Monday, February 16, 2009

CS is everywhere

I have encountered a couple of stories lately where computer science was underneath the story in a way that was easy to overlook. I don't really think it should have been called out in either story, and yet I want people to see it. 

The first story is about Shane Battier, The No-Stats All Star
"We now have all this data," [Houston Rockets' owner, Leslie] Alexander told me, "And we have computers that can analyze that data. And I wanted to use that data in a progressive way..."

The virus that infected professional baseball in the 1990s, the use of statistics to find new and better ways to value players and strategies, has found its way into every major sport. Not just basketball and football, but also soccer and cricket and rugby and, for all I know, snooker and darts - each one now supports a subculture of smart people who view it not just as a game to be played but as a problem to be solved.
I'm not completely sure that counts as computer science. But computing literacy is required to do the kind of creative algorithm generation required to crunch the statistics. And at its core, that's computer science. Of course it isn't only computer science, but to me that's the beauty - computer science underlies many of the cool things that are happening in different disciplines. You don't have to be a nerd working in high tech to use computer science in your career.

I was accused of being self-absorbed the last time I mentioned the second story, but I'll put it out there anyway. I was listening to an interview with Chesley Sullenberger where he talked about all the things he had to do to land the plane safely in the Hudson - nose up, wings level, not too fast, not too slow... simultaneously. Now Sullenberger is truly a hero, his reflexes, calm, and creativity are amazing. But I don't think he could have done it if he hadn't practiced it using a flight simulator. Flight simulators are one of the most obvious implementations of computer science that exist. Computer science is like the unsung hero of the story! (Yes, I'm being deliberately over the top there.) 

Just like other sciences - especially physics and chemistry - computer science is all around us, but we accept it without even noticing it. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice! I'm going to have to keep an eye out for other real-world applications of computer science!