Gratitude makes blessings permanent.
It is the uniquely wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving in the United States. It’s one of the few holidays that haven’t been completely sullied by commercialism although “Black Friday” is making a run at it. I’m thankful that my employer honors the Holiday unlike too many. It might be nice to list things to be thankful about in science and technology.
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
―John F. Kennedy
My job. All in all I’m pretty lucky. Beyond having enough money to have a comfortable life with food to eat, comfortable shelter and a few luxuries, I get to do what I love a little bit each week. I’ll save my concerns that the Labs where I work are a shadow of their former selves compared to the rest of the World, I’m doing great.
What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.
Modeling and simulation. The use of computers to solve problems in physics and engineering has become commonplace. Its common nature shouldn’t detract from the wonder we should feel. Our ability to construct virtual versions of reality is both wonderful for exploration, discovery and utility. The only thing that gives me pause is a bit of hubris regarding the scope of our mastery.
Algorithms. Systematic ways of solving problems that are amenable to computing fill me with wonder. The only regret is that we don’t rely upon this approach enough. An accurate, elegant and efficient algorithm is a thing of beauty. Couple the algorithm with mathematical theory and it is breathtaking.
Useful applied math. Mathematics is a wonderful tool if used properly. So much useful theory has been developed for so many aspects of science. Whenever mathematics is applied to bring order to an area of science I celebrate. It should be happening a lot more than it does, but when it does it’s great.
Technology is anything invented after you were born.
― Alan Kay
The end of Moore’s law. This is a great opportunity for science to quit being lazy. If we had relied upon more than raw power for improving computing, our ability to use computers today would be so much more awesome. Perhaps now, we will focus on thinking about how we use computers rather than simply focus on building bigger ones.
Innovative software. Is what makes the current computing revolution interesting. Perhaps science will start to understand how the key is software and not raw computing power. Software is evolving computing even with Moore’s law being on life support because it changes how we use computers constantly.
When we change the way we communicate, we change society
― Clay Shirky
The Internet and the World Wide Web. We are living through a great transformation in human society. The Internet is changing our society, our governance, our entertainment, and almost anything else you can imagine. The core is it changes the way we talk, and the way we get and share information. It makes each day interesting and is the spoon that stirs the proverbial pot.
Nuclear weapons. We owe the relative piece that the World has experienced since World War II to this horrible weapon. As long as they aren’t used they save lives and keep the great powers in check.
Turbulence. This is the gift that keeps giving. Turbulence is basically unsolved. It is also beautiful, important and pervasive. A breakthrough in understanding this bit of physics would be transformative.
Shock physics. Shocks are super cool. Energetic and destructive the drive to understand them drove early computing during World War II, and few realize the debt we owe to them. We understand far less about shock physics than we might admit, and it would be great to get back to focusing on discovery again.
Big data and statistics. Computers, sensors, drones and the internet of things is helping to drive the acquisition of data at levels unimaginable only a few years ago. With computers and software that can do something with it, we have a revolution in science. Statistics has become sexy and add statistics to sports and you combine two things that I love.
Genetics. The wonders of our knowledge of the genome seem boundless and shape knowledge gathering across many fields. Its impact on social science, archeology, paleontology to name a few is stunning. We have made incredible discoveries that expand the knowledge of humanity and provide wonder for all.
Our technology forces us to live mythically
― Marshall McLuhan
Modern medicine. Today we have all sorts of medicines and treatments that allow us to live and be productive with ailments that would have destroyed our lives a few generations ago.
Albuquerque sunsets. The coming together of optics, meteorology, and astronomy, the sunsets here are epically good. Add the color other the mountains opposite the setting sun and inspiration is never more than the end of the day away.
Sandia Mountain. A tribute to geology, the great shield, or half of a watermelon at sunset, it looks like home.
No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.