopped him. After claiming he had no weapons, he asked Ondřej where Piscataway is. He seemed to be very confused. Could it have been Radim?
Day 6. Today we had our first presentations. Radim is still missing, he couldn't make it to present his project. Just where is he? The most strange thing is that nobody from the REU staff showed any concern about him.
Everyone (well, almost) has finished presenting their projects, it's time to have some lunch together! After we had eaten our lunch, we worked on our projects again, until 18 o'clock. Boring day, eh?
Our mentor was previously supposed to meet with us today, but he couldn't make it. This is the second time this happened. Is he avoiding us?
I have encoutered a doe yet again. But, as everyone surely knows, a picture is worth more than a thousand of words. Therefore, take a look yourself: She might look innocent at first glance, but don't be fooled! She is actually staring deep into your soul, silently judging all your sins. You should be very careful what you are thinking about.
Day 7. At morning, we survived through a mountain of documents related to our stay in the US. They didn't have documents for Radim. I smell a conspiracy.
Other than that, we spent most of day working on our projects, gaining more progress. I was too exhausted, though, and ended earlier.
Day 8. We received a text message from Radim! All he wrote was that he'd received very important confidental information and that he's lost somewhere in Harriman Park.
At 10:00 we were supposed to meet with our mentor, this is already the third try. But at 9:50 we received an e-mail he'd be late. For the third time. Oh well, at least he will come.
Oh, he's arrived. We presented our projects, after some difficulties, to him and he showed some of his projects to us. Later, we went for a lunch together.
Later, there was a presentation about disease spreading and cyber security. The presenter was a very happy person, I like that. The topic itself was also intriguing, different sections working together.
Day 9. We worked on our projects, writing a brute force program to test counterexamples. It had some bugs, giving us false positives. Aside from that, some of us gained access to a local swimming pool.
Aneta and Jakub also started planning a trip to the Harriman Park in order to find Radim. The park is very large, though. That's why will leave tommorow afternoon and hopefully return back on Sunday, two days later.
Day 10. Again, our morning was spent working and researching. Afternoon was more lively, though.
Later in the afternoon, Jakub and Aneta supplied themselves with everything needed for a 3 day trip. Then they boarded the train and left us.
At the same time, Peter and I took a ride to College Avenue. More specifically, the student centre. There, we bought a lot of cheap round trip rides to New York. We also found a supermarket. Something incredible happened there, they had actual european bread!
Day 11. Weekend. While Jakub and Aneta were away, we decided to visit New York. At 9:00, we called Knight Movers to get to the train station in New Brunswick. Unfortunately, we arrived just when the bus departed, leaving us to wait 30 minutes.
So we arrived to New York, specifically Manhattan. After a short discussion, we headed to the Central Park. On the way we stopped for a while at the Times Square.
We've entered the park. It was a hot day, so it wasn't very comfortable to be directly under sunlight. In the park we've seen a lot of interesting things -- squirrels, birds, turtles, ducks, baseball tournament, and more. The park was very nice.
Later on we exit the park in order to find some food. After walking for a while we settled in a local italian restaurant. The food was nice, but somewhat expensive. Oh well, it is once in a while thing…
After lunch, we walked around streets to see some interesting places. Walking through streets is funny, you walk through one crossing, get to next one and wait another minute. Most of our walking time was really just waiting on crossings. We've also witnessed some kind of firefighter training session.
We've arrived to the Rockerfeller Center. We were about to go back for bus when someone decided to take a loot at the Top of The Rock. I was the only one who decided not to go.
Evening was slowly approaching and we walked back to the bus station. Unfortunately, we got caught in a tourist trap. Few minutes later and we entered our bus, considerably emptier than the morning one. After arriving back to New Brunswick, we walked back to our apartments.
I guess it's nice to be just regular tourists some times.
Day 12. Weekend. Today was uneventful. At least at evening, Jakub and Aneta returned back from their trip. And boy, they had some very interesting experiences.
Day 13. Today we mostly worked on our projects. The subgroup I work with started writing a paper based on our findings.
Later at afternoon I, Michael and Martin visit Superfresh near the train station in New Brunswick. There was a nice suprise for us, if you buy above a certain amount of price total, you will receive a free home delivery coupon! Of course, we used this to great extent, buying enough grocery that'd last a whole week or even more.
Day 14. Today, there was, like previous week, a seminar. Its topic was cryptography, specifically zero knowledge systems. It was mostly connected to the cryptocurrencies. I fell asleep unfortunately.
I've been thinking about why Radim had vanished so suddenly. So I decided to do a bit of research. This is Research Experience for Undergraduates, after all. The truth was shocking. Radim never left the US properly since last year's REU. He didn't have enough money to buy a ticket back home. I thought it was strange I'd never met Radim before before we arrived here. What are his current intentions, I am still yet to discover.
Day 15. Last week we were preparing our bridge workshop presentation. Hovewer, due to communication error, Parker also prepared the presentation in form of finding a Postdoc who gave us a beginner's lecture on Ramsey theory.
For me, the lecture didn't contain anything I haven't known before. But it was presented well, I liked it nevertheless. After the lecture we were divided into small groups containing both Czech and other REU participants who were solving a few problems related to the topics from this lecture.
Day 16. A miracle has happened! Our mentor did have time for us today. And so, he gave us introduction into cryptography on NC0 circuits. Well, it was really densely packed introduction, with tons of definitions. But even then it didn't go flawlessly. The coffee maker was broken! With no coffee, some of us were halfway asleep and couldn't focus.
I fell asleep for a short time and I've had a very strange dream. I can't remember what it was about, but I know it was very important and most likely related to Radim.
At the evening, I created a presentation for the tommorow's cultural day. It took me some time, but I think it will be worth it. How will others like it I'm going to find out tommorow.
Day 17. This is it. The cultural day. I'm very well prepared for the presentation.
We were told the Czech group was presenting last. All of the presentations from everyone were good and informative. After everyone else's presentations, the turn had come to me. So I presented. Everyone liked it! Total success.
Right after the cultural day finished, I've noticed I received an e-mail. I was very suprised when I looked at the sender. It was Radim! In the e-mail he apologized he wouldn't make it there and that he'd also prepared a presentation. Too bad, Radim. We couldn't present it.
Day 18. Weekend. Our group again decided to visit New York. Honestly, I've had enough of New York last Saturday, so I didn't go. At least during the time they were away, I did some work. Also, since everyone else was away, I needed to make some lunch for myself. So I decided to cook some rice. It didn't go exactly well. You shouldn't try it at home.
It's around 19 and I noticed a group of students walking outside. I've decided to talk to them for a while. So I went outside and saw a Superfresh delivery car. From which the New York group disembarked. Guess what, because it was already too late for campus buses and Knight Mover was out of their reach (we really need to get US phone soon), they'd use free delivery service of Superfresh to travel back to the apartments. Clever planning!
At around the same time we got informed about a party planned by our fellow REU participants. It started at 21:00. It was really nice, but later on it got sadly too loud for me to bear. While I was sleeping, sounds of someone throwing up woke me up.
Day 20. Weekend. Due to the party yesterday, we woke up very late and were tired to do anything interesting.
At least at the evening I along with Michael went outside to capture a grabage picking raccoon. It didn't go as well as we'd hoped, mostly due to it already being dark. Instead, we met with some other REU participants and had a nice long talk about all different things. Later, we took a walk around a campus and saw a skunk from not so far away. Yikes!
Day 21. A second miracle, there was another Periklis' lecture today. This time it was focused at group representations. We worked on our projects as usual. That's all.
Recalling Radim's e-mail, I dug into its headers. Luck likes me today, I salvaged an IP address he sent the e-mail from. According to GeoIP, it was from Washington. Guess where we're going next!
Day 22. Time for next seminar! This seminar was about orbital mechanics. It wasn't related to the computer science a lot, but still it was cool. Too bad the artifical lights made me almost fall asleep yet again.
We've solidified our plan on how to travel to Washington. At 22:15, we're going to use Knight Mover to New Brunswick, from where we're going to take a bus to New York which leaves at 22:45. After arriving there at midnight, we're going to wait for our bus to Washington which leaves at 1:00. There, we're going to sleep in a flat and then, on friday at 23:15, we'll leave back to New York, and from there back to the campus. It's going to work out perfectly!
Day 23. Today we had to wake up unusually early, even before 8:00. It was time to visit IBM. Somehow, we all woke up on time just to board the bus taking us to Watson IBM Research Center. The bus took a lot of time, partially due to high traffic.
We stand next to the entrance. An IBM employée took us inside to a lecture room. There, we were told about Watson, Jeopardy and AI overlords taking over the world. Later, we took an obligatory picture with the AI overlord Watson and we were allowed to look at the holy emp—I mean Watson's hardware.
After selling our souls to the AI overlord, we were given an opputurnity to take a peek at the brand new quantum computer. Later, we were led to a totally not suspicious room with a lot of food. I should've known the food was a trap. We had to pay with our time listening to four more lectures, which at least were interesting. And so we captured one last picture and took the bus back.
Evening has come and we got ready to travel to Washington, except Jakub, who stayed here. I called Knight Mover. But, there was no answer. To our horror, the normal buses were still in service! We should have checked that beforehand. What was even worse, the next bus was going to depart in 5 minutes, the one after it 30 minutes later.
So we ran as fast as possible to the bus station. Unfortunately, we missed it. We needed some alternative, and fast. So we split into two subgroups. One of us asked other participant to drive us there, the other one took Uber. Miracously, both subgroups arrived before 22:45. Thus, we did manage to catch the bus!
Day 24. New York bus station, terminal
0:40. We're standing in a queue for bus for 5 minutes. 15 minutes. 30 minutes.
What, why are they calling a mechanic? An hour! Whew, finally we boarded the
delayed bus. Because of the IBM trip, I haven't slept for 18 hours. My hopes
for gaining at least some sleep were twharted, bus ride was not very
comfortable and I hadn't fallen asleep even for a short while.
Somehow, we have arrived to Washington without any delay. Wow, everything in Washington is white, not just the White house. We arrived to what we first thought was the White house, except it was Capitol. After a while of admiration, we moved on towards the obelisk. Sadly, it was blocked off due to reconstruction works. From there, we arrived next to the White House. How is that possible, it's even whiter than all white buildings around! Understandingly, there were a lot of security guards, heavily armed. I wouldn't want to anger those.
Next, we started visiting all memorials. It was at this time I started falling asleep while walking around. At first I thought I'd stay at one place to take a nap, but somehow eating an apple gave me enough energy to continue the journey.
We found an important clue next to the large Abraharm Lincoln statue! It was Radim's ID card, found almost buried in ground. Attached to it there was an USB Flash drive. I doubt this was just a mere coicidence. He's been trying to pass something to us. We'll investigate it later.
So we finished a round of all memorials and midday has arrived. Since most of us had been a bit hungry, we decided to find a place to eat. While wandering around the downtown, we took interest in a japanese restaurant next to us. We've decided well, the food was delicious. Day time reached 14:00, and so we headed for the flat we'd be going to take a night in.
I did manage to get used to see an american flag everywhere. But this time, why are there rainbow flags at every possible corner? Just where did we end up? Thankfully, we found the flat soon enough. Small while later, we received the key, thus we could go inside.
I'd been feeling extremely tired until then, so my first action inside was to take a nap. Others dedicated their time to analyze the flash drive. Unfortunately, the flash drive was heavily encrypted. Nearing the sunset, we've decided to take a walk to a nearby park, and later, the night time city.
Day 25. Successfully returning the flat key, we headed back to the city center, this time to visit the museums. So, we entered the museum of national history. I must say, their museums are bigger than us, while our history is somewhat longer. They must be very proud of it. Wait, is the Wi-Fi list here correct? Is there really eduroam?
Three hours later, at 14:00, we decided to hunt some food for lunch. And so after 30 minutes of walking we found a local restaurant, where we spent another hour. Happy and stuffed, we took an interest in Air and Space museum, where we arrived at 16:20.
In the museum, we split, with the following condition to meet up again: when the museum closes. It was a result of our naive thinking that it'd close at 17:30. In reality, the museum closed at 19:30. Most of us finished gaining knowledge somewhat earlier and most of us grouped together next to the entrance where we sat on the carpet and played card games. Security had some strange looks, but didn't stop us.
Grouping up back together, we moved to the direction of the bus station. During that time, we saw something very pericular: You can see everything in the US, no doubt.
We arrived to the bus station, but we still had a lot of spare time. Thus, we found a supermarket and headed towards it. Wait wait, are these really streetcar tracks? Yes, they are! Better, there is no fare to ride one! Even better, one of the stops was right next to the bus station! Even even better, three of six streetcars used there were built in Ostrava!!!
It was a relatively new, short track. And so, since we still had a lot of time, me and Aneta decided to ride the streetcar to both end stations. Unlike the counterparts at Europe, these streetcars were very slow. 22:30, bus station. We've successfully boarded a bus back to New York.
Day 26. Weekend. We've arrived to New York at 5:00. Since apparently Aneta and Ondřej didn't have enough of the trip, they've decided to walk around New York alone. Others just waited at the bus station until the first bus to New Brunswick departed. There, we called Knight Mover to Silvers.
There, I immidiately took a nap. Later that day, I took the flash drive in hopes of deciphering it. I didn't have any success, though.
Day 27. Weekend. Today, I continued with trying to decipher the flash driver. Unlike yesterday, there was mild success. One file was partially cracked.
It was a text file. It contained a warning about the REU program. A lot of it was illegible. I don't think I can show it here, but there were some very suspicious parts. They were: "must (not?) publish your research" and something about plagiarism. Oh no. The implications don't sound good at all. I was really concerned whether should I continue down the rabbit hole.
Day 28. Today, they changed the REU schelude again. Bridge workshop, which was supposed to be another day, was relocated to Wednesday. Furthermore, instead of us presenting, they found someone else with an entirely different topic. Our mentor also didn't have any time. Why does it feel like it's going to be bad for us?
Nevermind that, we started finishing our paper. It was then that we noticed some mistakes there and had to redo some parts entirely. When I met one of workers here, he gazed at me with a very strange expression, giving me chills down the spine. Is it just me, or are they on to me? Am I safe?
Day 29. Today, according to the schelude, there was supposed to be a seminar on scientific writing. It was postponed to next week, though. I've decided to play safe and stayed at the apartment all day. Feeling worried, I've decided to keep the flash drive aside for now. Maybe it is not too late.
Day 30. -- bridge --
Day 31. -- seminar --
Day 32. -- bridge --
Day 33. Weekend.
Day 34. Weekend.
Day 37. Independence day.
Day 40. Weekend.
- Strange intrigues of the Czech language (Cultural day)
- Strange intrigues of the Czech language (Cultural day, contains cuss words version)