Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Science and the Internet

There are some interesting points in a recent online article by Martin Rees (president of the Royal Society and a very well-regarded astrophysicist). The article as a whole is very interesting and well worth a read, but a few ideas particularly grabbed me.
  • the Internet enables wider participation in front-line science
  • it allows new styles of research (for example, mining large publicly available data-sets)
  • scientific discoveries can now be made by 'brute force' number crunching (e.g. exhaustive computational searches), as well as the more traditional methods of experiment, insight (and I would add theoretical calculation to the list)
I would also add another point to this list.
  • the Internet gives us faster access to resources, so we can get science done more quickly. For example, literature searches are much easier and faster to do when the papers are online and can be found via Google Scholar or similar.
Science achieved so much in the 20th century, but all of the above makes me really enthused about how much (more?) we're doing right now and what we'll achieve in the next couple of decades...

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