Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

“Top 11 Scientific Twists from 2011”

December 28th, 2011 / in research horizons, Research News / by Erwin Gianchandani’s Cosmic Log is out with its list of the top 11 scientific twists from 2011 this morning:

IBM's Watson computer is made up of a cluster of 90 computer servers with a total of 2,880 processor cores [image courtesy IBM via AFP,]..The past year brought us the supercomputer that trounced flesh-and-blood champions on the “Jeopardy” TV show … genetic discoveries that showed us the tangles in humanity’s family tree … a tsunami that shouldn’t have been as catastrophic as it was … and neutrinos that shouldn’t be going as fast as they seem to. Which scientific twist of 2011 do you find most intriguing? Now’s the time to cast your vote for the top science story of 2011…


In this list, I’m stressing the twists in science and technology that go against expectations — or set up great expectations for the year ahead…

At least three are rooted in advances in computing:

Watson wins on ‘Jeopardy’: IBM programmed a supercomputer named Watson to dominate the “Jeopardy” TV trivia game, and dominate it did. The point of the exercise wasn’t to win the $1 million prize, which was donated to charity; rather, the technology behind Watson is being applied to medical diagnoses and other applications. We puny humans can take heart in the fact that Watson is not infallible. After all, it thought Toronto was a U.S. city, and it actually lost a game to U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (although, come to think of it, that might have been a political move on Watson’s part). (For more, check out our extensive coverage.)


Gamers untangle protein puzzles: Game-playing humans struck back this year by figuring out the molecular structure of a key enzyme in an AIDS-like virus that afflicts rhesus monkeys. The protein-folding achievement, accomplished by the players of an online game called Foldit, served as further evidence that non-scientists can help conduct valuable scientific research through collaborative software. Foldit’s game-playing teams even came up with new mathematical algorithms for solving biochemical puzzles more efficiently.


Personalized medicine really works: Scientists have been saying for years that someday we’ll all have our entire genomes sequenced, and that genomic analysis will open up a brave new world of personalized medicine. This year, it really happened. Physicians found a flaw in a California teen’s genetic code that guided them to prescribe new medication for her bouts of sudden breathlessness. The success story serves as “the leading edge of what will become, pretty soon, a deluge of such reports,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

Read the full list — and vote for your favorite twists — here.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

“Top 11 Scientific Twists from 2011”

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