Living Earth Simulator will analyze the entire planet, everything

Will Wright would be proud. The BBC reports that an international group of scientists are working on a simulator with the goal of replicating everything that happens on Earth. It will track everything from weather patterns to disease spreading to traffic congestion to financial transactions all over the globe. The Living Earth Simulator (LES), as it is nicknamed, is being created to advance scientific understanding about everything that is happening on the planet to attempt to figure out what “human actions shape society” and how everything changes the world.

earth-glowing-picture

“Many problems we have today – including social and economic instabilities, wars, disease spreading – are related to human behaviour, but there is apparently a serious lack of understanding regarding how society and the economy work,” explains Dr. Helbing, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. “Revealing the hidden laws and processes underlying societies constitutes the most pressing scientific grand challenge of our century.”

Hebling chairs the FuturICT project, the group that plans to create the simulator. And how exactly will they have the processing power to analyze everything? Well, for starters, the scientists plan to build a number of supercomputers to crunch the numbers. They will likely also use processing power from all across the net, asking mobile and computer users to donate a small portion of their processing to the project. IBM predicted this in its “five innovations by 2015” video a couple weeks back.

The data will be easier to come by. Websites and services like Wikipedia, Google Maps, and Gov’t data banks make up a few of more than 70 already existing sources of moving data. In addition, they hope to integrate real-time feeds from social networks like Facebook, stock markets, medical records, mobile devices, and more. NASA has a large climate project called Planetary Skin that will feed data into the LES as well. The real trick, Dr. Hebling argues, is creating a system powerful enough to take in all this data and simultaneously process and understand it. It will take a few decades to get the system running.

Skeptics

Still, some are concerned that even if we have the data, we may not use it properly, as research has shown many problems that are largely ignored. “Economics and sociology have consistently failed to produce theories with strong predictive powers over the last century, despite lots of data gathering. I’m skeptical that larger data sets will mark a big change,” says Pete Warden, founder of the OpenHeatMap project and a specialist on data analysis. “It’s not that we don’t know enough about a lot of the problems the world faces, from climate change to extreme poverty, it’s that we don’t take any action on the information we do have.”

He has a point. Though it will eventually be possible to put all of the Earth’s data into a computer and analyze it, much of the conclusions it will make have been staring us in the face for decades, perhaps centuries. If we do not act on what we do know, why keep going? However, such an attitude is no fun. The leaves may keep falling in Autumn, but who says we can’t stare out the window before we rake them up? Sure they’ll be more plentiful tomorrow, but it’s warm inside.

Emerging Tech

It will soon be much easier for tiny satellites to transmit images back to Earth

CubeSats are cheap miniature satellites with a range of exciting applications. However, their small size can make feeding images and video back to Earth difficult. Perhaps until now, that is.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Computing

PewDiePie supporters hack printers, hope to boost his subscription numbers

In an attempt to garner more subscribers for their favorite vlogger and secure his status as having the most YouTube subscribers, PewDiePie supporters claimed to have hacked thousands of printers worldwide.
Web

Chrome fights manipulative sites that don’t allow you to hit the back button

Have you encountered a webpage that won't let you hit the back button? Someun scrupulous websites employ what's known as history manipulation, preventing you from hitting the back button, but now Google Chrome will be fighting back.
Photography

Forget painting-style transfers, this A.I. creates realistic portraits of fake people

Do these images look computer-generated? Nvidia researchers recently published a paper on a new variation on style transfer artificial intelligence that's able to generate entirely new portraits.
Gaming

With our Steam guide, you can give the gift of gaming this holiday season

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Computing

Leaked HP laptop listing reveals entry-level Nvidia MX250 GPU

Alongside powerful graphics cards, Nvidia may have more mobile GPUs to show off at next year's CES show in January. The MX250 has been spotted in a listing for an HP laptop, potentially replacing the entry-level MX150.
Computing

ZSpace’s laptop brings education to life with its own 3D technology

The ZSpace laptop wants to overhaul education and training by offering affordable access to 3D mixed reality through a bespoke screen and glasses technology that is already supported by a wide array of applications.
Computing

Former Microsoft intern claims Google may have sabotaged Edge browser

Google's Chrome web browser has been able to establish such dominance that Microsoft is abandoning its web rendering engine, switching Edge over to Chromium, but did Google play dirty in an attempt to force Microsoft to make the decision?
Computing

ViewSonic’s 1080p gaming monitor lets you experience the action in style

ViewSonic is catering to gamers with its latest monitor, the XG240R. Featuring a 1080p 144Hz panel, RGB lighting, and a fast 1ms response time, you can conquer your opponents and do it in style.
Computing

Here’s why you might still be using Wi-Fi after cellular 5G launches

Cellular 5G might be around the corner and promising to deliver lightning fast speeds, but the folks over at the Wi-Fi Alliance have a few reasons why they think you shouldn't dump Wi-Fi just yet.
Computing

Pinning websites to your taskbar is as easy as following these quick steps

Would you like to know how to pin a website to the taskbar in Windows 10 in order to use browser links like apps? Whichever browser you're using, it's easier than you might think. Here's how to get it done.