In 1750, Denis Diderot convinced his publisher to support a vast enterprise, the publication of the Encyclopédie gathering all knowledge into one location.
Dozens of writers worked on thousands of articles for more than 15 years to produce the first summary of all human knowledge and, despite the labour and pains of its birth, its entire contents would barely fill one volume of a contemporary encyclopaedia.
Times have changed. And they keep on changing. The pace of discovery in the modern world is such that it is difficult for specialists to stay abreast of their own field let alone be aware of the knowledge in all other fields that may impact on their specialty.
The internet, though useful, makes us aware of our ignorance. It does not reliably fill the gap with relevant and timely information. As an information society, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see the trees for the wood.
“There’s a trend in digital libraries now towards combining heterogeneous data from a wide variety of sources. This includes textual, multimedia objects and, increasingly, sensor and experimental data, or raw data that needs to be processed,” explains Donatella Castelli, scientific coordinator of the Diligent project.
Raw data allows virtual digital library (VDL) users to formulate questions that may not have been considered before. But this quantity of data poses huge processing challenges requiring digital libraries to have enormous resources, resources that are not readily available for many institutions.
But unlike wikis, Diligent created a system that combines digital libraries with grid computing to provide storage, content retrieval and access services and, most impressively, shared data processing capabilities.
Grids link many computers together to provide a framework for shared processing and storage capabilities. So a grid can take a big, processing-intense problem, like weather prediction, and split the problem between a handful, dozens or even thousands of computers. Each only handles a tiny bit or the problem, but combined they provide a huge amount of raw power.
The power of grids is well established, and all that raw data crunching gives physicists and molecular biologists goose bumps. It is the power behind the SETI@home project, which uses volunteers’ computers to analyse cosmic signals in the search for extraterrestrial life.
But grids have never been used for virtual digital libraries, a library that exists only by the combination of data across cyberspace. It is an exciting new use of the technology. But it is not a trivial problem.
“It was very, very difficult,” reveals Castelli. “There was a lot of new technology to learn [and] many of the tools we needed were only being defined as we worked on the project.”A better mousetrap
But the hard work paid off. Diligent created an infrastructure – a system called g-Cube – and two VDLs to validate how it all works; one among the ‘Earth Observation’ community, the other in the Cultural Heritage community. It was a resounding success, and now these research communities have VDLs on grids serving their own needs. These are very impressive results and strain the definition of test bed as Diligent literally pushed the available technology to the limit and still came up with a working infrastructure.
They even developed advanced interface tools to set up a VDL. “We have a wizard to set up VDLs and it is very easy to use,” notes Castelli.
Nonetheless, work remains to be done. “The system needs to be optimised to improve its quality of service. We need to develop a production infrastructure and deal with issues like real infrastructure policies. We’ve started a new project called D4Science, and we’ll be working with the Earth Observation and the Fishery and Aquaculture Resource Management Research communities”, says Castelli.Diderot’s pride
Scientists, engineers, policy-makers, NGOs and other experts or stakeholders will be able to come together on an ad hoc basis to brainstorm and share relevant data around specific problems, such as disaster relief, fuel efficiency, or even apparently routine tasks like organising a conference.
Diderot, the patron of vast collaborations around a great, hugely ambitious goal, would be proud.
Ahmed ElAmin | alfa
Equipping form with function
23.06.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity
23.06.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology