Pages: pp. 3-6
Events of the recent past have underscored the role of scientific and engineering computing in particularly vivid terms. The first of these was closure on the current issue, which focuses on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Science Archive. The articles describe an ambitious project illustrating just how close we are to truly public science, with access to data and tools for anyone able to use them for astronomical research or other applications. An example of the latter might be materials with which to teach science, but the project also offers resources to learn science for ordinary people, including scientists, who want to learn in areas they don't know.
More recently, I was privileged to give a talk at a "revisioning" workshop of the Network for Computational Nanotechnology ( www.ncn.purdue.edu/), entitled Excellence in Computer Simulation. This workshop marked the NCN's receipt of a new US National Science Foundation grant to extend and expand its work for the next five years. As a prime example of action appropriate for a learning organization, it echoed what nanoHUB ( www.nanohub.org/)—the NCN's service tool for the science and engineering community—is designed to support, which is learning via the Web, because workshops are for learning as well as for presenting. In fact, I was able to experience numerous examples, unfamiliar to me, of computation in science and engineering dealing with nanoscale phenomena. Much of this work is conducted with simulations that use high-performance computing, and nanoHUB is especially designed to support these.
All this learning tied in neatly with my activities later that week at the Supercomputing '07 Conference, where I served on a panel with educators from the major sciences to discuss current activities in computational science education at high schools and colleges. I must say this was instructive as well—but not very comforting. In my judgment, physics education at the undergraduate level is seriously deficient in using computation, let alone using high-performance computation. At the same conference, Thom Dunning of the US National Center for Supercomputing gave a talk on "The Challenge of Petascale Computing" (see http://sc07.sc-education.org/wiki/index.php/SC07-Calendar) that was downright sobering. Specifically, he reminded us that it's the current crop of first-year college students who will be the scientists and engineers managing petascale computing challenges at the time the first of these machines becomes available. If you're a college professor in the sciences or engineering, this might be a good time to assess where your department's curriculum is situated on a scale of "computational thinking." If not now, when … and if not you, then who?
Dirk Hagner has been CiSE's cover artist since its inception. In addition to CiSE, Hagner has provided covers for several magazines, including Computer and IEEE Pervasive Computing. CiSE caught up with the artist for a look at how he makes our covers.
CiSE: How did you get started?
Dirk Hagner: I went to art school in Germany, where I got my MFA in printmaking and book illustration. In the early '80s, I came to the US and have since worked as a freelance publication designer and editorial illustrator. As kids, we were always drawing at the kitchen table, my brothers and I. I guess I stuck with it, and they didn't.
CiSE: How do you make the covers? As an example, let's look at the September/October 2007 issue.
Hagner: First, I researched some visuals to the theme of alchemy (1). Then, I made a sketch (2), which I submitted to Jenny [Stout, CiSE's lead editor] (3). After [staff] discussion, I usually get a response in regard to any changes to be made. This cover was pretty straightforward. Sometimes we toss around many different sketches and ideas before it's a go. In this case, I revised the sketch to add the cat with the mouse and bring the laptop up on top of the pile of books. (4) Next, I transferred the drawing to a block and cut it in reverse (5). I then prepared the black printing ink on a slab of glass and rolled out a thin layer of it with a brayer (6). I carefully rolled up the block with the charged brayer (7). Next, I put a piece of paper onto the block and printed it by applying pressure with my wooden knob. You can see a faint image emerging on the back because I use thin paper (8). Next, I pulled the print from the block (9), which is now complete (10). After drying, I scanned the print and applied color in Photoshop. The cover art is finished and sent via ftp to CiSE (11).
CiSE: How much does your understanding of the content of an issue influence you?
Hagner: Some. I always was fascinated with science, but on an amateurish level. It's this curious place of having some fundamental notion of the basic scientific concepts at issue without knowing too much (or sometimes anything) about the specifics. I enjoy trying to combine the two by bringing it down visually to a more or less layman's level.
CiSE: Which covers are your favorites?
Hagner: It is usually the one I am working on at the moment.
CiSE: Which covers give you the most trouble?
Hagner: Typically, covers where a committee decides are the worst. Instead of going for a strong statement or visual, a committee cover is almost all of the time a result to make it right for everybody and therefore lands on the lowest common denominator.
CiSE: If you weren't an artist, what would you be?
Hagner: I am not sure. When I was in high school, I wanted to be in audio engineering or a paleontologist. But I figured in order to go into any scientific field, my math abilities weren't there.
Dirk Hagner was born, raised, and educated in Germany, where he studied drawing, printmaking, photography, and painting at the Folkwang School of Fine Arts. He graduated with an MFA and has lived in the US since the early 1980s.
Working in new directions, Hagner constantly finds himself drawing historic, geographic, political, and artistic connections to the past—for example, influences from German Expressionism meeting the sensibilities of line and space of the Far East.
To see more of Hagner's work and for a list of upcoming exhibits, please visit www.dirkhagner.com/.