Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Feb 12th. - Lance R. Williams

On Feb. 12th, 2008 Professor of Computer Science Lance R. Williams from the University of New Mexico gave a demonstration of his work with the programing language Scheme in Second Life to the BGSU SL Learning Community.

The learning community was thoroughly impressed with Prof. Williams work with "distributed computation in the area of CS which deals with dividing the pieces of a computation up and distributing them across many computers which communicate over a network." Williams has built and scripted all of his work in Second Life at the BGSU sandbox. "SL is an ideal testbed for research in dist. computation because of its programming model... scripts are tiny...and limited to 16K, which is many thousands of times less memory than most comp. scientists are used to working with." By distributing the algorithms and data structures across hundreds of different objects, the 16K limit for a single script can be overcome."

Williams showed three different evaluators for the Scheme programming language. Each evaluator was comprised of hundreds of scripted objects which communicate with each other to effect the computation. Learning community members were very interested in the artistic nature of what Williams calls the "reification" of the programs, or the physical embodiment of something which is normally purely abstract. One of the virtual machines William's presented to the learning community resembled a school of swimming fish which was not simply a visualization of a distributed data structure, but literally the data
structure itself; the functional elements of a distributed virtual machine,
operating wholly inside the virtual world of Second Life.

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