Der deutsche Education Blog

February, 2010

Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

The Microsoft Research Outreach blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

February, 2010

  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    Dryad and DryadLINQ: Academic Accelerators for Parallel Data Analysis


    Releases such as the academic accelerators code named Dryad and DryadLINQ, currently available for free download, are great examples of what can be achieved when members of the global research community collaborate to develop technology. The result is availability of relevant tools that enhance discovery and tackle challenges. Working together, Dryad and DryadLINQ support quick and efficient parallel data analysis, a critical capability in today’s accelerated, data-driven research environment.


    Geoffrey Fox, professor of informatics at Indiana University, is using the releases in his quest to leverage data gathered via radar. His goal: to learn more about the earth’s past and its present in order to make more informed, potentially life-saving predictions about its future. Using Dryad and DryadLINQ, Fox is currently analyzing radar data focused on glaciers in Greenland, where the ice sheets are melting more quickly than they have previously. “There is a hurry-up effort to gather data and make reliable predictions of the future of ice sheets, which have an impact on global climate,” he says. “The melting of the ice caps is established, but what isn’t established is how the melting correlates with the overall environmental situation, one part of which is the ice sheets.” For Fox, that’s where technology like Dryad and DryadLINQ come into play: they make it possible and relatively easy for researchers to conduct analysis that is separate but parallel, making it possible to fit various pieces of the puzzle together more quickly, efficiently and accurately than before.


    Fox says he is confident that Dryad and DryadLINQ will prove themselves applicable to all kinds of discoveries, ranging from genetic research to developing a deeper understanding of fault lines. He is currently involved in discussions about undertaking research in response to last month’s crippling earthquake in Haiti, a region on which very little historical data has been captured, preserved or analyzed.  “Radar data can be used to measure the stress on the earth, which in various ways, including predicting aftershocks,” he says. While he doesn’t foresee predicting actual earthquakes in the near future, the ability to do so could very well lie in the data that catalogs smaller movements along fault lines over time. And being able to analyze that data is an undertaking made less daunting by technology such as Dryad and DryadLINQ. “We have now high-performance ways to analyze data,” he says. “Software helps us do this in an efficient way, and the advances in computing make it cost effective, so while we’re doing lots of science, some of it has a social impact.”


    For more information, including downloads, please visit To take advantage of Dryad and DryadLINQ, you must use Windows HPC Server 2008, available at


    Derick Campbell, Microsoft External Research



  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    WorldWide Telescope: Exploring globally, learning locally


    Thanks to a productive collaboration among members of the global research community, the WorldWide Telescope is in the process of becoming more worldwide in its reach and impact. By adding support for new languages, a process that is well underway, the WorldWide Telescope is becoming a more useful resource for more people in more places.


    In nearly all aspects, the WorldWide Telescope is the result of collaboration among Microsoft External Research and a number of academic and governmental agencies. The WorldWide Telescope transforms the process of peering into the planets into one that’s similar to using a technologically enhanced encyclopedia. Put more simply, the WorldWide Telescope is Internet-izing astronomy.  It does this by providing the ability to seamlessly pan and zoom across the sky, blending terabytes of images, data and stories from multiple sources, which are accessed over the Internet and packaged into a media-rich, immersive experience.  Finding relevant information with the WorldWide Telescope is easy: users just right click on the object they’re interested in – Neptune, for example – to open a window that includes links to resources, such as published articles or Web sites, specific to Neptune.


    To enhance the discovery that can result from such a collaborative effort, Microsoft External Research has made the WorldWide Telescope available, free of charge, to the astronomy and educational communities. The goal is that it will continue to expand the ways it inspires and empowers people around the world to use their exploration to deepen the global knowledge of the universe.


    And to further that goal, and in recognition of the technology’s truly universal appeal, support for new languages is being added.


    Localization of the WorldWide Telescope is occurring in two phases. The first, which commenced in November 2008, is the translation of the user interface, which is then professionally validated by local astronomers, all of whom have volunteered their time and expertise in support of the effort. Today, localized user interfaces are available in simplified Chinese, German and a Latin American version of Spanish. Localizations in Hindi, Japanese, Russian and Turkish are nearly complete and should be available this month.


    The second and more complex phase of localizing the WorldWide Telescope will cover the translation of its vast volume of topically relevant resources available to those who use the technology. In addition to being more complex, this phase will also take more time to complete. I’m often asked when I expect the translation of resources to be complete, and my answer is fairly simple: it depends upon how old the country is for which the translation is being performed. That’s because the more years a country has existed, the longer its astronomers and other explorers have had to name what they see in the sky. And the more that’s been named, the more data we have to translate.


    The evolution of the WorldWide Telescope, like the universe to which it offers us access, is ongoing. To make sure your voice is included in the process, please use this blog to share your insight and suggestions.


    For more information on the WorldWide Telescope, you may read an essay by Alyssa A. Goodman and Curtis G. Wong from the The Fourth Paradigm.

    Yan Xu, senior research program manager, Microsoft External Research

  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    What do Ada Lovelace, Barbie and I all have in common?


    This post originally appeared on The Official Microsoft Blog.


    The National Science Foundation reports that women currently make up only 19.5 percent of engineering bachelor degree recipients and 11 percent of professional engineering positions in the United States.  Those are unfortunate numbers. Not only do more and more of the world’s top jobs require science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) expertise, but few women enter engineering, causing a serious loss of a tremendous talent pool. We need to create more competent women engineers.


    Today is one step on that path. It’s Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day—a special shout-out to young women during National Engineers Week.  As a female computing professional, I thought it would be helpful to focus on several “girl” engineers (real or plastic) who have made a tremendous impact in our lives.  Maybe a look at them can show us how to close the gap between the world’s engineering needs and the women looking for great opportunities.


    Take Barbie. Back in 1992, when I was a computer science professor at the University of Virginia and the mother of two young girls, I learned that Mattel had created a Barbie that said, “math class is tough.”  I thought, “it’s only tough if the girls are led to believe that it’s tough.”  It’s the incorrect stereotypes themselves that make math hard!


    Nearly 20 years later, Mattel may help turn that stereotype around with the release of Computer Engineer Barbie—complete with a fashionable binary code shirt, pink glasses, and a pink laptop. (For all you Barbie experts out there: Don’t worry—her feet are still designed to fit into her signature high heels!)


    Barbie the computer engineer follows in some pretty big shoes. Those belong to Ada Lovelace. Never heard of her?


    The daughter of the poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabella Milbanke, Lovelace is often credited with writing the first computer program in the world—in 1842-43!  Essentially, she worked with Charles Babbage and, while translating and keeping notes about Babbage’s Analytical engine (the early model for a computer), she added comments that have been widely recognized as the first software.  As such, she is frequently seen as the founder of scientific computing.


    Between Lovelace and Barbie, there are plenty of other amazing women computer engineers—some famous, such as Grace Hopper, some not.  They serve as my inspirations as I work on projects such as the Tablet PC and other classroom technologies, or with teams of students around the world for the Multitouch and Tablet Accessibility Award at the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition.


    Providing role models is an important piece. But hands-on experience is equally important. Take Microsoft’s DigiGirlz program. It’s specifically designed to give high school girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. You get to actually see how technology can be used in a variety of areas, from healthcare to the environment to business.



    Whether or not you have the time today to introduce a girl to engineering, I want to leave you with this thought—and action item.  Think about an engineer or engineering solution you believe has had a tremendous impact on the world. Then share that information here and with a young woman you love. It’s never too early to start thinking about her future and ours!


    Jane Prey, PhD, is a senior research program manager with Microsoft Research External Research. She is also an active member of IEEE, with which Microsoft is collaborating to empower students to achieve their professional aspirations.


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