Thursday, February 21, 2008

Microsoft WorldWide Telescope ?

It has created a buzz in the Blog space when last week Robert Scoble posted "Microsoft researchers make me cry" after he had an opportunity to see a demo of a new Microsoft project.

He says, "Curtis Wong and Jonathan Fay, researchers at Microsoft, fired up their machines and showed me something that I can’t tell you about until February 27th. It’s too inspiring to stay a secret for long. While watching the demo I realized the way I look at the world was about to change. While listening to Wong I noticed a tear running down my face. It’s been a long while since Microsoft did something that had an emotional impact on me like that."

After that everyone was speculating what could be that project. Many of these speculations point towards WorldWide Telescope and say it'll be launched on Feb. 27th at the TED Conference. The service will be accessed through a downloadable application and will be only for Windows at present. All these are just Speculations, but interestingly pointing towards a an exciting application.

I was not knowing about this Microsoft Research Project, WorldWide Telescope (WWT). Earlier Jonathan Fay gave presentations called "The WorldWide Telescope, bringing the Universe to a PC near you” and "How you can use the WorldWide Telescope" last year. Which says:

"The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) project is designed to be an extensible learning and exploration environment which integrates hyperlinked rich media narrative with a seamless multiple survey virtual sky to enable guided and unguided exploration of the universe. WWT is a collaboration between Next Media Research (Principal Researcher and group manager Curtis Wong, Principal Research Software Design Engineer Jonathan Fay and Jina Suh Research Intern), Alex Szalay at Johns Hopkins University, Alyssa Goodman at Harvard's Center for Astrophysics, and Frank Summers at Space Telescope Science Institute. "

"Curtis worked closely with Jim Gray and Alex Szalay in 2002 to develop the SkyServer Website to facilitate public access to the images and data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. SkyServer was always conceived of as the foundation towards building the World Wide Telescope."

"The WorldWide Telescope project will open up astronomy education and exploration like never before. You can use the WorldWide telescope to explore, create and share educational narratives and even register your own astronomical images so they can be viewed in the context of the virtual sky..."

Yes it'll be too exciting and fascinating to see such an application right on your PC. I have glanced at software like Stellarium but WWT may be much better. It will be handling huge amount of data. It'll create more interest in the area of Astronomy to explore.

There's also an article on WWT in the Apr.2006 edition of MSDN Mag, which says :

"Astronomy obeys Moore's law: it is producing about two times more data each year. Current instruments typically produce nearly a terabyte per night. Managing huge data archives and processing complex data are now among the major astronomy challenges."

"...We built an online catalog of the SDSS data as a Web-accessible database, along with visual tools to analyze the data ( The result is a SQL Server database with approximately 14 billion rows. It gives full GUI and SQL access to the SDSS data. Now everyone can use one of the world's best telescopes. "

You can also check Sloan Digital Sky Survey / SkyServer

So by releasing WWT, Microsoft will also be displaying its prowess in handling such huge databases.

I can not say about what is that Microsoft Project to be unveiled on 27th Feb. but if it is WWT, it'll really be exciting. For that matter any project where everyone is so curious about is exciting.

And I think it may be WWT only, if not on that day but in the future Microsoft is going to release WWT, because Bill Gates has spoken about role of Software Astronomy twice very recently.

Once while talking to Max on Channel8 on launch of DreamSpark (Bill Gates talks about Free Software, Students, and Technology) talks of it. And again yesterday on his College tour of Stanford University (Bill Gates Stanford Speech) mentions and says:

" ...Today, the amount of data in most of these sciences is large enough that we can say that computer software and databases and pattern matching that come out of software breakthroughs are really important for what is going on in the sciences, particularly in biology, but I'd say almost as strongly for astronomy where the amount of data and taking a theory about the density of things, the creation of things, it's not just one telescope, it's not just being there at midnight and seeing something cool and writing it up and getting the Nobel Prize; rather it's deep analysis across massive amounts of data.

So, we are sort of the handmaiden of those advances, and making sure that we're reaching out and collaborating with the sciences, and understanding from them how do they want to process that genomic data, how do they want to take and get insights into it, that's very important..."

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