Tuesday, February 28, 2006

NASA World Wind

Seeing as I previously posted about Google Earth, I thought I should update with a post about NASA's open source World Wind tool. It's been around longer than Google Earth I believe, and has a lot more scientific focus - and it even includes the Moon! There are some great features looking at natural disasters, loading in real satellite pictures of cloud cover, simulating albedo changes and much more. The screenshot shows Hurricane Kate in 2003. I particularly enjoyed the Astrobiology Field Guide, which shows landmarks around the world where biologists have found life in unlikely places. The landmarks link to information pages on the NASA site explaining their significance.

NASA World Wind website (download the software here too)

Global Monitoring for Environment & Security

The European Commission and European Space Agency are cooperating on this initiative to bring together satellite monitoring systems with improved databases and other information technologies to offer better information on the environment.

I've tried to summarise some of the key points related to the environment from a recent communication about GMES.

GMES will enable stakeholders to monitor all kinds of interesting environmental data: - land cover for prediction and management of floods, forest fires and crop yields, monitoring deforestation, wetlands and other important habitats
- global atmospheric processes and chemistry;
– conditions of the global oceans.

It will also be able to give information on risks associated with fishing, agriculture, industrial activities and maritime transport, including oil spills and ice monitoring.

The areas of GMES that are data and computationally intensive require high performance networks and GRID20-based computing for the essential data mining,
sharing and analysing and visualisation of the results. GEANT might well be the infrastructure used, but I hope that BOINC infrastructures will also be used, as they are cheap and enable public participation in data analysis.

GMES is now regarded as the European contribution to the actions recommended at the World Sustainable Development Summit in Johannesburg. Let's just hope all this environmental data is published openly, so that it's easy for all kinds of people to get access to it. GMES will be operational from 2007.

GMES website
Recent communication on GMES to the European Council and European Parliament (PDF)

Friday, February 24, 2006

4th European Workshop on Evolutionary Music and Art

An interesting conference coming up in Budapest, Hungary on 10-12 April 2006. "The application of Evolutionary Computation (EC) techniques for the development of creative systems is a new, exciting and significant area of research. There is a growing interest in the application of these techniques in fields such as: art and music generation, analysis and interpretation; architecture; and design."

Full info here.

Pleo the robotic dinosaur

Digit news and Future Human Evolution report about a new robotic dinosaur, designed by the creator of Furby. "Pleo runs on a sophisticated operating system termed "LifeOS" by Christopher. Emotions are configured in an artificial intelligence engine using more than 50 algorithms to simulate hormones and sophisticated emotions. Christopher says Pleo has its own distinct personality -- not quite dinosaur, not quite human."

Digital humans

Wired reports that simulated humans are being used to test products. Caterpillar use them to build ergonomic machines. I'm slightly concerned though, as it assumes we know everything about how a human works - I'm not sure we do yet! go