Computer Science

Natural and Artificial Flavors

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Science  20 Jul 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5836, pp. 296-297
DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5836.296d

Computer scientists have long worried that their field suffers from split personality disorder: is what they do mathematics or engineering? True, they work on problems such as writing software to carry out calculations on a machine, but they also grapple with the most abstract mathematical properties of computational procedures and the logic of algorithms. So the debate has raged: Is the field a science of the natural world or only a science of the artificial? Denning argues that computer science is decidedly a natural science. Information storage and processing have been found to be fundamental elements of many fields, from the biological data stored in DNA to the quantum information that is transmitted and modified as particles interact. In many areas, principles that transcend computing machines form a set of questions about the deep structure of computation. These questions, in turn, are driving innovative ways to teach computing, sometimes without using sophisticated computer gadgetry at all. The author concludes that the field encompasses a science of information processing in both natural and artificial systems. — DV

Commun. ACM 50, 13 (2007).

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