Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The little b that could [be interesting]

BioIT-World has an online interview with a couple of people from Harvard's department of Systems Biology, Jeremy Gunawardena and Aneil Mallavarapu, about the Harvard Systems Bio department, what tools are needed for systems biology and the new systems bio modeling language they're developing, called 'Little b'.

From an extremely cursory glance at the materials on the website, 'b' looks like an interesting high-level framework for building models, including the ability to do things like auto-generate Matlab code [ie they're not re-inventing the wheel when it comes to pre-existing mathematical packages]. That said, I do wonder how the average biologist is going to feel about being asked to learn Lisp [which their language is based on], given that the average computer science student reacts allergically to Lisp. Then again, I suppose the target audience aren't "average" biologists [are there such people, or are all biologists above average, like the children from Lake Wobegon ;-)?], but rather computational biologists, with a presumably somewhat larger tolerance for the elaborate protocol required to communicate with the mysterious god-boxes called computers. [Are computational biologists the ultimate masochists, being willing to put up with both the pain of debugging programs and the tedium of bench work ?]

In any case, it's something I'll be keeping an eye on and will probably download and play with a bit, once it's released.

Side note:
What kind of a name is 'b' for a language ? I guess it's about as good as 'C', but at least that was a capital letter. I'm waiting for a language called "1", or "!", or maybe even "?!" [like in chess notation], as in "That last statement was either really smart or really dumb -- run-time will tell".


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