The Scientist and his legacy

I’m not going to explain this one:

Well, ok here’s an explanation: It’s a picture of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Pluto looking for Pluto the ex-planet. Neil is famous, amongst other things, for being a prominent documenter of Pluto’s (the celestial body) demise as the 9th planet of our solar system.


Microsoft Research's Data-related Launches

Microsoft Research has been making a bunch of cool data analysis-related launches at the upcoming Faculty Summit.

First, there’s The academic release of Dryad and DryadLINQ

Dryad is a high-performance, general-purpose, distributed-computing engine that simplifies the task of implementing distributed applications on clusters of computers running a Windows® operating system. DryadLINQ enables developers to implement Dryad applications in managed code by using an extended version of the LINQ programming model and API. The academic release of Dryad and DryadLINQ provides the software necessary to develop DryadLINQ applications and to run them on a Windows HPC Server 2008 cluster. The academic release includes documentation and code samples.

They also launched Project Trident , a workflow workbench, which is available for download:

Project Trident: A Scientific Workflow Workbench is a set of tools—based on the Windows Workflow Foundation—for creating and running data analysis workflows. It addresses scientists’ need for a flexible and powerful way to analyze large and diverse datasets, and share their results. Trident Management Studio provides graphical tools for running, managing, and sharing workflows. It manages the Trident Registry, schedules workflow jobs, and monitors local or remote workflow execution. For large data sets, Trident can run multiple workflows in parallel on a Windows HPC Server 2008 cluster. Trident provides a framework to add runtime services and comes with services such as provenance and workflow monitoring. The Trident security model supports users and roles that allows scientists to control access rights to their workflows.

Then there’s Graywolf :

GrayWulf builds on the work of Jim Gray, a Microsoft Research scientist and pioneer in database and transaction processing research. It also pays homage to Beowulf, the original computer cluster developed at NASA using “off-the-shelf” computer hardware.

Maintained Relationships on Facebook

Facebook Research Scientist Cameron Marlow has some interesting thoughts about Maintained Relationships, people who often stalk each other’s feeds, but don’t necessarily talk that much:

In the diagram, the red line shows the number of reciprocal relationships, the green line shows the one-way relationships, and the blue line shows the passive relationships as a function of your network size. This graph shows the same data as the first graph, only combined for both genders. What it shows is that, as a function of the people a Facebook user actively communicate with, you are passively engaging with between 2 and 2.5 times more people in their network. I’m sure many people have had this feeling, but these data make this effect more transparent.

I’m really jealous of the Facebook Data Team. They get to play with all that data!

twittering... kinda

I hooked up my Facebook status feed to my Twitter page that should keep most “followers” happy with minimal work on my part. To inaugurate, I posted a twitterpoem of less than 140 characters, which I grandly entitle “Tales of the Database Scientist”:

i flirt with hordes of entities,
runtimes and complexities.
relations are for databases;
i negotiate in times and spaces.

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experimental success

One Doctor’s Personal Experiment — a story of a Oncologist who beat cancer with her own experimental treatment:

For a scientist, there’s no high quite like having your experiment work. That’s why I’m helping to write a case study about what I’ve gone through to share my success with other doctors. I hope my fight against cancer will inch us closer to a cure.

Somehow, being a computer scientist is a lot easier. Worst case scenario, your computer will crash and you will lose your data. It may take a long time to recover, but there will always be an Undo Button.

On a side note, the aforementioned story is hosted at, which just redesigned their site. It’s one of the cleanest but still classy-looking mainstream news websites out there, in my opinion. Good job, guys!


of computer science and philosophy

I’ve always been intrigued by the similarities between the Computer Science and Philosophy disciplines. Both are so abstract that they apply to everything in the world, but an objective analysis leads you to the opinion that they both have no tangible result whatsoever. That is, a computer scientist, or a philosopher never does any real work. By real work, I mean something that you can explain to a 5 year old:

“Johnny, what does your father do?”
“He’s an eye doctor. He treats people who cannot see properly”

“Debbie, what does your father do?”
“He’s a computer scientist.”

“Which is?”
“He sits in a room all day staring at drawings, and sometimes in front of the computer typing things”

(Whole class is now making fun of Debbie because her dad is a loser)

Another very interesting thing is how very core computer science concepts have uncanny parallels in phliosophy and real life. Graph scoring and searching algorithms like BANKS and PageRank work on directed graphs where edges between nodes depict relationships between them; and it’s almost always better (in terms of speed and accuracy) to introduce “backward edges” — a relationship in the reverse direction of every relation in the graph.

Kind of like saying that there’s no such thing as a one-way relationship between two people.