Consider a programmer sitting at her desk, trying to fix an error in a software system. First, she had to determine what was causing the problem and trace its source to a specific location within the programme’s code. Then she has to speculate on strategies that would fix the error, and test various patches to the code to see which one worked best. The entire process — called debugging — is an incredibly laborious and time-consuming process. It’s one that has vexed computer programmers for years, and continues to do so today.
Learn more ...
When you’re ill, seeing the doctor is one thing. Getting your prescription filled is another. If you live in an industrialised country, you probably wouldn’t think twice about the latter — you walk into a pharmacy and there’s the medication you need.
Choice is good, but sometimes having too much choice can be a bad thing. Just ask anyone who’s ever tried to delve into a new film on Netflix, discover new songs on Spotify, or search for a suitable toy to buy their niece on Amazon — the options seem endless and often paralysing.
In 2014, Tan Tianhui was in the second year of her PhD at NUS Computing when she heard about a “special product” that everyone back home in China couldn’t stop talking about.
The International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI) is one of the most prestigious competitions in the computer science world. Held every summer since 1987, the tournament sees exceptional high school students from over 80 countries gather to test their programming and problem-solving skills.
The School of Computing at NUS is set in tranquil surroundings — buildings atop gentle hills are connected by breezy walkways, and research labs and classrooms look out onto lush tropical vegetation. In recent months, however, the views have been tainted by an eyesore: a monstrous construction site.
To get to his office, Jun Han has to walk down a long windowless corridor. There are office rooms on either side, but the doors are often closed, making the whole thing “quite hollow.” One day, as Han was unlocking his door and his key made a droop sound when it entered the lock, a thought crossed his mind: “Wow, this is really loud.”
There have been many moments of disbelief throughout the pandemic, but one of the most shocking ones happened last April, when then U.S. President Donald Trump suggested that disinfectants could be a cure for Covid-19.
To say that the human body is an intricate complicated system would be an understatement. When one thing goes wrong, others often follow suit. So in 1970 when Alvan Feinstein first coined the term ‘comorbidity’ — to refer to a person having multiple diseases at the same time — it wasn’t too revolutionary a concept.
How can you get your next great idea? One way is to ask other people, and many of them, even a crowd. Crowdsourcing — harnessing the wisdom of the crowd to attain a common goal — is used for an impressive array of tasks, from learning how to eat sustainably, to redesigning cities with open government, creating apps with hackathons, and annotating data for machine learning. When you need help in such instances, you are almost guaranteed to find a ready army of volunteers online.
In 1961, something momentous happened at a squat, nondescript factory in the tiny town of Ewing, New Jersey. The Unimate, a robotic arm, was fired up for the first time, grabbing pieces of hot metal off an assembly line and welding them onto car bodies while onlookers cheered — the world’s first industrial robot had officially been put to work.
Every decade has an exercise trend or two that defines it. Step aerobics and the Thighmaster were popular in the ‘90s, for instance, while exer-gaming and CrossFit were all the craze in the 2000s. To know what’s trending this decade, look no further than your wrist (or to those around you) — chances are it’ll be adorned with some sort of wearable device, fitness tracker, or smartwatch.
For an electronic device to ‘know’ what to do, computer programmers need to give it a set of instructions, called code. Writing software programmes can be an immense task — the average Android phone uses 12 million lines of code, Facebook runs on 62 million, and a modern car on 100 million.
Because of the sheer size of code involved, starting from scratch every time you need to write a new programme would be a nightmare. Plus many software utilise similar functions, such as password authentication, copy and paste tools, or parsing a text file. So instead, some software developers employ a neat trick: code reuse, where they take existing code and use it to build new software.
When computer science freshmen first begin their undergraduate degree at NUS Computing, they’re required to take an innocuous-sounding module called CS1101S. There, they are introduced to the fundamentals of computer programming and, in the process, are transported to a whole new world — one comprised not just of 1s and 0s, but of spaceships and alien planets.
For Ravi Suppiah, the term “teaching innovation” has never just been some far-off ideal to strive for when one has the time or energy for reflective improvement. Instead, it’s ingrained in everything he does as an educator.
Like everyone else, Yuen Jien Soo found himself struggling to adapt when Covid-19 first hit last year. Soo, who teaches operating systems, computer organisation, and software product engineering at NUS Computing, initially found it strange “speaking to himself” without anyone to look at while delivering a lecture. But something else troubled the associate professor even more: students were complaining that online lectures “weren’t engaging” and “didn’t feel like a regular classroom.”
In 2011, Damith Rajapakse was teaching a few modules at NUS Computing when he ran into a problem. Part of his modules comprised an aspect of project work, and he needed a way to evaluate each student’s contribution to their respective projects, so that he could assign grades in a fair manner. But the tools available to Rajapakse weren’t very helpful.
In 2017, a casino in North America reported that their database had been hacked. The news in itself wasn’t surprising — more than 5,000 such breaches took place last year — but the cause of the leak was: a fish tank.
The road to university can be difficult for any student, but Mr Ng Jun Kang had to overcome daily challenges that others gave no thought to. Like getting to class, for instance, or taking notes. Or even getting a drink of water.
The 22-year-old first year Computer Science undergraduate at the National University of Singapore has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which was caused by a brain injury during birth.
Although his condition affects his muscle control, motor skills and his speech, it proved no obstacle to his achieving good grades and clinching scholarships. Quite the opposite, he argues.
"My condition has gifted me resilience and patience in everything that I do," he said.
In April 2018, Hyeongcheol Kim flew to Montreal for work. The young PhD student was excited — it was his first time in the Canadian city and the conference he was about to attend was one of the biggest in his field of computer science. What’s more, Montreal was only a three hour journey from Quebec City, a place he had glimpsed many times on the small screen.
Page 2 of 5