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Big Impact

Mark Matthews

A generation from now we may look back on the Internet as just one phase in a long revolution. If so, a new phase is well under way, as Tom Grose explains in our cover story on Big Data. The Internet’s search and sharing functions, combined with ever faster computing as predicted by Moore’s Law, have given us access to immense amounts of information. By 2015, the world will contain the digital equivalent of some 700,000 Libraries of Congress. Now computer scientists are finding ways to crunch the numbers and extract meaning from these huge data sets. Their tools, researchers predict, will enable breakthroughs in science, medicine, commerce, and national security. Lifesaving possibilities include early warning of epidemics and medical prescriptions that fit a person’s DNA. Increasingly, these data tools will become simpler to use and widely available, thanks to work by researchers like Cecilia Aragon, a pioneer in human-computer interaction and the subject of our Up Close profile.

It may seem odd for a nation that introduced the Prius and is a leader in robotics to find itself in a rut, but that’s Japan in 2012, struggling to recover from last year’s tsunami and nuclear disasters. There are glimmers of hope amid the gloom, however. One is the new research institute on the Okinawa coast described by Lucy Craft in “Einsteins on the Beach.” Our headline shamelessly borrows from the title of an opera by Philip Glass, but it fits the world-class ambitions of this graduate-level haven that flouts many Japanese academic conventions.

Elsewhere in Prism, you’ll find biographies of candidates for ASEE’s Board of Directors, as well as their statements. In Last Word, Tom Peterson offers priorities for engineering from the perspective of his four years at the National Science Foundation.

While we strive to put out the best magazine possible, we at ASEE want to make sure it continues to interest readers. So we’re asking you to join in an online survey intended to elicit what people like or dislike, and where we can improve. (You won’t miss the stunning survey ad by our designer, Yajaira Lockhart.)
We hope you enjoy this month’s Prism. We look forward to your comments.

Mark Matthews


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