Part of the problem,
says Adam Siepel,
“is the failure
of high schools
to be providing
basic education in
the students get
proaches than others. Boyle says the
contention that a number of computationally skilled biologists specializing
in these areas will advance the cross-pollination of the disciplines in a kind
of natural selection process may have
credence. A researcher at Microsoft
Research Cambridge, Jasmin Fisher
is a pioneer of this sort of “executable
biology,” which she says will not only
winnow out false steps in the process
of evaluating an idea, but also illuminate hypotheses for which noncompu-tational calculations would be prohibitively difficult or missed altogether.
“Serious biological research with
living material takes a long time,”
Fisher says. “The thing we’re trying to
say here is this kind of modeling will
help to focus and direct the next ex-
periment and save time and resourc-
es. This is the key point.”
One example of such an approach is
work Fisher and colleagues, including
Piterman (who is married to Fisher),
computer scientist Tom Henzinger
(who is president of the Institute of
Science and Technology Austria), and
University of Zurich biology professor
Alex Hajnal, performed while studying
earthworm vulva development.
“While modeling the crosstalk be-
tween two signaling pathways oper-
ating in the cells that eventually be-
come the worm’s egg-laying system,
we predicted a very specific order of
events related to this particular de-
velopmental process,” Fisher says.
“This then led to the design of an ex-
periment that was performed in the
lab, and validated experimentally the
prediction provided by the model-
ing work. The point here is that, one,
without the modeling work this pre-
diction would not have been thought
of, and, two, without the prediction,
the experiment would not have been
designed and performed in the lab.
I think this is a beautiful example
of how this kind of knowledge from
computer science can be channeled
to direct lab experiments and shed
new light on the biological system
that we study.”
Whatever approach the two disci-
plines’ practitioners ultimately decide
upon to create a more seamless in-
teraction between them, Robeva says
the heightened level of discussion,
disagreements and all, is beneficial
for both disciplines in crafting a more
Fisher, J. and Henzinger, T.A.
Executable cell biology. Nature
Biotechnology 25, 11, november 2007.
Pevzner, P. and Shamir, R.
Computing has changed biology—biology
education must catch up. Science 325,
5940, July 2009.
Robeva, R. and Laubenbacher, R.
Mathematical biology education: Beyond
calculus. Science 325, 5940, July 2009.
Computational education for molecular
biology and genetics. Transform Science:
Computational Education for Scientists, Yan
Xu (ed.), Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA,
Boyle, J., Cavnor, C., Killcoyne, S., Shmulevich, I
Systems biology driven software design
for the research enterprise. BMC
Bioinformatics 9, 295, June 2008.
Gregory Goth is an oakville, CT-based writer who
specializes in science and technology.
© 2010 ACM 0001-0782/10/0300 $10.00
israel is leading the world in the
development of robotic fighting
machines, according to a recent
article by Charles Levinson in
The Wall Street Journal. the
article, “israeli robots remake
battlefield,” attributed israel’s
role as one of the world’s top
military robotic innovators
to its six decades of almost
uninterrupted warfare, a low
acceptance for enduring human
causalities, and an agile and
robust high-tech industry.
“We’re trying to get to
unmanned vehicles everywhere
on the battlefield for each
platoon in the field,” Lt. Col.
oren berebbi, head of the israel
defense Forces’ technology
branch told The Wall Street
Journal. “We can do more and
more missions without putting
a solider at risk.”
one-third of israel’s military
machines will be unmanned in
the next 10–15 years, predicts
Giora Katz, vice president
of rafael advanced defense
systems Ltd., a leading israeli
israel’s robotic machines
include the long-range
heron drone, which can fly
continuously at an altitude of
30,000 feet for 30 hours; the
Guardium unmanned ground
vehicle, an armored golf cart
equipped with optical sensors
and surveillance gear, which
is used to patrol the Gaza and
Lebanese borders; remote-
controlled bulldozers that open
supply routes and transport
food and ammunition through
hostile territory to the front
lines; and the protector sV, a
speedboat that constitutes a
growing part of the israeli navy.
Coming soon is a six-
wheeled rex robot, which can
carry 550 pounds of equipment
alongside advancing troops.
more than 40 nations
possess military robotics
programs, with many of them
focusing on aerial drones. a
military robotics milestone was
reached last year when the U.s.
air Force, for the first time ever,
trained more drone operators
for its unmanned aircraft than
it did pilots for its manned
fighters and bombers.