Much scientific research across a range of disciplines tries to find linear approximations of nonlinear behaviors. But what does that mean?

by Larry Hardesty

Spend some time browsing around the web site of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of documents with titles like “On Modeling Nonlinear Shape-and-Texture Appearance Manifolds” and “Non-linear Drawing systems,” or, on the contrary, titles like “Packrat Parsing: Simple, Powerful, Lazy, Linear Time” and “Linear-Time-Encodable and List-Decodable Codes.”

by Larry Hardesty

The World Wide Web Consortium weighs in on government transparency

On May 21, the day the White House unveiled its Open Government Initiative, it also launched the website data.gov, which put information like Medicare cost reports, residential energy consumption and toxic waste reports online. Finding new technical means to make data accessible is central to the Obama administration's plans for increasing government transparency, and as those plans unfold, the administration will have growing support from the World Wide Web Consortium's eGovernment interest group.

A new study by a University of Warwick researcher has demonstrated that researchers trying to model a range of processes could use the power and capabilities of a particular XBox chip as a much cheaper alternative to other forms of parallel processing hardware.

Dr Simon Scarle, a researcher in the University of Warwick’s WMG Digital Laboratory, wished to model how electrical excitations in the heart moved around damaged cardiac cells in order to investigate or even predict cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal electrical activity in the heart which can lead to a heart attack). To conduct these simulations using traditional CPU based processing one would normally need to book time on a dedicated parallel processing computer or spend thousands on a parallel network of PCs.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) announced today that it is expanding collaborations with the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund, the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, and the Life Sciences Research Foundation in order to increase support for outstanding postdoctoral researchers.

HHMI will now provide each organization with support for eight postdoctoral fellows a year – double the current number – and expand the reach of the program.

NASA and Microsoft Corp. announced Tuesday plans to make planetary images and data available via the Internet under a Space Act Agreement. Through this project, NASA and Microsoft jointly will develop the technology and infrastructure necessary to make the most interesting NASA content -- including high-resolution scientific images and data from Mars and the moon -- explorable on WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft's online virtual telescope for exploring the universe.

"Making NASA's scientific and astronomical data more accessible to the public is a high priority for NASA, especially given the new administration's recent emphasis on open government and transparency," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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