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Stephen Wolfram: Computing a theory of everything

by TED Talks - 8 June 2010

So I want to talk today about an idea. It’s a big idea. Actually, I think it’ll eventually be seen as probably the single biggest idea that’s emerged in the past century. It’s the idea of computation. Now, of course, that idea has brought us all of the computer technology we have today and so on. But there’s actually a lot more to computation than that. It’s really a very deep, very powerful, very fundamental idea, whose effects we’ve only just begun to see.

Well, I myself have spent the past 30 years of my life working on three large projects that really try to take the idea of computation seriously. So I started off at a young age as a physicist using computers as tools. Then, I started sort of drilling down, thinking about the computations I might want to do, trying to figure out what primitives they could be built up from and how they could be automated as much as possible. Eventually, I created a whole structure based on symbolic programming and so on that let me build Mathematica. And for the past 23 years, at an increasing rate, we’ve been pouring more and more ideas and capabilities and so on into Mathematica, and I’m happy to say that’s led to many good things in R and D and education, lots of other areas. Well, I have to admit, actually, that I also had a very selfish reason for building Mathematica. I wanted to use it myself, a bit like Galileo got to use his telescope 400 years ago. But I wanted to look, not at the astronomical universe, but at the computational universe.

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Argentina: Celebrating the Bicentennial on the Web

by Jorge Gobbi - 25 May 2010

Argentina has been celebrating 200th anniversary of the beginning of the process of emancipation from Spain, which started back on May 25, 1810. At the time, a local committee decided to remove the Spanish viceroy and to begin the process of creating and independent government. As part of the celebrations, between May 21-25, there will be multiple activities, stands from the different Argentinean Provinces, shows, and the reopening of the Colón Theater. Hundreds of thousands of people are participating of the activities, which will take place until next Tuesday where people will gather at 9 de Julio Avenue near the Obelisk in the capital, Buenos Aires.

To cover the festivities using online tools, a group of bloggers created the site Tu Bicentenario [es] (Your Bicentennial), where they combine different web services to create real-time coverage, with the hashtag #bicentenarioarg [es]. In this short interview, Vanina Berghella [es], Nicolás Piccoli, and Alvaro Liuzzi [es] spoke about the project’s goals.

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Lalitesh Katragadda: Making maps to fight disaster, build economies

by Pablo Matamoros - 8 March 2010

In 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar. Millions of people were in severe need of help. The U.N. wanted to rush people and supplies to the area. But there were no maps, no maps of roads, no maps showing hospitals, no way for help to reach the cyclone victims.

When we look at a map of Los Angeles, or London it is hard to believe that as of 2005 only 15 percent of the world was mapped to a geocodable level of detail. The U.N. ran headfirst into a problem that the majority of the world’s populous faces: not having detailed maps.

But help was coming. At Google, 40 volunteers used a new software to map 120,000 kilometers of roads, 3,000 hospitals, logistics and relief points. And it took them four days. The new software they used? Google Mapmaker.

Google Mapmaker is a technology that empowers each of us to map what we know locally. People have used this software to map everything from roads to rivers, from schools to local businesses, and video stores to the corner store.

Maps matter. Nobel Prize nominee Hernando De Soto recognized that key to economic liftoff for most developing countries is to tap the vast amounts of uncapitalized land. For example, a trillion dollars of real estate remains uncapitalized in India alone.

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