The Perimeter Institute is organizing a ten-day science festival in Waterloo this October called “Quantum to Cosmos“. It promises to take you from the strange subatomic world of the quantum to the outer reaches of the cosmic frontier. And for those who can’t make it, all events will be streamed online live and on demand 24 hours a day. Hope to see you there!
On Wednesday, July 29, from 10-12 am, our summer students will be doing presentations and demos of their projects in Room 1200 of the Bahen Centre at 40 St. George Street. It’s the day after DemoCamp, which most of the students are attending, so they should be well and truly revved to show off their own stuff. Everyone is invited—hope to see you there.
Medicine 3.0 has posted a list of 50 successful open source projects that are changing medicine. The entries are uneven, but there’s a lot of good stuff here to follow up.
Jon Udell is one of the guest speakers at the Science 2.0 talks on July 29. I asked him, “Can you bring a bucket full of links to examples of cool things people are doing with civic data that Toronto could emulate?” He responded:
This is the dilemma. There’s lots of geek navel-gazing in this space but darned few tangible outcomes—and I’ve been looking hard for them for going on 4 years, ever since the DCStat project got going in Washington.
Personally I think the focus needs to shift from cool things people are doing with civic data that cities unilaterally dump online to how cities should be collaborating with citizens to work out what questions need answering, what data is being gathered, or could be gathered, to address those questions, and how best to publish the data in order to enable the desired analysis.
He discusses this further in his post on influencing the production of public data. So let me throw it open: what do you want your city/county/province/national government to put online for you to play with, and why?
Tim Bray recently mused that “…the World Wide Web would serve well as a framework for structuring much of the academic Computer Science curriculum. A study of the theory and practice of the Web’s technologies would traverse many key areas of our discipline.” He then goes on to outline a curriculum that emphasizes theoretical computer science concepts relevant to modern systems…
…where modern == 2005. These days, forward-looking programmers care more about mobile devices, post-Moore’s Law robots, and NUIs (natural user interfaces) than they do about the web. Shouldn’t we look ahead to what students are going to want to know by the time they graduate, rather than look back to what was hot when they were in high school?
In most cases, the answer is “no”. It’s hard to teach well unless you know how the pieces fit together, but it’s hard to figure that out when the pieces are only half-formed, and are moving around all the time. For me, the fact that it actually does make sense to think about reorganizing the undergrad curriculum around the concepts needed to understand the web is a sign that the web has become “normal” in Thomas Kuhn’s sense: we’re filling in the blanks and extending in predictable ways, rather than fundamentally changing the paradigm.
A decade ago, people like Jon Udell were imagining how the web could radically change the way science is done. Today, those visions are becoming a reality, and on July 29, you can join us for an afternoon of talks about what’s happening and how it could touch your life. Full details are at http://softwarecarpentry.wordpress.com/guests/ — the event is free, but you must register in advance (as there is limited seating). Our speakers will include:
- Titus Brown: Choosing Infrastructure and Testing Tools for Scientific Software Projects
- Cameron Neylon: A Web Native Research Record: Applying the Best of the Web to the Lab Notebook
- Michael Nielsen: Doing Science in the Open: How Online Tools are Changing Scientific Discovery
- David Rich: Using “Desktop” Languages for Big Problems
- Victoria Stodden: How Computational Science is Changing the Scientific Method
- Jon Udell: Collaborative Curation of Public Events
We look forward to seeing you there!
I ordered three books from Amazon last week. Parcel arrived this morning with a dent in one edge. Opened the box: two books are in good shape, one has a gash right through the back cover and 175 pages (and it’s a hardcover book). Went downstairs to the Post Office outlet, was told, “Oh, sorry, um, no, that’s not our responsibility.” I assume she meant, not the responsibility of her outlet, but when I called the number she gave, I discovered that she meant it wasn’t the responsibility of Canada Post—I accepted the parcel, so they’re not responsible. (Yes, I pointed out that the box only had a dent, and asked how I could have checked the contents without opening it, which apparently is a de facto acceptance of the contents. You can guess how satisfactory the response was.)
When I got back to my office, I went to Amazon.ca, clicked “Help”, and filled in the customer support form to say, “Book damaged in transit, can you do anything for me?” 15 minutes later I had an email message saying that a replacement would be shipped today, could I please return the damaged book, they’d pay the postage, here’s a label to print out to put on the package.
So thank you, Amazon—excellent customer service, and I’ll be back. And boo to you, Canada Post—I’m a passionate believer in public services, but “service” is exactly what you failed to provide once again.
Footnote: one day later, I have the replacement book. Thanks, Amazon—I’ll be back.