every research department should own a game console

Geplaatst: februari 6, 2014 in Uncategorized
20 jaar oude gadgets: nu in je telefoon

20 jaar oude gadgets: nu in je telefoon

This picture was shared on Facebook last week by a friend of mine. It IS amazing how small all our gadgets have become, not to mention how cheap. My friend might have seen a collection of gadgets, I see a collection of sensors. Scientists have begone to discover that consumer electronics nowadays are packed with sensors. Scientists are using these sensors from consumer electronics to do measurements in completely new ways. A short overview of some of the work that I mention in the introduction chapter of my PhD thesis:

This list shows that the classic idea that scientific theory leads to very expensive experiments, leads to less expensive consumer applications is incorrect. We need a final step. Consumer applications do also lead to new measurement methods for scientists.

In geosciences, the field that encompasses hydrology and water resources management, it is often more insightful to have multiple locations with a low cost sensor, than to have one location with an expensive sensor. Alexis Berne showed that if you want to accuratly measure the total amount of rainfall in a rainstorm over his city (Lausanne), you have to measure every two minutes and every 3 km. Low cost sensors designed for consumers are usually less accurate than high end professional weather stations, like the GCOS network. These will remain very important, for example as calibration points for the lower costs sensors.

Given the examples it is clear that game consoles are a major source of new sensors for scientists. Therefore I believe that every research group should own a few game consoles. Purely for scientific research of course! Really! That is why, as the first proposition to accompany my PhD thesis, I state that every research group should own a game console! Or, in the more formal definition used in my thesis:

“Technology developed for mass-manufactured consumer electronics, with low cost if acquired in bulk, offers valuable applications for geosciences, where the spatial density and extent of sensors is often an important constraint on the amount of information that can be obtained from a natural system”


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