Science has made a transition, adding a third pillar of Computational Science to the traditional methods of Theory and Experiment.
Prof. George Lake, the institute director: We gather increasingly large datasets, ones that contain information that will never be “seen” by any human. We must organize that data to mine and combine it with models to understand our world. These are techniques that apply equally to social, biological and physical sciences. Even the humanities are being changed by the “digital perspective”.
The 21st century scientists trained by the University of Zurich need to be familiar with computational thinking—the organization of into data structures, the ability to abstract key problems, to think in algorithmic terms and to fix problems that arise from dealing with the “narrow mindedness” of present-day computers (debugging). This goes beyond the computational literacy of using a modern library and using software for composition and planning. It’s computational critical thinking. Programming is a key tool for this hands-on inquiry based mode of science, but programming is just the first acquisition of skills to make the rest happen.
Increasing, fields are transforming into information sciences. There were early large datasets from the particle physics accelerators and sky surveys. There were early extremely large simulations in astrophysics. Our Institute reflects with pioneering aspects of those fields as information sciences. But, now, there is the hierarchy of biological data that is transforming anthropology to zoology into information sciences. The amount of information captured on social behavior is staggering. In many of these fields, they are still in an early stage of morphology and taxonomy, understanding the static interconnections of people into communities and societies or the grouping of genes into pathways. Increasingly, we will see more dynamics and modeling on these networks.
The Institute will coordinate the coming transformation of Big Data Science at UZH. The distinguished statistician G. Jogesh Babu has an excellent commentary on Big Data in Astrophysics. Prof. Moore and Dr. Stadel participated in the John’s Hopkins “Datascope Project” in 2012, moving 2.8PB of data from their Silver River simulation to this novel interactive environment. Currently, we have 1PB of spinning data from our simulations and this has a doubling time less than a year.
Please browse our web site. Look at our simulations. Come back as we put up materials that will help UZH students join this scientific revolution. Hack! Debug! Discover!