Bas van Vlijmen

'Dining Philosophers'  2008

Location: Metaforum, floor 6

This object, created in 2008 by artist Bas van Vlijmen, visualizes the 'situational space that represents all possibilities of behaviour'. The topic is the 'philosophers' problem' from computer science, that was formulated in 1971 by Edsger Dijkstra (1930 - 2002), at that time professor at TU/e.

The philosophers' problem is related to problems of synchronization in computer science, translated into a dinner attended by a group of philosophers. That group sits at a round table, and to the right - and therefore also to the left - of each philosopher lies a single fork. In the middle stands a bowl of spaghetti. In order to eat, they always need two forks. When they eat they cannot talk to each other, which leads to all kinds of problems, for instance when they are all holding a fork so no one can eat: a 'deadlock'. The little red ball in this piece of art represents that deadlock.

Frank van Ham (at center in the photograph) developed a software tool to visualize 'situational spaces'. Phd student Bas Ploeger (at right) improved this tool. The drafts he made found their way to artist Bas van Vlijmen, who graduated in theoretical computer science at Utrecht in 1998. One of his tutors was Jan Friso Groote, today professor of theoretical computer science at TU/e. Van Vlijmen, whose idea was to create a work based on these problems, contacted professor Groote. This resulted in this piece of art. It was inaugurated after the doctoral graduation of Hannes Pretorius (at left in the photograph) who graduated on a similar subject.