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Are you looking for a little extra cash for the upcoming holidays? Then you might be interested in creating some cool apps to sell in the Windows Store. Or maybe you’re simply curious and want to try your hand at developing for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. In either case, the newly released TouchDevelop Web App is for you.
TouchDevelop Web App is a development environment to create apps on your tablet or smartphone, without requiring a separate PC. Scripts written by using TouchDevelop can access data, media, and sensors on the phone, tablet, and PC. The script can interact with cloud services, including storage, computing, and social networks. TouchDevelop lets you quickly create fun games and useful tools, turning your scripts into true Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps. A year ago, Microsoft Research released TouchDevelop for Windows Phone, which is being used by enthusiasts, students, and researchers to program their phones in fun, inventive, and interesting ways. These scripts are available at TouchDevelop for anyone to download and use.
Ever since we released TouchDevelop, we’ve been eyeing the tablet form factor and working on a version for the browser. Now, with the release of TouchDevelop Web App, the wait is over: the tablet version is ready, so go play around with it.
All TouchDevelop scripts that are developed on the smartphone can be downloaded to the tablet and run (if hardware allows). Any script that is developed on the tablet can also be accessed on the phone. And scripts can be converted to Windows Phone or Windows 8 apps and submitted to the Windows Phone Store or Windows Store, respectively.
TouchDevelop Web App’s editor and programming language have been designed for tablet devices with touchscreens, but you can also use a keyboard and a mouse. So grab your web-enabled device and give the TouchDevelop Web App a try. It’s fun and easy, and could even put a little cash in your holiday-depleted wallet. Or at least give you bragging rights at family get-togethers.
—Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections
Can scientists predict what happens when they introduce a change into a living system—for example, if they change the structure of a gene or administer a drug? Just as changing one letter can completely change the meaning of a word, the change of a single letter of the genetic code (referred to as a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP) can subtly affect the meaning of a gene’s instructions or alter them completely, making the effect of any change extremely hard to predict. Such changes are thought to be responsible for much of the variation between members of a single species—for example, in susceptibility to different diseases. The ability to successfully predict the effect of such changes would accelerate drug discovery and provide a deeper understanding of the processes of life.
In collaboration with Jasmin Fisher at Microsoft Research Cambridge, professor Yanay Ofran and his colleagues at Bar Ilan University have embarked on a program of scientific research that aims to resolve some of the questions underlying this overall goal, and some of their early results have now been published.
One of the researchers’ first tasks was to determine whether it is possible to predict how a complex network of biochemical interactions will change when a SNP (pronounced “snip”) alters the function of one of the network’s components. In an August 2012 paper entitled, “Static Network Structure Can Be Used to Model the Phenotypic Effects of Perturbations in Regulatory Networks” (available at Bioinformatics with paid subscription), the authors describe their success in analyzing static models of biological networks and correctly predicting the response to changes more than 80 percent of the time. This enables the functions of the network to be deduced, the foundation for building a more expressive dynamic model.
Building static networks is a challenge in itself; before beginning this work, the researchers needed to understand which genes are active in a particular cell and what they do. In their latest publication entitled, “Assessing the Relationship between Conservation of Function and Conservation of Sequence Using Photosynthetic Proteins” (available at Bioinformatics with paid subscription), the Ofran lab has shown that, while sets of related genes with similar structure diverge in function more quickly than previously thought, selected smaller pieces of each gene may still be useful in predicting function.
There are many unresolved challenges along the way to the eventual goal of predicting the effect of a SNP—understanding which genes are switched on in which cells and how drugs interact with proteins are just two active areas of investigation—but once the goal is reached, an understanding of the functions of all genes and how changes affect biological systems could lead to the development of computational models to predict and cure many diseases.
—Simon Mercer, Director of Health and Wellbeing, Microsoft Research Connections
Over the past two years, I have watched eScience take root in China. The movement advanced in the first and second Chinese eScience forums and in various eScience projects that were developed by the Computer Network Information Center (CNIC) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). During this time, Microsoft Research collaborated closely with the CAS, exchanging ideas through joint workshops, student contests, and lectures such as the keynote that Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research Connections, delivered at the CAS meetings in 2010.
Through these channels, a foundational concept of eScience—that we are entering a new fourth paradigm for science where discovery advances through data-intensive computing—was introduced to the Chinese eScience community and attracted the attention of the CAS. In late 2010, Xiaolin Zhang, the executive director of the National Science Library of the CAS, proposed a Chinese translation of The Fourth Paradigm, a seminal collection of essays that describe the practice and promise of data-intensive science. I am happy to report that through the efforts of the CAS and the support of Microsoft Research, the Chinese edition of The Fourth Paradigm premiered in Beijing on October 23.
Tony Hey and Stewart Tansley, two of the book’s co-editors, joined Lolan Song, Steve Yamashiro, and me at the launch event. On behalf of Microsoft Research, Tony donated copies of the book to more than 80 Chinese university libraries, observing that "The advance of science depends on how well researchers collaborate with one another, and marry science with technology." I, for one, am confident that the publication of the Chinese edition of The Fourth Paradigm will foster just such endeavors.
Jiaofeng Pan, the deputy secretary-general of the CAS and one of the book’s Chinese translators, spoke highly of the Chinese edition. “Building on the studies from the field of eScience, the book proposes the fourth paradigm for scientific research: data-intensive science as well as academic exchange based on big data. This book opens the door to a new paradigm of scientific research, greatly enhancing awareness of the huge impact of the digital revolution in the research and information network.”
Through the release of the Chinese edition, we sincerely hope to help Chinese researchers in a variety of fields to understand and utilize this revolutionary development in research methodology. To further speed the adoption of data-intensive approaches to research, Microsoft Research has agreed to donate 2 million hours of access to Windows Azure cloud resources, as well as 15 terabytes of Windows Azure storage space, to research projects at the CNIC over the next two years, which will enable Chinese researchers to apply the concepts of the fourth paradigm by using the Windows Azure platform.
In 2013, the IEEE International Conference on e-Science and the Microsoft eScience Workshop will be held jointly in Beijing. Looking forward to those events, we anticipate even more progress in eScience research in China.
—Guobin Wu, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia