Computation meets Data Science in London, Thursday 5 March

Computation meets Data Science in London, Thursday 5 March

I'm usually going on about "computation" or in education, "maths". But I've come to appreciate just how much of computation's utility in modern life centres around data (rather than, say, algebraic modelling).

Clearly data science is a major, growing and vital field—one that's relatively new in its current incarnation. It's been born and is driven forward by new technology, our abilities to collect, store, transmit and "process" ever larger quantities of data.

But "processing" has often failed to elucidate what's important in the data. We need answers, not just analytics, we need decisions not just big data.

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A visit from the Prime Minister

It was great to welcome David Cameron, British Prime Minister, officially to open our new Wolfram Centre in Oxfordshire, UK today.

Rather than a traditional plaque unveiling, we went virtual: an iPad button wirelessly firing off a sequence on a nearby TV, the ending "plaque" presenting live data captured at the moment of unveiling--the current weather, FTSE level, star chart and even the PM's age of 16562 days.

More seriously, we talked two topics I believe are key Britain's hi-tech role: making government data truly accessible (to citizens and government(!) alike) and resetting maths education to be computer-based--both more conceptual and more practical.

It's interesting how much the first chimed with the PM's 2010 TED talk about people empowerment in a "post bureaucratic age". It was fun showing how Wolfram|Alpha queries and interactive CDF could serve this agenda (including through Siri), and how the problem-centred approach of computerbasedmath.org might give the UK an opportunity to leapfrog other countries in STEM.

It's clear that the PM is keen to see Britain as a bold new tech and information hub, able to punch above its weight in reshaping the value-chain of knowledge, or what I've described before as the "computational knowledge economy".

In our unusual kind of way, I believe we can contribute unique facets to driving this agenda.

Amazing: iPhone app got my father a pacemaker

Heart rate.PNG

Last week I had downloaded this heart monitor app, intrigued at how it used a finger placed over a phone's camera to work out your pulse.

My father was visiting so I showed him the app for fun. He's 86 and has had a few issues with walking etc. but that wasn't on my mind. The app read 36bpm--way low (as Wolfram|Alpha confirms). My wife, ophthalmologist Stella Hornby, checked. It really was 36bpm; she was sure he had a heart block. After some effort we pursuaded him to hospital. They confirmed the diagnosis where this morning he had a pacemaker fitted (rather a quick turnaround by the UK NHS, I thought).

This result is all the more amazing as 3 years ago my wife thought my father might have carotid sinus syndrome, and that a pacemaker would be the likely treatment. But on visiting the cardiologist, he couldn't find anything (heart rate was fine while they were measuring it) and so nothing was conclusively diagnosed, and no treatment given.

What an example of the power of interactive apps and the future of self-monitoring!

Making "knowledge apps" as easily as charts

Tomorrow we're holding our first Computational Knowledge Summit and in preparation for my opening talk I made this simple knowledge app example so I can demo it live.

With our forthcoming widget-building technology and Wolfram|Alpha API, it was pretty much as simple to make as a chart, yet it's packed-in a vastly higher density of information.

Watch this space!