Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Looking both ways before we cross into 2014

'Tis the season of lists, look-aheads, and look-backs, from which I'll single out a few science-and-tech specific instances.

A small part of the LHC
Let's begin with Physics World. After the (by now) pro forma acknowledgement that the big science news this year was discovery of the Higgs boson, their focus is "The world of physics in 2014." And it's quite the year they foresee, everything from the restart of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at incredible new energy levels to the billion-star-search of ESA's newly launched Gaia observatory to enhanced sensitivity in the hunt for dark matter at the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector. And that's only a small part of their preview. Neat stuff.

It's not every year that astronomers open up a whole new method of observing the cosmos. And so (still at Physics World), "Cosmic neutrinos named Physics World 2013 Breakthrough of the Year." Seriously cool (pun intended, once you click through).

Not getting here any time soon ...
NASA recently released its own look-ahead. Nature offers a summary (with a link to the full 100+ page pdf report) at "NASA lays out long-term vision for astrophysics."

Was 2013 the year in which quantum computing became more than a laboratory curiosity involving a handful of all-too-soon-decohered qubits? Maybe -- and maybe not. From IEEE Spectrum, see "D-Wave’s Year of Computing Dangerously: After a year of outside investigation, questions remain about a controversial quantum computer."

Are quantum computing and cosmic neutrinos too esoteric for you? Among gadgets that have impacted our daily lives, consider this offering from The Wall Street Journal: "Top Products in Two Decades of Tech Reviews: Walt Mossberg on the products that changed the digital industry." Not surprisingly, Apple is well represented.

Two decades too long a look-back? Then check out PC World's "The year's 13 greatest tech comebacks and epic wins." (Dare I comment, "Yahoo!"?)

Microsoft introduced Windows 8 in October 2012, but 2013 was the product's first full year of sales. So how is Windows 8 faring? Not well, even with Microsoft's imminent plug-pulling of Windows XP to force changes. See, from the Inquirer, "Windows 7 gains more market share than Windows 8 and 8.1: More masochists are using Windows Vista than Windows 8.1." It seems that Windows versions, like Star Trek movies, are only good every other time ....

And for today's final look back, consider this, from Nature: "Scientists losing data at a rapid rate: Decline can mean 80% of data are unavailable after 20 years." It's not even that many old archives are kept on 5-1/4 inch floppies.

What's your favorite retrospective or forecast?

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