We are very excited to present an outline of the programme for our visit to the Thomas J. Watson Research Center of the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) on Wednesday!
Amongst IBM researchers, there are five Nobel Laureates, and six Turing Award winners. At the Thomas J. Watson Research Center, the Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) was invented, as well as programming language FORTRAN and relational databases.
Professor Ruud Tromp has arranged a great programme for us, consisting of presentations and tours covering a wide range of topics.
Blue Gene is the super powerful, super energy efficient supercomputer designed by IBM. In 2009, IBM was awarded the National Medal of Technology & Innovation for the development of Blue Gene. You can read more about Blue Gene on IBM’s website, or watch this short video to get an idea of how special Blue Gene is. Dr. Ruud Haring‘s roots lie in Leiden, and he will tell us all the ins and outs of Blue Gene! If, at the end of the day, there still is time, we will get a sneak peak into the Blue Gene lab!
Dr. Guillermo Cecchi has a background in Physics, Biology and Imaging in Psychiatry. He is interested in Artificial Intelligence, behavioural modelling, knowledge discovery and data mining, natural language processing and much, much more. He also has a talent for creating publications with catchy titles. For example, check out The Geometry of Expertise, Perceptual Basis of Evolving Western Musical Styles and Turing a la Freud: Test for an Automated Psychiatrist.
In situ Transmission Electron Microscopy
Dr. Frances Ross is a bad-ass lady physicist, who has a lab in the microscope in her lab (yes, you read that correctly). Within her Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM), she is growing nanowires that might someday be part of your own computer. Read this New York Times article about her race against Moore’s law.
Together with prof. Ruud Tromp, she has also developed liquid cells, in which the growth processes of crystals can be studied with a TEM at very high temporal and spatial resolution. As prof. Tromp put it: “everyone said it was impossible to do that, so we figured we’d be the only ones working on it.”
If there is time, we will get to see dr. Ross’s lab!
IBM is big in innovation in all sorts of fields. One maybe less known field is that of solar energy. Researchers at IBM (and dr. Richard Haight in particular) are working on solar technology that uses materials that are easy to come by, thus attempting to reduce cost of photovoltaic technology. You can read about their research at IBM’s webpage on this topic, and on their Smarter Planet blog. In fact, you should check out their Smarter Planet website anyway, and start reading the Smarter Planet blog, if you didn’t already.
Probably the most exciting, relevant and just plain weird idea since Einstein came up with his theory on General Relativity: Quantum Computing. Dr. Matthias Steffen will tell us all about how to build a quantum computer! If you have no idea of what a quantum computer is or how one would go about building one, check out IBM’s page on the subject. If you do have some idea of what quantum computing entails, check out this article on dealing with errors in quantum computing. Finally, to get an impression of what quantum computing research looks like, and why it is awesome, make sure to watch this video to get a sneak peak of IBM’s researchers at work. What do you think, is quantum computing the future?
A visit to IBM would not be quite complete without hearing more about Watson, the iconic artificially intelligent system that answers questions you pose to it in natural human language, by making use of cognitive computing. None other than the Director of Watson Technologies, dr. Eric Brown, will give a lecture about this amazing piece of technology!
This video explains some basics about how Watson works. Applications for Watson are incredibly diverse. Currently, Watson is learning Japanese, but also working in healthcare and developing new recipes.
Most of you will have heard about Watson winning the American quiz show Jeopardy! On February 14 and 15, 2011, Watson battled Jeopardy! champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. This video contains a short introduction on how Watson was able to take part in the quiz, and how he was prepared for it. Make sure to also watch this fun video, in which some of the creators of Watson explain how Watson got his voice and which ‘emotions’ he can show. Finally, check out the February 14 Jeopardy! match.
In case you were wondering why someone would bother to build a computer for playing Jeopardy!, let David Ferrucci explain it to you.
Want to come back?
In addition to the scientific programme at IBM, we get to ask professor Tromp anything we want about his career in science and industry. Chances are that, once you have spent the day at IBM, you’ll never want to leave again, so make sure that you will ask professor Tromp everything you need to know for pursuing a career at IBM Research!