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From Bear Giles <>
Subject Re: proposal: numerical models [physics?]
Date Sun, 19 Apr 2009 15:55:08 GMT
Luc Maisonobe wrote:
> Bear Giles a écrit :
>> 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
>> observations.
> I'm puzzled about this proposal. The scope seems completely unbounded
> and will get out of hand quickly.
> I would better see such a project under the wing of wikipedia or some
> foundation like that.
It's not an all-or-nothing situation where the project is only usable 
after thousands of models exist.  Instead I would see it slowly adding 
models as people 1) discover the tools and 2) scratch their own itch.  
There may only be 10-20 methods added at a time, but that could be 
enough to significantly enhance the project.  I've worked with 
meteorological models in the past so it's a natural place for me to use 
as a seed.

Also, I might not have been clear earlier that I'm thinking -solely- of 
curve-fitting observational data, either directly or via simple 
calculations of the same.  As a model, we might have observational data 

x,y = (0,0.9), (1,2), (2,5.1), (3,10.3)

and the resulting model is y(x) = 1 + x*x.  Not quite 100%, but it's 
curve-fitting instead of calculations from first principals.  It would 
just be policy that only the basics of general interest would be modeled.

I know [physics] is too broad, that it should be [physics-?] with ? to 
be determined.

>> A simple unexplained model isn't very useful so there would be multiple
>> elements:
>> 1) a significant and attributed dataset.
> At least in France there is a real problem with data collections like
> that. The law that governs intellectual property (the « code de la
> propriété intellectuelle ») does have specific requirements about
> database. Roughly, if someone has already established a database
> containing anything, you cannot build a similar database containing only
> the same data without infringing its rights.
So there's definitely a need to separately package the models and any 
supporting information.

BTW I'm not sure if this is legally a database since we're talking about 
collections of data that anyone could get in the lab.  There's nothing 
proprietary in the sense of a database containing Amazon orders for the 
population of a city.  It's far closer to the US Intel case where the 
company successfully stopped a competitor from using "move" in their 
assembler (the other company had to use something different like "mov"), 
but could not stop them from having their assembler emit the proper 
opcode for the instruction.  The ruling was based on the idea that the 
choice of the mnemonic was up to human discretion, but the opcode was 
fixed and unique even if it was arbitrarily assigned by Intel during the 
design phase.  The competitor could not emit a different opcode and 
expect the correct behavior.

To be honest I'm not 100% certain how useful the underlying data would 
be, but I keep coming back to the academic question of "how do you know 
this?" on the models.  Most people would be happy to just have a small 
java library that lets them avoid entering data by hand, but researchers 
would legitimately need to know the source of the model.  If we say, by 
fiat, that these concerns will not be addressed then we don't need to 
worry about providing the underlying material beyond a simple reference.

> [math] should remain as independent to application as possible.
It would definitely be a one-way street.  But there's no point in 
writing a method for, e.g., Hermite polynomials if it already exists in 
[math].  Obviously something general like that would be offered to 
[math], but there wouldn't be any sort of assumption that it would be 


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