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The story of science

<strong>Face to face.</strong> Editor-in-chief Alisa Alering talks with Mona Wong of the San Diego Supercomputer Center during the <a href='https://sciencenode.org/feature/Secret%20sauce.php'>Gateways 2018 conference</a> in Austin, TX. Wong contributes her technical skills as a software engineer to help scientists build research gateways.If you’re reading this article, then you are a vital part of scientific progress in the world today. Even if you don’t know your CRISPR from your cracker, or FLOPS from a flapjack, you still have a valuable contribution to make to the chain of discovery.

As the editor of Science Node, I travel to conferences around the world, talking to scientists about the issues they’re exploring and the breakthroughs they’re making. These folks almost invariably feel they are part of something larger—seeing themselves as just one piece in a greater puzzle that is making a positive change in the world.

But scientists are often heads-down over their research—and up to their elbows in nodes and algorithms. They have a lot to share, but often don’t think we’d be interested, or maybe they just don’t feel that it’s their job to talk about it. They have experiments to conduct, after all.

<strong>The whole story.</strong> Writer Kevin Jackson films a tour of the <a href='https://sciencenode.org/feature/When%20plants%20go%20digital.php'>IU Herbarium</a>, which is digitizing a collection of 150,000 specimens dating back to 1885 and sharing it via an online portal, complete with taxonomic and geographic information. That’s where Science Node comes in. In my dozens of conversations with researchers over the past two years, I’ve come to the conclusion that scientists have some of the highest job satisfaction in the world. When we talk, their enthusiasm for the research they are doing and the questions they are pursuing, shines through.

Our job is to help them share their excitement—and results— with the wider world. We connect the passion of scientists with the curiosity of the public. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, did it really happen? If an experiment takes place in a lab, and nobody hears about it, did it really happen?

And you, our now 100,000+ readers, are also part of that grander puzzle of progress. You read the articles, you watch the videos, you share the tweets. You fulfill the feedback loop that doesn’t make the science work, but does make it worthwhile. You complete the picture.

With that in mind, I asked the Science Node team to share their personal favorite articles and why they chose them.

Kevin Jackson, writer/editor

<strong>Aurora</strong>, the first exascale computer in the US, will be built at the Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago. It is anticipated to have over 50,000 nodes and more than 5 petabytes of memory and be completed in 2021. Courtesy Argonne National Laboratory.The article that means the most to me is Full Speed Ahead, my interview with US Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar about Department of Energy support for high-performance computing. Dabbar had some incredible insights into the administration’s push into supercomputing—outlining a symbiotic relationship with the private sector, allowing both sides to use each other’s strengths to improve and innovate. Whether or not the US ultimately proves to be the first country to reach exascale, it’s comforting to know that this technology’s importance isn’t being lost on my government.

Laura Reed, writer

<strong>Thrill of discovery.</strong> Researching an article about the future of animation led writer Laura Reed to rediscover the past—and learn that humans have been using animation techniques for a very long time. Paleolithic cave painting, Altamira Spain. Courtesy Thomas Quine. <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>(CC BY-SA 2.0)</a>Writing for Science Node, I’ve learned about high-performance computing, AI, and other cutting-edge technologies, but one of my favorite stories introduced me to innovations from the ancient world. Animation for the rest of us describes a software package designed to make computer animation quicker for experts and more accessible to novices.

While researching the history of animation for the introduction, I discovered that early humans used sequential drawings and the flicker of firelight to depict movement in cave art. I knew a little about these ancient cave paintings, but I was surprised at the sophistication of the artists who created them. Early animation can also be found in a 5,200-year-old Iranian pottery bowl, Egyptian murals, and medieval codices. You might give a thought to ancient artists the next time you watch the Simpsons.

Ellen Glover, editorial intern

In extreme environments around the world, a new kind of life is thriving. Mark Miller of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) talks about the new branch of science's 'tree of life' discovered thanks to innovations in computing and genetic analysis--and why it matters.

What is dark life? is a great example of how incredible the supercomputing community is. Many of the articles I’ve written explore how researchers are using high performance computing to simulate vast and complex systems like the universe or the human brain. It’s so fun to explore the other side of the coin, to see how scientists are using the same tools to look at things so small that they’re otherwise imperceptible.

It’s like supercomputers give us the capabilities to perceive another dimension, pulling back the curtain to reveal a strange parallel universe. The discoveries in this article not only turn the reader on to the invisible world that is dark life, but they also challenge our ideas of what it means to be alive in the first place. This is important when talking about everything, from matters here on earth to what may exist among the stars. 

Alisa Alering, editor-in-chief

Burçin’s galaxy shows off what Science Node is really all about—sharing the voices of real scientists and their work. When I conducted the interview with Burçin, a young astrophysicist who discovered a unique galaxy, her enthusiasm was so infectious that I could feel it through our sketchy video link.

<strong>Eye on the stars.</strong> University of Arizona astronomer Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil discovered a entirely new type of galaxy. She believes in sharing her fascination for space and works to encourage students from all backgrounds to explore astronomy and other STEM fields. Courtesy Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil.The article captures the excitement of space exploration and the wonder she felt as a little girl in Turkey looking up at the stars. Not only that, but Burçin wants to spread the word far and wide-- to mentor other girls and encourage people from all communities to experience the discovery and wonder of science for themselves.

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