What does mathematical logic have to do with robotic cars, Professor Juha Kontinen?

Theoretical basic research can have unexpected impacts in the future, the recently appointed professor points out.

What are your research topics

The field of my professorship is mathematical logic. I specialise in logic in theoretical computer science and dependence logic. Dependence logic is a relatively new field of logic, focusing on developing logical methods for studying the concepts of dependence and independence found in various fields.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?  

My research is primarily theoretical, meaning that the results are not directly applicable to our daily lives. However, the distance from my research to tangible applications is not necessarily that great: for example, temporal logic can be used to verify complex processes, such as those used in nuclear power plants. Meanwhile, we can use methods based on Alfred Tarski’s findings on decidability in the arithmetic of real numbers from 1951 to analyse cyber-physical systems, such as self-driving cars.

The latter example is also a good reminder of how theoretical basic research can have concrete applications in the future. 

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now

My current main research topic is dependence logic and its applications and connections to different fields, such as statistics, database theory and computational complexity theory. Dependence logic is a new field, which began to develop rapidly after the publication of Professor Jouko Väänänen’s monograph Dependence Logic in 2007.

In this field I’m particularly inspired by the active international and multidisciplinary cooperation. For example, the third Dagstuhl seminar on dependence logic that we organised in January 2019, titled “Logics for Dependence and Independence”, brought together 40 researchers from 12 different countries. 


Juha Kontinen is the professor of mathematical logic at the Faculty of Science.

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