New tech helping labs go virtual

Advanced scientific tools like high-powered telescopes and DNA sequencing systems have provided researchers with a tsunami of data to interpret. Well, many large computers are actually doing much of the analysis of those data, making scientific instruments and computing systems as strongly linked as ever before.

A New York Times story, which is definitely worth reading, provides some examples of how software and computing power are helping researchers do more their work in the virtual world and investigate huge amounts of data. Here are a few of the technologies that the story covers:

  • Katy Börner, a computer scientist at Indiana University, explained the concept of a "macroscope," which is a new type of computer-based scientific instrument that combines a physical presence with customizable software that can be tweaked to address different research problems.
  • There's a nice description of what is known as "Scalable Adaptive Graphics Environment," an operating system of sorts for visual information. The software is used in a lab at Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which shares high-resolution images and research over the Internet with collaborators in the United States.
  • A research group at the University of California, San Diego--known as the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, or Calit2--is developing mobile systems called OptiPortables, which are portable systems that provide multiple LCD screens that can display research data. The systems, which build on previous efforts to help visual information keep apace with ever-increasing computing capacity, can be set up quickly and help researchers operate in remote areas.

"The profound thing is that today all scientific instruments have computing intelligence inside, and that's a huge change," Larry Smarr, an astrophysicist at Calit2, told the Times.

- read the New York Times story
- check out this recent report on OptiPortables

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