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Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science

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  • Posted November 2, 2011


    Michael Nielson's new book, Reinventing Discovery, takes an in-depth look at the exponentially augmented power of problem solving through collaboration over the Internet. It's not like it could not have been anticipated - the Internet was, after all, in its youth, a tool of the academic world. Yet the reality is so much greater than any prediction might have been, and Nielson takes us right into this exciting new reality and allows us to understand for ourselves the near-magical capabilities that lay before us. What we are talking about here is the extent to which on-line collaboration on a specific problem has already been successful in solving problems that no one individual has been able to solve alone. Take the Polymath project that Nielson tells us about. In this instance a mathematician decided to use his blog to tackle an unsolved mathematical problem and through collaboration from mathematicians all over the Internet the problem was solved in 37 days. But the joy, as Nielson tells us, is less about getting the solution to any one problem than it is about this incredible new take on the scientific method. And there are other projects that are taking similar advantage of the potential of the Internet to gather knowledge and solve problems. Nielson calls this networked science, and insists that this ongoing transformation of the way we collaborate in our ventures is speeding up the rate of all scientific discovery. "Citizen science," as Nielson calls it, makes use of amateur volunteers in association with the scientists of academia in problem-solving. This new wave of collaboration is successful, first of all, because of the Internet's ability to "connect the right people" and "increase the cognitive diversity" of the participants in a cooperative venture. This is a fascinating look at a rapidly growing trend that is on the cusp of changing our society in profound ways. I have been riveted by it and the future it promises. My advice is - read it for yourself and let it inspire you!

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