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Posted by Rob Knies
People love to watch animals. That’s why zoos exist. That’s why photographic safaris command princely sums. That’s why cat videos have become an unstoppable force.
Lucas Joppa loves to watch animals, too, but his motivation includes an additional dimension. A scientist in the Computational Ecology and Environmental Sciences (CEES) group at Microsoft Research Cambridge, Joppa heads the Conservation Science Research Unit, which focuses on his key interests: science, policy, and tools and technology.
On Feb. 24, Joppa and his CEES colleagues took yet another step toward melding a couple of those interests by offering for download ZooTracer, a desktop tool that can be used to trace animal movement by using consumer video equipment.
Today’s burgeoning interest in big data offers tremendous potential for driving services that promise to transform our future. That promise, though, doesn’t come without significant effort.Harnessing the power of big data requires an unprecedented understanding of complex systems. Scalable computational tools are a necessity, as is the ability to comprehend and devise the sorts of scientific questions to extract meaning from masses of data.But that’s not all, says Sharad Goel, senior researcher at Microsoft Research New York City.
It’s mid-February, and the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards have been public for a month. Fans are scrambling to watch all the nominated films they can find. Film buffs debate the talents of Blanchett and Bullock until closing time. Excited partygoers and party throwers are planning feverishly.David Rothschild, too, has his own Oscars preparations in the works. He’s not watching the movies, though. Instead, he’s focusing on the data associated with them.You might recall that Rothschild, an economist from Microsoft Research New York City, made his initial foray into predicting the winners of the Oscars in 2013—and that his forecasts proved accurate in 19 of the 24 Academy Awards categories.Now, he is attempting to improve upon that already gaudy record in the days leading to March 2, when members of the film community gather at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre for the opening of the envelopes from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Some people, it seems, are simply born to be computer-science researchers.Take Youssef Hamadi, for example. Earlier this week, he was asked a question about challenges he had encountered during a research project. His response began by sharing this revealing nugget:“As a kid, I remember reading that 70 percent of the code written every day is not new,” he recalled. “This is one of the reasons why I decided to become a researcher: to write innovative code every day.”Youssef Hamadi was born for the Bing Code Search project.
It’s a mouthful. The citation for the A.M. Turing Award presented to Butler Lampson 22 years ago reads as follows:For contributions to the development of distributed, personal computing environments and the technology for their implementation: workstations, networks, operating systems, programming systems, displays, security, and document publishing.As amazing as it might seem, Lampson, indeed, has made seminal contributions to all of these foundational computing advances. His career is as accomplished as imaginable. Oh, the stories that could be told …On Feb. 13, they will be.