March 31, 2008

Is computer science a science?

It's been a long time since I last posted on this topic but it's not a subject I'm any less interested in. It's just that good stuff hasn't really popped up for me to post about.

Until now.

Jane is starting a series of posts on the subject with parts I and Ia already up. Normally, in this type of situation, I'd wait until Jane was finished the series or at least had a few more posts up. However, the Seed blog, Page 3.14, has a new poll up asking if readers think computer science is really a science. I've voted (Yes, natch) and I think you all should head over and cast your ballot. The poll was posted today but only 17 people have voted so far.

But first, a couple of tastes of the first two parts of Jane's series:

Is computer science a science? (part 1)

Computer science is in many respects a tool. It's a discipline that has its reach into many other disciplines. And that's one of the coolest, most interesting things about it. But that's also what makes it so hard to classify, to quantify. Computer science doesn't have to neatly fit anywhere, of course. But classifying it as something could make it a bit easier for non-computer scientists, and even computer scientists, to begin to understand just what it is and what its purpose should be. Having this strong sense of "self", of identity as a field, is, I believe, crucial to the survival of computer science as a field.

Is computer science a science? (part 1a: what do computer scientists do?)
I then spend the next 30-60 minutes working on my most important project. If there's a deadline approaching, this means writing/editing a conference or journal article or grant proposal. If there are no deadlines coming up, I'll tackle my most difficult research problem. Often I'll choose one that requires some thinking/planning/analysis. So I'll sketch out, on paper or on my board, a system design, or some coding diagrams or outlines, or an algorithm (a recipe for solving a problem). I'll occasionally work through some equations or work on mathematically modeling some aspect of a system. If I'm in the midst of some really tricky data analysis, I'll fire up Matlab and slice and dice the data in various ways to see if I can find some pattern I missed before. Whatever requires the most brain power and attention.

1 comment:

Jane said...

I'm working on the next part right now, hoping to get it up tonight or tomorrow. Looking forward to your comments!

(and thanks for posting the link to your previous post---I have a feeling it will make it into the next post of mine.)