Meet the Board: Charles Day

Meet Charles Day, one of CiSE‘s editorial board members.


  • In what “slice” of CiSE do you work?

I write the Last Word column and serve as the American Institute of Physics’s editorial liaison.

  • What sorts of changes have you seen in the field over the years?

As computers have become more powerful and databases bigger, scientists can now do more with more. Astronomers can simulate the early universe and compare structures they create with the real, observed universe. Geneticists can deduce entire family trees from a few incomplete DNA sequences. Particle physicists can extract rare events from a background of billions and billions of events . . .

  • What is the most exciting aspect about your work for the near future? The far future?

As Physics Today’s online editor, I don’t do research. In the world of science communication, I’m most excited by the possibilities of combining media to tell stories online. As for the far future, it would be great if the stories I produce could be automatically and faithfully translated into other languages.

  • If you were to explain Computing in Science and Engineering (either the magazine or the field(s) it represents) to a five-year-old, what would you say?

Remember when you built a castle out of wooden blocks and it fell down? With a computer, you can design and build a castle that doesn’t fall down.

  • Big Data… What’s more exciting or important (or is there anything more important)?

The most important and exciting developments in big data entail developing algorithms to extract patterns from  heterogeneous unstructured data.

  • What is one thing that would fundamentally change the average person’s reality if he or she worked with you day to day and saw what you saw?

I hope they’d acquire the ability to scan through lots and lots of sources of scientific information and identify the few papers that are worth really paying attention to.

  • What is the most important application of HPC/computational science/data visualization in your opinion? (Protein simulation, climate modeling, etc.) Why?

For the sake of the planet and its inhabitants, it has to be climate modeling. Because early climate models were so crude, skeptics could plausibly argue that warnings of disaster were unfounded. Now, we’ve almost reached the point that the case for anthropogenic climate change can be made by appealing solely to observations, not models. Still, better models are very much needed to predict the local effects of climate change and to guide mitigation policies.

  • Conversely, what is the scariest?

Using HPC to predict the genetic mutations needed to turn, say, the flu virus into a deadly weapon or to make heroin more addictive.

  • Why do you do what you do?

Because I find it challenging, intellectually satisfying and fun.

  • Anything else you want to add?

If you like the Last Word column, you might also like my blog, the Dayside.

Posted in Meet the Editorial Board