[erlang-questions] Erlang meets physics

Jared Kofron <>
Thu Mar 15 01:33:39 CET 2012


Yes, my first project was initially also done over ports - the async model was perfect.

On Mar 13, 2012, at 5:58 PM, Robert Virding wrote:

> We used ports. External hardware was a "process" with which you communicated through messages. The asynchronous model fitted hardware very well, at least the hardware in which we were interested.
> 
> Robert
> 
> How do you interact with the hardware?
> Do you use GPIB C libr and wrap it with a NIF?
> 
> From: Joe Armstrong <>
> To: Jared Kofron <> 
> Cc: Erlang Questions <> 
> Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 12:34 PM
> Subject: Re: [erlang-questions] Erlang meets physics
> 
> Great news - spread the word !
> 
> Just for the record Erlang programmers numbers 1 and 2 (ie myself and
> Robert Virding)
> are both ex physicists.
> 
> When I lecture I often point out the similarity between causality and
> message reception.
> You don't know that something has happened until you get a message
> telling that it has happened.
> 
> (In physics it's a ray of light, or a photon, or something -
> forgetting entanglement for the moment)
> 
> In computing it's the reception of a message.
> 
> As a ex physicist I know that we can't say anything about simultaneous
> events occurring
> at different places in space-time - turn this into computer science
> and the same arguments
> apply to things like making sure replicated data is consistent on
> remote sites - well you can't
> - at least if you want to change it - Brewer's CAP theorem applies -
> which for a physicist makes
> perfect sense.
> 
> Also as an ex physicist I realize that things do actually happen in
> parallel in the real world,
> so modelling them in a sequential programming language (if I wanted to do that)
> is big time crazy - just describe the parallel stuff in a concurrent
> language and the program
> writes itself. Wait a few years till we have million core computers
> and the parallel problems
> can be solved 1:1 on parallel computers - and programming simulations
> and so on will be
> really easy - but don't even think about doing it in a sequential language...
> 
> Cheers
> 
> /Joe
> 
> 
> On Mon, Mar 12, 2012 at 2:34 AM, Jared Kofron <> wrote:
> > Hi All,
> > I've been using Erlang at work for a few years now, and I thought I'd throw my experience out there, as
> > my application is a little different than what you usually see on the list - I am a graduate student at the
> > Center for Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Washington, and use Erlang extensively
> > in my work.
> >
> > In my experience, something that Erlang is really great at but doesn't receive much attention for these days
> > is managing and interacting with hardware.  In any physics experiment of even modest sizes, you wind up
> > having to keep track of the state of various pieces of equipment, often modify that state, and constantly
> > interrogate particular values.  For example, we might want to change the current in a magnetic trap, turn
> > that trap off altogether, or simply read back the voltage drop across our superconducting magnet.
> >
> > So far, I have deployed Erlang in this zone for two separate experiments (SNO+, a large particle physics
> > experiment in Canada) and Project 8 (a small nuclear physics experiment here in Seattle).  Both times have
> > been great successes, and I have found the reception of Erlang in this market to be great.  In general, what
> > I have done is wrap a hardware management layer with some kind of outside world interface. For SNO+, we
> > used Webmachine and RESTful control, and for Project 8 we actually conduct all communication
> > by using CouchDB as a message passing interface.
> >
> > Physicists are suspicious creatures, but once you demonstrate the feature set that you get for practically
> > free with OTP, they see the advantage pretty quickly.  On top of that, the development cycle for sophisticated
> > applications can be greatly reduced - more than once it made my group float to the top in terms of meeting
> > goals.
> >
> > In short, as far as I am concerned, Erlang has found a new niche in the world of Physics, and I intend to
> > spread the word as much as I can!
> >
> > Jared Kofron
> > _______________________________________________
> > erlang-questions mailing list
> > 
> > http://erlang.org/mailman/listinfo/erlang-questions
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