Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Computational Science: A New Science Branch?

Raise your hand if you've never heard about computer science before. I bet no one. What about computational science? Have anyone heard about it before? Few, I believe.

As we know, computer science is a field that study theoretical and practical foundation of information and computation to be implemented in computer and computing systems. Computer scientist works in studying softwares and algorithms in create, describe, and transform the information, then applies it on the computer systems by build new softwares, improve the previous one, or even design a new system.

So, what about computational science? Computation itself needs theories and methods of computer science to process and analyze information. Generally, computation is used as a scientific method of certain research fields of science. This can be implied that the term 'computational science' refers to the scientific branch which solve the problem in science using a computational methods, which concerns to mathematical modelling, quantitative analysis and simulations.

There are several fields of science which broad its perspective using computational theories and methods. Some of the fields are physics, biology, chemistry, and material science. Other fields which also use it are linguistics and finance.

What is the basic skill of computational science? Sure, it's all on mathematics and programming! Anyone want to learn it has to face at least linear algebra, numerical analysis, and programming skills (the most popular maybe still on C language and FORTRAN). But it doesn't means that its object fields such as physics and biology get a cheesy part in the process. Anyone learning fields of computational science for biology, popularly called computational biology, have to understand basic principles of topic he/she want to analyze. For an example, if someone want to make a simulation of protein synthesis in cell, he/she has to understand the pathway of protein synthesis in the cell, without missing the detail of materials (enzymes, etc) and reactions needed. If that one is already understand about the basic knowledge, then he/she would be able to enter the computational process, like choosing what methods he/she can use and what kind of data is needed.

Hard!! Why on earth should this kind of science be invented and studied? Physics, finance, and other fields itself are already hard to learn. Quantum physics is already complex enough to learn, why should anyone want to model or make simulations of it? That's the point! There are a lot of science branches that are, in some reasons, hard to do an experiment on it. Either by the huge budget it needs or limited technology. Sure it's not cheap and easy to see an electron movement in a room filled with bananas (who wanna do that anyway!!).

Computational science is a really good way to support the real experiment and build a model or prediction based on experiment. It really works on many research topics of science in the last decade, and will grow more and more in line with the invention and development of computer technology, science theories, and the needs in other aspects, such as industrial needs for material design or business prediction trends for the next decade. Yeah, computational science is a broad-prospect field. But more than that, it gives huge contribution to the outgrowth and advancement of science. So, if you are currently learning science, math or related fields, wanna give a shot to take a part on it?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

50 First Dates: Possible or Totally Fiction?

I wanna make you smile whenever you're sad
Carry you around when your arthritis is bad
All I wanna do is grow old with you

What's up, TnT's? Remember those lyrics? Read it again... Still don't remember? Okay, don't need to Google it cause I'll tell you now. It's from Adam Sandler's song titled "Grow Old with You". Now I bet you can answer, from what movie is that song? Yes! 50 First Dates (gosh! I already spoiled it on the post title!!). Let me refresh your memory.

Lucy (Drew Barrymore) had a car accident that makes her loss her memory overnight, means that she can remember all the things for the same day events, but will totally forget it after she wakes up in the morning. Harry (Adam Sandler) met her and fell in love. Knowing her condition, he tries every way to meet her everyday, which means that they will meet, acquaint, every morning. And then...

Stop the spoil!! I don't wanna be kicked by TnT's that hasn't seen the movie (where have you been?! Kidding). We've already got the point: Lucy's case. So, what is actually happened with Lucy?

The car accident Lucy got gave her an injury on her brain, called traumatic brain injury, happened caused by a hit on her head. The problem don't stop in that case cause she has got another scary things that can be forever: brain disorder. Remember Alzheimer, Parkinson disease, stroke, ADD/ADHD? In Lucy's case, she's got amnesia.

So, what kind of amnesia it that? It is called anterograde amnesia, which deals with Lucy's short-term memory. To remember something for weeks or years, the brain needs to recognize and convert the things that we just remember, such as this article that you read now, to a long-term memory. In Lucy's case, her brain fails to do that, makes her forget anything happened a day before. Scary? Yeah, totally.

Okay, that's the medical analysis. But in real life, is that possible? Well, actually, it seems yes. In 2010, researchers in UK found a woman that has a similar condition after got a car accident. She has a good memory for anything happen at the same day, but it lost overnight. The interesting fact, she claimed that she has never seen 50 First Dates (actually she has seen it several times), but she said that Drew Barrymore is her favorite actress. This leads to the speculation that the experience she has got from seeing the movie has been recorded unconsciously in her brain, just similar like what happens with Lucy and Henry's face painting (hmmm, I wanna write the story but decided to not spoiling it). Or maybe, that woman just seeing Charlie's Angels or Never Been Kissed several times years before. Might be.