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July 2020

Dear ComputingEdge reader:

Advancing Science with Software: Scientists increasingly use software to facilitate discoveries through simulation and analysis. Scientific software can enable research that might be impractical or impossible using experimentation, observation, or theory. Despite its importance, challenges remain in terms of testing, reliability, and reusability. This ComputingEdge issue presents tools for helping scientists effectively utilize software in their research..

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What Do You Know?

When computer scientists collaborate with artists, sociologists, musicians, or poets, they’re not merely doing something cute and artistic. They’re exploring a basic question: “What can we communicate?” What can we say when we translate ideas into a digital format and then express those ideas in new ways? ComputingEdge has several good examples of potential answers this month.

Take “Weather Report: A Site-Specific Artwork Interweaving Human Experiences and Scientific Data Physicalization” by Daniel F. Keefe and his colleagues. It describes a multimedia installation in Minneapolis with lights, balloons, and a sophisticated control system that surprised its designers. The “projection beams became interactive play areas,” report the authors, where participants interacted with the system “and cast shadows on the data that could be seen from across the river and around the festival.”

A second article—“Next Generation IoT: Toward Ubiquitous Autonomous Cost-Efficient IoT Devices” by Moustafa Youssef and Mahbub Hassan—goes from representing data to acquiring data. We’ve long known that large-scale IoT needs sensors that are both self-connecting and self-powering. The authors push that idea one step further with an idea they call “multitechnology energy harvesting and sensor-less sensing.” In their plan, every surface of a sensor can gather power and produces a signal that is based on the energy gathered by the device.

Finally, we have data from space—data that is massive, detailed, and comprehensive. In “OpenSpace: Bringing NASA Missions to the Public,” authors Alexander Bock, Charles Hansen, and Anders Ynnerman talk about NASA’s efforts to make this data available to the general public and make it useful. The centerpiece of the article is a tool called OpenSpace, which allows users “to visualize the entire known universe and portray our ongoing efforts to investigate the cosmos through large-scale, contextualized, multimodal astrovisualization.” It’s a simple tool for a big problem, but the results (as seen in the illustrations) are fascinating.

For technical expertise, we have our resident quantum expert, Erik P. DeBenedictis, to give us not one but two articles on quantum supremacy, the situations in which quantum computing has a clear unassailable advantage over conventional devices. In our current “mid-scale, noisy quantum environment,” those situations are not as straightforward as you might think. That’s why we have ComputingEdge: to communicate what you need to know.

—David Alan Grier for ComputingEdge


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