October/November 2007


When two worlds collide

Scientists and engineers tend to like order. That is what they are used to. But not all scientific data and information is well ordered, or structured in the same way as all the other pieces of information. Take a new project from the French ministry of defence, for example. When such organisations want to equip a new fleet of tanks there are many complicated decisions to be made, about where and how the tanks will be used, what weapons are needed and which equipment will work with which other equipment.


In pursuit of proteins

Next year the scientific community will celebrate the 50th anniversary of an advance that must have had almost as much influence on the drug discovery and allied industries as the discovery of the structure of DNA. In 1958 – a mere five years after Watson and Crick’s insight, and in the same city, Cambridge, UK, John Kendrew and his colleagues published the first structure of a protein, the oxygen binder myoglobin.


Connecting instruments to PCs gets simpler, cheaper with LXI system

We’ve long known of the benefits of connecting instruments to computers. Over the years, though, the equation has changed with the rapid development of the PC.In early days, most instruments connected over the serial port, but that communications protocol is slow, works with only one instrument per port, and the RS232 standard is so loose in spots that exchanging commands and data can take some extra work.


A new power base in Europe

Since the Top500 list of the most powerful supercomputers in the world was first compiled in 1993, Europe has noticeably lagged behind other countries in delivering high-power processing facilities for scientists and engineers, with Japan and the US typically holding nine of the top 10 slots.

This has meant that some European scientists have been reliant on American resources to do their high-level simulations and data processing – a far from ideal situation that has no doubt put strain on the creative process of scientific research.


Birds, bees and growing things

No area of work is more closely associated with data analysis than agriculture. Statistics as a concept grew out of the need to quantify agricultural production for taxation purposes. Modern statistics as a coherent, mathematically-based field was shaped by a need to quantify agricultural investigation. Most generic methods can be traced back to an agricultural point of origin. The great landmark adventure of recent years, the sequencing of the human genome, concludes an intellectual story line that started with a statistical view of inheritance in peas.


In pursuit of problem solving

Michael Resch likes to solve problems. But he has found that, sometimes, to solve a problem you need to get more involved than you planned. His pursuit of problem solving has taken him to being director of one of Germany’s largest computer centres. He has taken it from a provincial university computer centre to being a major European resource, despite becoming a director at a young age.