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Software is key to better productivity

Commercial laboratories increasingly turn to less-skilled staff for their routine analyses, but also want to use and share their results in far more ways than in the past. The key to achieving these different goals lies in the software, writes Siân Harris

Vive la difference

Different data, different analytical tools, different users. How can scientific computing cope with diversity in the life sciences? Tom Wilkie discovers that data pipelining and workflow technology offer new approaches

Free to view

OriginLab has created a standard for rich transmission of technical graphics, argues Felix Grant

Problem-solving pushes boundaries

It is well known that equations and algorithms used in rocket science are used in Wall Street, but that is not the only crossover between hard-core scientific computing and the commercial world. Scientific research progresses because researchers constantly come up with new ways to meet the challenges thrown up by their research goals.

The human face of science

The international pharmaceutical industry has been phenomenally successful over the past couple of decades in decreasing the burden of human suffering - at least for those of us fortunate enough to live in the prosperous market economies of the developed countries.

All things to all users

What is scientific computing? This may seem a strange question for me to pose in the leader column of a magazine that has flourished for many years by providing articles on precisely this topic for its readers. If we don't know what scientific computing is, who would?

Escape from the cell block

Conventional spreadsheets are limited by the fact that each cell holds a single scalar value. Felix Grant finds that DADiSP 2002 - nominally a spreadsheet - breaks through these limitation.

Palm Beach

A lot of good software is available to allow scientists to take their work with them in the palms of their hands, says Felix Grant.

A model miscellany

Felix Grant tests out some analytical software tools, as proposed by readers of the Scientific Computing World website

A new era for this publication.

Perceptive readers of this issue of Scientific Computing World may notice a subtle difference. The magazine is now under the ownership of Europa Science. This dedicated science-publishing company has been formed jointly by the two organisations that have been working on the magazine for the past three years: Cambridge Publishers, and 2020 Communications.

War, scientific computing, and the future

Scientific computing and international politics seem unrelated topics, yet we live in an age suffused with technology to the extent that all political decisions are, inescapably, conditioned by technology. Surprisingly topical, perhaps, is computational fluid dynamics. As the shadows of war darken the global scene, many commentators warn that the issues at stake are not only those of weapons of mass destruction but also those of energy supply and security. All market economies are critically dependent on supplies of oil, because few materials offer its benefits of portability and high energy density.

Will computing reduce mountains to molehills?

Scientific Computing World is published from Cambridge, England, an area of the country notorious for the flatness of its landscape, without the merest vestige of a hill. There is a modest irony, therefore, that the common theme of the articles in this issue of the magazine is 'mountains'.

Yours, free to keep...

From a dune in the depths of the Sahel desert, Felix Grant accessed free statistics software using a handheld. But, he discovered, there are costs other than monetary ones.

e pluribus unum?

Contemporary science is a huge undertaking, ranging from the inanimate and almost unimaginably enormous, as in cosmology, to the study of living processes, as in molecular biology and ecology. So varied and diverse does today's science appear that it is difficult sometimes to see the threads linking such apparently different intellectual disciplines. It is very pleasing therefore that this issue of Scientific Computing World contains some pertinent reminders of common themes and common methods.

Science and the gradual breakthrough

One of the staples of popular science journalism is that every development and every discovery tend to be breathlessly reported as a 'breakthrough'. My own favourite is the article in the British newspaper, The Sunday Times, reporting the discovery of a 'gene' for asthma which, the reporter went on to say, would lead to a cure for asthma within five years. The report appeared 15 years ago.

Will computing reduce mountains to molehills?

Scientific Computing World is published from Cambridge, England, an area of the country notorious for the flatness of its landscape, without the merest vestige of a hill. There is a modest irony, therefore, that the common theme of the articles in this issue of the magazine is 'mountains'.

Science by the book

Tom Wilkie argues that scientific computing holds the answer to the questions posed by Schrödinger in his classic book What is Life?

An education in add-ins

Felix Grant tried out StatTools on some new users, who found the whole experience painlessly educational

Just a small step to phaser stun guns...

Thanks to Star Trek, a couple of generations of us have been brought up to believe that space was the final frontier (and that it was permissible to split infinitives... albeit boldly).

Only connect...

Felix Grant used Origin and SigmaPlot to understand the effects of industrialisation on groundwater and, in a modest way, to help after the tsunami.

Automating innovation?

One of the fears at the start of the information technology age was 'de-skilling': word-processors would replace typists, and automated machine-tools would make factory workers redundant. Even those with scientific training have felt the effects of such developments: software has made many of the mathematical techniques that I learned at university redundant.

A life of freedom

John Murphy profiles the founder of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Scientists do not work in isolation

The phrase 'science and technology' always appears with the words in that order. Implicit in the ordering is an assumption that there is a sort of unidirectional flow: science first produces the knowledge and then this is applied in the form of technology. It's akin to the 'central dogma' of molecular biology: that DNA makes RNA makes protein. Information travels along a one-way street.

A free lunch, anybody?

Free maths software is available over the Internet, but Ray Girvan thinks that many users may still prefer to pay

Inventive problem solving

Ray Girvan investigates TRIZ; a methodology for formalising the invention process according to empirical rules

Tools to make things simple

Brian Ritchie, President and CEO of Blackstone Computing, tells Tom Wilkie how to get scientists doing more science and less computing.

Are clusters, the Grid, and peer to peer, supplanting supercomputers?

And furthermore...

Felix Grant takes a look at some of the latest specialist add-in modules for stats packages

Forging links to form the LIMS team

The few months since our last LIMS round-up have witnessed a raft of new collaboration and integration initiatives. Vanessa Spedding brings things up to date

mathematica creator turns author

A few months ago, Stephen Wolfram was probably best known in scientific computing circles for his outstanding practical contribution to the field as creator of the popular Mathematica software package. However, with the publicity surrounding the launch of A New Kind of Science, it's hard to be unaware now of his other credentials as a prodigy who skipped school and a first degree to receive a CalTech PhD in theoretical physics at 20.

Can software save us from recession?

Picture the analytical chemist, using a laboratory information management system (LIMS) to check process quality control. Or an engineer using maths software to calculate the flow of air over a wing or a new design of motorcar.

Genstat for Windows 9th Edition

This latest version of VSN's heavyweight flagship, a substantial update like all its predecessors, is everything that users would expect from its long development history rooted in practical experience at the coalface. It also builds on recent work to dramatically enhance the facilities for exploratory users.

Keeping the top job

Dona Crawford, associate director for computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Endangered engineers

Nick Morris talks to Chris Randles, CEO of Mathsoft, and Alan Stevens, an engineer from Rolls-Royce, to examine the state of the mathematical modelling sector

Different paths to one goal

The trend in laboratory informatics is towards integration of software with instruments and with enterprise resource planning software. Different vendors have different ways of achieving this end and it has driven take-overs and mergers, according to Peter Rees

Fuel from the past

Although they derive from redundant Victorian prototypes, fuel cells are sometimes regarded as a power source for the future. But first, as Ray Girvan describes, there is a lot of scientific computing to be done

Grid powers up at ISIS

Getting CPU-intensive computations to run faster used to mean buying a new computer. Not any more, reports Kenneth Shankland and Tom Griffin

The colour of the past

Mathematical operations on an array of pixels, made easy by software such as Matlab, can reveal the surface of Venus and the world of pre-Revolutionary Russia, Ray Girvan discovers

In place of innovation... Integration

In different disciplines and across companies of different sizes, Tom Wilkie finds convergent trends of integration and interoperability that will shape scientific computing

Archive with care

Recording research data electronically sounds like a good idea; but, Peter Rees asks, can you produce that information in court 50 years later?

Making waves - singly

First observed in the waters of a Scottish canal, solitary waves, or solitons, have applications right across physics, Ray Girvan discovers

Easing the way to fuels paradise

Using a novel combination of maths and text software, Felix Grant has made it easier to explore the uncertainties of alternative energy policy

Joining up the data from clinical trials

Clinical trials, not finding new chemical entities, are the most costly aspect of drug development. Peter Rees looks at the software solutions that might make clinical trials cheaper and faster

Sound sense

Ray Girvan reports on sonification - the representation of data as sound. Well-established in applications for the visually impaired, it has far wider scientific possibilities

Joining up the data from clinical trials

Clinical trials, not finding new chemical entities, are the most costly aspect of drug development. Peter Rees looks at the software solutions that might make clinical trials cheaper and faster

The beat goes on

A well (or badly!) timed baseball to the chest can cause cardiac fibrillation. Ray Girvan explores how science is unlocking the secrets of the human heart

Better records lead to faster science

Electronic signatures can bring a ninefold increase in laboratory throughput, Peter Rees discovered. But first, companies may have to throw away popular software

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