Computers have gone from being a tool serving science–basically an improvement on the slide rule and abacus–to becoming part of science itself, reports Computerworld. Computer science is not just about hardware and software anymore; it’s about oceans, stars, cancer cells, proteins, and networks of friends. Ken Birman, a computer science professor at Cornell University, says his discipline is on the way to becoming "the universal science," a framework underpinning all others, including the social sciences. Consider these recent developments: Systems biologists at Harvard Medical School have developed a "computational language" called "Little b" for modeling biological processes. Going beyond the familiar logical, arithmetic, and control constructs of most languages, it reasons about biological data, learns from it, and incorporates past learning into new models and predictors of cells’ behaviors. Its creators call it a "scientific collaborator." Microsoft Research is supporting a U.S.-Canadian consortium building an enormous underwater observatory on the Juan de Fuca Plate off the coast of Washington state. Project Neptune will connect thousands of chemical, geological, and biological sensors on more than 1,000 miles of fiber-optic cables and will stream data continuously to scientists for as long as a decade. And last year, researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego, used statistical analysis to mine heart-disease data from 12,000 people in the Framingham Heart Study and learned that obesity appears to spread via social ties. They were able to construct social networks by employing previously unused information about acquaintances that had been gathered solely for the purpose of locating subjects during the 32-year study…

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