I had a fascinating meeting yesterday with some of the guys at Microsoft Research Cambridge. In particular, I was introduced to the "stochastic pi-calculus" for the first time:
Despite the scary-sounding name, this is actually a very elegant and simple approach to simulating "population", in this case the populations of different species of biological molecules in an organism.
A system is defined by a flow chart that gives the rates of transitions between states (e.g. the rate of production of a protein). The simulator takes chooses from the possibilities at random, resulting in a Monte-Carlo simulation that is faster than a discrete time simulator and more accurate than a simple symbolic solution.
The applications for such a generic simulator are very diverse. Some obvious ones are chemical reactions in chemistry and ecosystems in population biology. However, the package needs a user interface overhaul if it is going to be used by working scientists.
We were discussing the prospect of using the 2D vector graphics engine that I have been developing over the past decade and it occurs to me that many people in the F# community could benefit from this functionality and I could sell the library. If you're interested in buying visualization tools from us them please comment on this blog entry and let me know what you need. I already have quite a repository of software and it is about time I started releasing products based on F#, given the current explosion in the number of F# users.
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9 months ago