Archive for December 2011
I was delighted to hear this morning that Beti Williams had been made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to women in sciences, engineering and technology in the 2012 New Year Honours List (full open data list of recipients here).
Beti has worked tirelessly on promoting computer science and IT careers in Wales, primarily as Director of ITWales for 15 years and a founder of BCS Women in Wales. Prior to her retirement, Beti was instrumental in obtaining EU funding for two projects worth £20m: Software Alliance Wales (creation of a pan-Wales knowledge network for software developers) and Technocamps (which aims to promote and support the study of computer science in schools and colleges). In 1996, Beti was a finalist in the Welsh Woman of the Year and in 2006 was the winner of the Best Woman in Technology (Public Sector/Academia category) in the Blackberry Woman of the Year Awards.
Thoroughly deserved. Congratulations Beti!
In September 1956, IBM launched the 305 RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control), the first commercial computer that used a moving-head hard disk drive (as opposed to sequential access magnetic tape storage).
The RAMAC’s disk storage unit, the IBM 350, weighed over a ton, had to be moved around with forklifts, and was delivered via large cargo airplanes (as above). It stored approximately 5MB of data: five million 8-bit characters on fifty 24-inch-diameter disks, a form of drum memory. It consisted of two independent access arms that moved up and down to select a disk, and in and out to select a recording track, all under servo control. The average time to locate a single record was 600ms (c.f. the seek times for modern hard disk drives of 5-10ms). IBM touted the system as being able to store the equivalent of 64,000 punched cards.
Over a thousand IBM 305 RAMAC systems were built, which were leased for $3,200 per month, equivalent to a purchase price of about $160,000 in 1957 dollars (approximately $1.3m today). The 305 was one of the last vacuum tube computers that IBM built, with production ending in 1961.
A representative for Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (which acquired IBM’s hard disk drive business in 2002), stated in a Wall Street Journal interview in 2006 that the storage capacity of the drive could have been increased beyond 5MB, but IBM’s marketing department was against a larger capacity drive because they were unsure how to sell a product with more storage…(oh, how times have changed).
(HT to Retronaut for this post)
Scientists, journal editors, community organisations and writers are asking everyone concerned about the impact of the libel laws on open discussions to let their MP know they want to see libel reform in the Queen’s Speech in May 2012.
This is something that I have written about a number of times: all of the undersigned have faced or been threatened with libel actions. Please help by contacting your MP (see TheyWorkForYou), signing the petition and spreading the libel reform message.
We are writing as people who have battled libel threats and actions to ask for your help to make sure reform of the laws gets into next year’s Queen’s Speech, which sets the legislative agenda for 2012.
People are still being threatened by a law that allows the rich and powerful to bully critics and shut down public debate. Libel reform needs urgent action. The campaign and all its supporters have worked hard to persuade the Ministry of Justice to draw up an effective Defamation Bill, but if it is not in the Queen’s Speech in the spring, then libel reform will be delayed for at least another year, which will be a victory for those who want to silence honest criticism. We can’t bear to let this opportunity slip away.
We know we will have to battle against those who want to delay or derail libel reform, and the best way to get our message across is to lobby MPs for support. Please help us by clicking here to send an email to your MP so they know that all we want for Christmas is our MPs to back the inclusion of libel reform in the Queen’s Speech.
Dr Ben Goldacre
Dr Peter Wilmshurst
Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor in Chief, BMJ
Dr Philip Campbell, Editor in Chief, Nature
Justine Roberts, Founder and CEO, Mumsnet
Richard Dunstan, Social Policy Officer, Citizens Advice
David Osler, journalist
Professor David Colquhoun
Professor Francisco Lacerda
Rhys Morgan, blogger
John Gray, blogger
I have a huge interest in the outcomes of the National Curriculum review in England, primarily through my work with Computing At School (CAS), but also its impact on education policy in Wales. With the BCS Academy of Computing (the learned society dedicated to advancing computing as an academic discipline), CAS submitted a response to the call for evidence in April 2011; one of the main aims was to highlight to the Department for Education that computer science is a rigorous academic subject distinct from digital literacy and for it to be considered separately from ICT in the National Curriculum review. This letter to Michael Gove in June 2011 from the BCS and high-profile tech industry leaders further reinforced the strategic national importance of computer science to industry and the UK economy.
Here are two key snippets from the Expert Panel’s report (page 24):
Despite their importance in balanced educational provision, we are not entirely persuaded of claims that design and technology, information and communication technology and citizenship have sufficient disciplinary coherence to be stated as discrete and separate National Curriculum ‘subjects’.
We recommend that…Information and communication technology is reclassified as part of the Basic Curriculum and requirements should be established so that it permeates all National Curriculum subjects. We have also noted the arguments, made by some respondents to the Call for Evidence, that there should be more widespread teaching of computer science in secondary schools. We recommend that this proposition is properly considered.
This has come a week after a rather damning Ofsted report on ICT in schools, which says that only one third of secondary schools achieve ‘Good’ or better at teaching ICT. There is clearly still a lot of work to be done to ensure that we are developing the appropriate level of computational skills in schools (irrespective of what the subject is called), but this statement from the Expert Panel is certainly a positive step (although “We recommend that this proposition is properly considered.” is a bizarre turn of phrase, with little commitment). I am also concerned that embeddding ICT across the curriculum has been attempted before, with little success.
Let’s see what the Royal Society’s report says in January.
Last week, the EPSRC announced the 43 successful researchers who have been awarded fellowships totalling £36M to “help develop their potential as the next generation of world-leading scientists and engineers.“
After a recent reorganisation of their fellowship programmes, the EPSRC now provide a number of personal fellowships to early career and well-established researchers to carry out ambitious programmes of research, usually over a five-year period. These fellowships fund the recipient and enable them to build a research team around a specific topic area; they are prestigious and highly coveted by those within the EPSRC‘s remit.
However, as discussed on the Dundee Physics blog, the EPSRC‘s press release appeared to focus more on the funding infrastructure and process (perhaps indirectly supporting Shaping Capability), rather than highlighting the excellence of the researchers (who, seemingly as an afterthought, were named at the end of the press release). This is in stark contrast to the recent announcement of the Royal Society’s 2011 University Research Fellowships.
Career Acceleration Fellowships
|EPSRC Ref.||PI||Organisation||Title||Value (£)|
|EP/J002062/1||Ross, Dr J||University of Cambridge||Links between Algebraic Geometry and Complex Analysis||693,701|
|EP/J002658/1||Dembele, Dr L||University of Warwick||Explicit methods for algebraic automorphic forms||589,359|
|EP/J001317/1||Jeffrey, Dr M||University of Bath||When Worlds Collide: the asymptotics of interacting systems||349,723|
|EP/J001686/1||Majumdar, Dr A||University of Oxford||The Mathematics of Liquid Crystals – Analysis, Computation and Applications||501,887|
|EP/J00149X/1||Haynes, Dr A||University of Bristol||Circle rotations and their generalisations in Diophantine approximation||590,969|
|EP/J002437/1||House, Dr TA||University of Warwick||Disease transmission and control in complex, structured populations||632,534|
|EP/J001872/1||O’Hara, Dr C||University of Strathclyde||Chiral Concepts in s-Block Metal Amide Chemistry||907,993|
|EP/J002194/1||Hofferberth, Dr S||University of Nottingham||Few-Photon Nonlinear Optics in Ultracold Rydberg Gases||1,142,329|
|EP/J002208/1||Kerridge, Dr A||University College London||Theoretical studies of actinide complexation with macrocyclic ligands: identifying synthetic targets and real-world applications||594,433|
|EP/J002615/1||McLain, Dr S||University of Oxford||Structural studies of atomic interactions in membranes: bridging the gap between physics and membrane biology||1,345,845|
|EP/J001821/1||Leek, Dr PJ||University of Oxford||Strong coupling and coherence in hybrid solid state quantum systems||892,726|
|EP/J002275/1||Hayward, Dr T J||University of Sheffield||MAGNETISM YOU CAN RELY ON: Understanding Stochastic Behaviour in Nanomagnetic Devices.||698,105|
|EP/J002542/1||Galan, Dr M||University of Bristol||Novel ionic-based tools for glycoscience||920,060|
|EP/J002550/1||Kar, Dr S||Queen’s University of Belfast||Next generation laser-driven neutron sources for ultrafast studies||617,279|
|EP/J002518/1||Graham, Dr DM||The University of Manchester||Terahertz electron paramagnetic resonance: A window on biological exploitation of quantum mechanics||755,989|
|EP/J002577/1||Eden, Dr SP||Open University||Electron attachment to biomolecular clusters: probing the role of multiple scattering in radio-sensitivity.||618,329|
|EP/J002348/1||Zair, Dr A||Imperial College London||CADAM: Capturing Attosecond Dynamics in Atoms and Molecules||697,864|
|EP/J001538/1||Bull, Dr JA||Imperial College London||Novel strategies to access chiral heterocycles as potential lead compounds in drug discovery||723,115|
|EP/J002305/1||Barnes, Dr P R F||Imperial College London||Charge Carrier Dynamics and Molecular Wiring in Hybrid Optoelectronic Devices||722,816|
|EP/J002534/1||Greaves, Dr S J||University of Bristol||Dynamics of Gas-Liquid Reactions; The Pseudo-Surface Approach||1,059,463|
|EP/J002259/1||Hubert, Dr C||Newcastle University||DEEPBIOENGINEERING||985,943|
|EP/J002186/1||NGODUY, Dr D||University of Leeds||Advanced traffic flow theory and control for heterogeneous intelligent traffic networks||480,598|
|EP/J002380/1||Eames, Dr M||University of Exeter||The development of an early stage thermal model to protect against uncertainty and morbidity in buildings under predicted climate change||506,058|
|EP/J002356/1||Dean, Dr P||University of Leeds||Coherent detection and manipulation of terahertz quantum cascade lasers||695,589|
|EP/J002224/1||Brotherston, Dr J||Queen Mary, University of London||Logical Foundations of Resource||465,503|
|EP/J002607/1||Sadrzadeh, Dr M||University of Oxford||Foundational Structures for Compositional Meaning||529,968|
|EP/J002526/1||Yamagishi, Dr J||University of Edinburgh||Deep architectures for statistical speech synthesis||741,163|
|EP/J001953/1||Mather, Dr M||University of Nottingham||Self-assembling Liposome Nano-transducers||733,385|
|EP/J002402/1||Ebbens, Dr S||University of Sheffield||Using Self-Assembling Swimming Devices to Control Motion at the Nanoscale||896,741|
|EP/J002100/1||Reddyhoff, Dr T||Imperial College London||Triboemission and Boundary Film Formation||719,805|
|EPSRC Ref.||PI||Organisation||Title||Value (£)|
|EP/J003948/1||Gelfreykh, Dr V||University of Warwick||Unstable Dynamics in Hamiltonian Systems||821,038|
|EP/J004022/1||Luczak, Professor MJ||University of Sheffield||Stochastic models for epidemics in large populations: limiting and long-term behaviour||952,949|
|EP/J003840/1||Adjiman, Dr CS||Imperial College London||The molecular frontier: extending the boundaries of process design||1,278,003|
|EP/J004081/1||Reynolds, Dr P||University of Sheffield||Advanced Technologies for Mitigation of Human-Induced Vibration||1,056,999|
|EP/J003867/1||Alavi, Professor A||University of Cambridge||Quantum Monte Carlo meets Quantum Chemistry||968,120|
|EP/J003875/1||Bongs, Professor K||University of Birmingham||Dipolar Quantum Magnets||1,325,121|
|EP/J003832/1||McKenna, Professor P||University of Strathclyde||Multi-PetaWatt Laser-Plasma Interactions: A New Frontier in Physics||1,330,510|
|EP/J003859/1||Bresme, Dr F||Imperial College London||Novel thermo-molecular effects at nanoscale interfaces: from nanoparticles to molecular motors||1,181,480|
|EP/J003999/1||Gregoryanz, Dr E||University of Edinburgh||Synthesis and Studies of Novel States of Matter at Extreme Conditions||1,103,039|
|EP/J004049/1||Colton, Dr S||Imperial College London||Computational Creativity Theory||970,170|
|EP/J004057/1||Cohen, Professor N||University of Leeds||WHole Animal Modelling (WHAM): Toward the integrated understanding of sensory motor control in C. elegans||1,185,968|
|EP/J004111/1||Krasnogor, Professor N||University of Nottingham||Towards a Universal Biological-Cell Operating System (AUdACiOuS)||1,026,408|
|EP/J003964/1||Rosser, Dr SJ||University of Glasgow||A synthetic biology approach to optimisation of microbial fuel cell electricity production||960,594|
Chwarae Teg, in partnership with the Science Council, are undertaking comparative research in the career paths of men and women across Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries in Wales. The survey is intended to be completed by men and women who either live or studied in Wales and hold a post-16 STEM qualification; for most people this will mean education and training undertaken after having completed your O-Levels/GCSEs.
Targeted subjects include: Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer Science, Engineering, Biology, Geography, Geology, Forensic Science, Psychology, Sports Science and Archaeological Sciences.
The research will explore why women and girls do not progress into STEM careers in Wales; it forms part of the Agile Nation project run by Chwarae Teg, funded by the European Social Fund and Welsh Government.
Please complete the survey (also available in Welsh) and pass along to your colleagues and networks in Wales. The deadline for the survey is Tuesday 20th December 2011.
There are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies, and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. The first method is far more difficult.
In October, Iain Gray (CEO of the Technology Strategy Board), ahead of a visit to Wales, compiled a list of 50 high-technology and innovation-led businesses and organisation across North and South Wales; I made a Storify of the tweets before I found his blog post.
- Creative Industries
- Information, Communication and Technology (ICT)
- Energy and Environment
- Advanced Materials and Manufacturing
- Life Sciences
- Financial and Professional Services
- Food and Farming
The list correlates to the first five of these priority sectors — it is in no particular order, and there are, of course, many businesses not included. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see the diverse range of innovation and high-value R&D in Wales across these five sectors, highlighting that there is a strong underpinning research base from Welsh universities, along with investment from both government and industry (but clearly more is needed). I have particular interest in the composition of this list due to the importance of the ICT sector (with its associated key priorities): I sit on the Welsh Government’s Strategy Group for the Digital Wales Research Hub, which aims to develop organisational and funding strategies to complement the RCUK Digital Economy Programme. The Hub will bring together industry, universities and funding bodies to facilitate the delivery of open, innovative and collaborative R&D related to the Digital Economy; creation of the Hub is a cornerstone of the Welsh Government’s Delivering a Digital Wales agenda.
More information about the Digital Wales Research Hub to follow in early 2012!