Saturday, January 7, 2012

Random thoughts on 2012

With the beginning of a new year, my thoughts went to what 2012 will bring.  I just read several articles that make me hopeful in 2012.  First, there is a blog entry in Design News by Alexander Wolfe postulating that engineering and engineers will be more appreciated.  Second, the latest issue of IEEE Spectrum has a Top Tech special report for 2012, and several of the innovations showcased are truly game-changing.  I am especially intrigued by the life sciences related innovations, such as the bionic legs, bionic eye, and automated medical diagnostic tool based on the Watson supercomputer.

On an another note, 2012 is the Alan Turing year, celebrating a century of Alan Turing's birth.  Turing made significant contributions to artificial intelligence (Turing test), theoretical computer science (Turing machine and uncomputable functions), cryptography (Breaking the Enigma code) and mathematical biology (Turing patterns and morphogenesis).  Speaking of computers, we recently visited the excellent Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA and I am amazed how much progress has been made in computing within a single (human) lifetime.  To wit, I have owned several pieces of the (somewhat obsolete) artifacts that are on display in the museum, including a Commodore VIC-20 computer with an audio cassette tape drive, 5-1/4 inch and 3-1/2 inch floppy disks, abacus, dot matrix printer, and a sliderule.  I told my son that he should keep his old portable game machines and mp3 players, as they will invariably wind up in the museum someday.

Several cycles starts (ends) in 2012.  For instance, in 2012 the Mayan long count calendar will reach the end of a Baktun cycle which occurs every 394 years or so.  The sun reaches its peak in solar activity in 2012 as part of a 11-year cycle.

Some other fun facts about the year 2012:
  1. 2012 is a leap year and contains a leap month in the Chinese lunar calendar.  
  2. 2012 has 5 Wednesdays in February.
  3. 2012 has exactly 3 Friday the 13th.

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