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InTheLoop | 04.16.2007

The weekly newsletter for Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences

April 16, 2007

NERSC, CITRIS to Co-Host Meetings on Cognitive Computing, Future of Search

NERSC and CITRIS, the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, are co-hosting two meetings in early May.

A two-day meeting on “Cognitive Computing, a Multi-Disciplinary Synthesis of Neuroscience, Computer Science, Mathematics, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Information Theory” will be held at UC Berkeley on Wednesday and Thursday, May 2-3.

According to the meeting Web site (http://www.citris-uc.org/CognitiveComputing07),

Cognitive Computing is when computer science meets neuroscience to explain and implement psychology. We have, in the brain and nervous system, an information processing system unrivalled by artificial means. While it trails machines in accuracy and mathematical computation, it wins on adaptability, flexibility, functionality, and parallelism. The ultimate goal is to reverse engineer enough of this system so that the design principles can be applied to building robust and adaptable computer systems.

Cognitive Computing is different from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Neural Networks (NN). From the outset, AI ignored neurobiology. While neural networks started from biological motivation, they too quickly discarded biological plausibility. In both cases, the approach has been to focus on a suitable problem, and to offer a ‘symbolic’ or ‘neural network’ solution to it. The brain, however, works in exactly the opposite fashion, it has evolved a solution that allows it to deal with problems as they arise.

AI and NN technologies take one or more cognitive phenomena exhibited by the brain as a starting point and then try to replicate that capability by inventing algorithms/learning rules. In contrast, CC is about learning how the brain operates, about algorithms, about diligent reverse engineering and testing plausible models.

“The Future of Search” will be held Friday, May 4, at UC Berkeley. The goal is to have an interaction between UC Berkeley researchers and industry leaders in the search field; to help set an academic research agenda that is complementary to the needs of industry, as well as to discuss potential educational goals for students. This event will examine the path towards the next generation of Search. This requires new technology for its development, engineering design, and visualization. As the technological expertise for each component becomes increasingly complex, there is a need to better integrate them into a global model. The ultimate goal is to understand how we can fully mechanize search engines with cognitive and natural language capabilities. This event will endeavor to construct an overview of what is to come, to elucidate and formulate the main open questions in this grand quest, and to highlight promising research directions. More information can be found at http://www.citris-uc.org/FutureSearch.

CRD’s Juan Meza to Lead MSRI Summer Students in Math Research

Juan Meza, head of the High Performance Computing Research Department in CRD, along with two graduate assistants, will lead 12 students in math research projects as part of the 2007 Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Undergraduate Program (MSRI-UP). The program is a comprehensive program for undergraduates aimed at increasing the number of students from underrepresented groups in mathematics graduate programs. MSRI-UP includes summer research opportunities, mentoring, workshops on the graduate school application process, and follow-up support.

The purpose of the research program is to give students a brief introduction to the most widely used mathematical techniques for solving some of the most challenging scientific problems today. The program will draw from current problems being worked on at LBNL, including the search for dark energy, climate modeling, nanoscience, and biology. The program will describe the mathematical underpinnings of the scientific applications and discuss the necessary mathematical algorithms needed to solve the problems. For each topic, the lectures will be structured so that a domain scientist from LBNL will discuss the problem and outline the main scientific questions. This will be followed by a set of lectures that describe how to formulate the problem mathematically and what numerical algorithms are needed to solve the problem. As part of the program, students will be given access to NERSC systems to carry out their research.

Reminder: Telecommuting Also Requires Workplace Ergonomic Evaluation

Employees who regularly telecommute are required under the Lab’s Regulations and Procedures Manual to complete a written agreement, with supervisor approval, every 12 months. The agreement and authorization requires that the employee provide information about the home workplace, including chair, work surface, computer keyboard and monitor equipment, etc. Employees must also provide a photo of the telecommute workplace for Lab review. More information about the Lab’s telecommuting policies can be found at http://www.lbl.gov/Workplace/RPM/R2.23.html#telecommute. Guidelines for workstation evaluations can be found at <http://www.lbl.gov/ehs/ergo/workstation_eval.shtml>.

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) Computing Sciences organization provides the computing and networking resources and expertise critical to advancing the Department of Energy's research missions: developing new energy sources, improving energy efficiency, developing new materials and increasing our understanding of ourselves, our world and our universe.

ESnet, the Energy Sciences Network, provides the high-bandwidth, reliable connections that link scientists at 40 DOE research sites to each other and to experimental facilities and supercomputing centers around the country. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) powers the discoveries of 7,000-plus scientists at national laboratories and universities, including those at Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division (CRD). CRD conducts research and development in mathematical modeling and simulation, algorithm design, data storage, management and analysis, computer system architecture and high-performance software implementation. NERSC and ESnet are Department of Energy Office of Science User Facilities.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world's most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab's scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the DOE’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.