Free Tools for the New Scientific Revolution

Blogs are great for supplementing real-life events, by giving space and time for specific examples and links which can’t be referenced at the time. I was invited to give a talk last week at the first-ever NASA Information Technology Summit in Washington DC, and the topic I chose was “Government and the Revolution in Scientific Computing.” That’s an area that Microsoft Research has been focusing on quite a bit lately, so below I’ll give some examples I didn’t use at my talk.

One groundrule was that invited private-sector speakers were not allowed to give anything resembling a “sales pitch” of their company’s wares. Fair enough – I’m no salesman.  The person who immediately preceded me, keynoter Vint Cerf, slightly bent the rules and talked a bit about his employer Google’s products, but gee whiz, that’s the prerogative of someone who is in large part responsible for the Internet we all use and love today.

I described in my talk the radical new class of super-powerful technologies enabling large-data research and computing on platforms of real-time and archival government data. That revolution is happening now, and I believe government could and should be playing a different and less passive role. I advocated for increased attention to the ongoing predicament of U.S. research and development funding.

Alex Howard at O’Reilly Radar covered the NASA Summit and today published a nice review of both Vint’s talk and mine.  Some excerpts: Continue reading

Enabling Eureka via Citeability

The story of Archimedes resonates with everyone, because we all regularly feel that rush of excitement that he famously felt when discovering the principle of water displacement: “Eureka!” he shouted, “I have found it!”

Whether it’s car keys or the perfect birthday present for a loved one, we know that feeling. But how often do you feel like shouting “Eureka” when you’re surfing the web looking for a particular piece of government information?

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Stop being so touchy

Remember Tom Cruise’s virtual 3D in Minority Report? Wouldn’t it be cool if, instead of an iPhone-like touch screen, we could manipulate data and 3D images on screens by simply moving our hands – interacting virtually without touching a keyboard or screen?

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EU says, Costs of Open Source Outweigh the Benefits?

FACT: According to a Reuters story today, “The European Commission, a thorn in Microsoft’s side for its antitrust campaigns against the software giant, is falling short in its own internal attempt to promote more competition in the technology sector. The European Union executive has so far not followed its own policy that it purchase office software and operating systems with open standards as well as Microsoft products.”

(c) European CommunityIn the money quote, according to the Reuters story, the EU’s director of IT solutions “said in an interview arranged by a spokeswoman for Commissioner Siim Kallas, who oversees procurement, that studies showed the costs of moving to open source outweighed the benefits.” 

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