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From Bear Giles <>
Subject proposal: numerical models [physics?]
Date Sun, 19 Apr 2009 13:53:43 GMT
Hi, I was wondering if there would be interest in numerical models of 
physical constants.  For instance, saturation pressure of water vapor in 
air at a particular temperature.  It would also be appropriate to 
provide a method to get relative humidity from wet and dry bulb 
temperatures since it directly relates to this saturation pressure.  All 
of the models should be time-invariant, e.g., no historical weather 

A simple unexplained model isn't very useful so there would be multiple 

1) a significant and attributed dataset.  You don't want three numbers 
somebody found in the back of some book, you want something like 1% of 
the values in the 74th edition of the CRC handbook of bobcats and 
weasels.  This would be provided as a XML document, and there would be a 
mechanism to support both multivariant data and sets of related values.

I don't know how copyright plays into this since it's redistributing 
data.  I know that, in the past, it would have been okay in the US at 
least.  There are famous cases involving phone books, 
compilers/assemblers, etc., that established that you can copyright the 
presentation but not facts.  But I know publishers were trying to change 
that, and I'm not familiar with copyright law in other countries.

(It would also be nice to have tools to help people see if they screwed 
up the data when entering it.)

2) one or more numeric models, plus methods to calculate the appropriate 
coefficients from the data. You could have multiple models because of 
different needs.  E.g., one person requires a highly accurate model, but 
for somebody else the best fit could be something 'quick and dirty' 
since they're computing millions of values but don't need high accuracy.

3) analysis tools, to determine how accurate the model is.

4) (maybe) tools to create standard charts and graphs.  E.g., in 
meteorology there is a standard chart used with weather balloons because 
it makes it easy to determine if the atmosphere is unstable.  Having the 
ability to produce this chart + overlaid data would be very useful, but 
what format?  With what tools?  E.g., do you produce embedded postscript 
(for print media)?  An image?  A SVG?

The second and third items could probably pull a lot from [math], or 
even reside in that project, with just the actual models and the 
underlying data in this project.  Obviously people should be able to 
download just the model.  On the other hand some people might want to 
write their own models and having the tools and data in place would be a 

About myself: I have undergraduate degrees in both math and physics, 
most of an advanced degree in computer science, and have been working as 
a professional software developer for 25 years.  The motivation for this 
proposal is working at NOAA a decade ago - I worked with scientists who 
knew the science but didn't know they didn't know enough to write 
well-engineered numerical models.  The 'three unattributed data points' 
isn't a joke.  I've been planning to make this proposal for years, I've 
just never gotten around to it.


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