• July 2010
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New Languages, and Why We Need Them.

Technology Review (07/26/10) Pavlus, John

The creators of 24 new programming languages, including hobbyists, academics, and corporate researchers, recently presented their work at the Emerging Languages Camp. “There’s a renaissance in language design at the moment, and the biggest reason for it is that the existing mainstream languages just aren’t solving the problems people want solved,” says Google’s Rob Pike. Google’s Go language was designed to manage the complexity of distributed, multicore computing platforms such as data centers and cloud networks. Go reduces redundancies in the compiling process, which means that “programs can be ready to execute in a matter of seconds,” Pike says. Vrije Universiteit Brussel’s researcher Tim Van Cutsem presented AmbientTalk, an experimental language based on ambient-oriented programming, which departs from traditional computing by not relying on central infrastructure and by assuming that network connections are volatile and unpredictable. “AmbientTalk is smart enough to buffer messages so that when the connection drops, they’re not lost, and when the connection is restored, it sends the messages through as if nothing happened,” Van Cutsem says. Microsoft’s Matt MacLaurin developed Kodu, a language designed to get young people interested in programming. “Our working theory is that programming is intrinsically fascinating and fun, like crosswords or sudoku,” MacLaurin says.



XML Pioneer Pitches Functional Programming for Concurrency.

InfoWorld (07/26/10) Krill, Paul

XML co-inventor Tim Bray says that functional programming, rather than threads, is the best option for programmers developing code for multicore processors. Programming for multicore chips requires developers to deal with concurrency, which presents its own issues, Bray says. “It involves a lot of problems that are very difficult to think about and reason about and understand,” he says. However, functional programming, made possible with languages such as Erlang and Clojure, offers a way to handle concurrency. Erlang was originally designed for programming massive telephone switches with thousands of processors. Bray says that although it has no classes, objects, or variables, it is “bulletproof and reasonably high-performance.” Clojure is a Lisp, runs on the Java Virtual Machine, and compiles to straight Java bytecode, which makes it very fast, Bray notes. “This is a super, super high-performance language,” he says.


Supercomputer Reproduces a Cyclone’s Birth, May Boost Forecasting.

NASA News (07/21/10) Cook-Anderson, Gretchen

University of Maryland (UMD) research scientist Bo-wen Shen used the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Pleiades supercomputer and atmospheric data to create the first computer model to replicate the formation of a tropical cyclone five days in advance. Shen’s computer model could improve the understanding of the predictability of tropical cyclones. “To do hurricane forecasting, what’s really needed is a model that can represent the initial weather conditions–air movements and temperatures, and precipitation–and simulate how they evolve and interact globally and locally to set a cyclone in motion,” Shen says. He used actual data from the 2008 tropical cyclone Nargis, along with the new model to develop insights into the dynamics of weather conditions over time and across different areas that generate storms. “In the last few years, high-resolution global modeling has evolved our understanding of the physics behind storms and its interaction with atmospheric conditions more rapidly than in the past several decades combined,” Shen says.