Thursday, July 29, 2010

The 2050 Calculator

As regular blog-readers know, I'm a tremendous fan of David MacKay, who has gone from being a leader in the general area of Bayesian inference (author of Information Theory, Inference & Learning Algorithms) to the author of the popular book Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air and now Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the UK.

David recently showed me a fantastic tool he and his department have made available:  Essentially, it's a calculator tool that let's people determine levels of effort they'll put into creating various types of energy on the supply side, as well as effort into curbing the demand side, and figures out based on those inputs whether the resulting configuration will lead to Britain reaching its legally mandated 2050 greenhouse gas goals (as well as other related outputs), all with a pleasant user interface.  One could view it as a "game" with the player figuring out what policy decisions will have to be made to reach the desired target.  Further, it's all open source!  Here's a link to a description page, and a direct link to the calculator.  Try it and see...

I've already recommended it to my environmental engineering colleagues as a potential learning tool.  Moreover, since it's open source, one could imagine building projects on top of it -- David suggested that developing calculators for various countries (including the US), or providing enhanced user interfaces for various purposes could be interesting.  

Relating this back more directly to computer science, does anyone have pointers to similar interesting tools that might be useful for computer science classes?  It would seem one could imagine many such things in the networks economics space.  Luis von Ahn's work (like the ESP game) had some associated sites that were fun to point students to.


Geoff Knauth said...

David MacKay is awesome. I first learned about him through you. Thanks for this additional pointer.

Another give and take game might address our other economic caldera: health economics. If people only made better choices... Also if politicians and media stopped scaring people at every step, it might reduce anxiety-driven eating disorders.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Michael,
Can you please share your opinion and experience with the review process of IEEE Transaction on Information Theory. I have submitted a paper in IEEE Transaction on Information Theory. It has been one year and I have not got any response. Does it happen with majority of submissions? Is one year time not so much for the first reviews? I am thinking that I should not have submitted my paper in IEEE Transaction on Information Theory. Also, seems there is discrimination. I was checking papers of some well knows people (at least as well known as you) and in their case, the time for first reviews was less than one year. Please share your views on this matter.