vendredi 17 octobre 2014

Computers !

Which technology helped me most? Computers !
Indeed, in order to understand the answer, we have to consider the job that I am doing. All lies in the "scientific method", which consists in :
1- identification of a particular phenomenon
2- quantitative determination of the phenomenon
3- grouping the data into synthetic laws
4- inducing theory
5- looking for a testable consequence of the theory
6-testing the consequence experimentally
Of course, I don't need technology for the first step: here I just need to speak to cooks (sorry, I don't call them chefs, because they are not my boss and I hate this power relationship in the culinary circles).
Then, for the quantitative determination of the phenomena, the "characterisation", we use such machines such as NMR, GC-MS, etc. In the old times, analysis was very cumbersome, and for example, with the first machines, with paper printed after the electronics, we had to cut the signals with cissors before weighing the paper in order to get a value of the area under the signal.
But here, one parenthesis. I answered "computers", but indeed I teach that there are 3 big ideas for science and technology :
- use a balance
- always try to find a resonance if you want to make something precise (and here electronics becomes important, not only computers)
- use the "method of zero", and here electronics also is useful.
But let's come back to number 2: thanks to computers, we avoid plotting, and we can calculate with signals. Indeed the sole software (almost) in my computer is Maple, a wonderful software because it allows to make formal calculations as you would do with pencil and paper, but cleaner, more easily, etc.
Number 3: again computers are important, because you have to manipulate data. And here I remember that I have to explain why computers are important for calculation. When the trajectory of the moon was calculated by Delaunay, about one century ago (I should check this), the calculation was many months long! Pages and pages. Today, you just press the "enter" button, and it's done.
Number 4  : here we have to create a "discourse" by induction, we have to dream, to think, to invent... and as it's natural language, computers (and word processing softwares are so wonderful). Remember(you were not born;-) ) the time when you had to write with pencil and paper, or the time when you used typemachines! For my first book (a textbook for mathematics), I dropped hundreds of papers sheets in order to get a clean manuscript. Sure, I am not very smart, but anyway, it's a fact, and today, I am so happy to be able to use the return key in order to erase what I don't like, what is not right!
Number 5 : this is again calculation, and again Maple.
Number 6: and we come back to experiment, and analysis, and electronics.

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