Whether you agree with the science of climate change or not, the ability to work on a project like this one from Microsoft Research would be cool. The issue of carbon pollution and the potential impact on our world is huge. If we accept that global climate predictions of problems are true, we may severely impact world economies with the changes that some people have suggested. If we discount the problems and they turn out to be true, we may end up in an even worse position. It's also entirely possible that climate changes are natural cycles of the planet and we have no need, or possibility, to alter the way the world is evolving.
No matter what your position, it seems the Microsoft Research isn't trying to make a stand for either position, but rather attempting to clear the technical hurdles that would allow other groups to compare and debate about their models with regards to any global issue. Their goal isn't to push users in a direction, but give governments or other organizations tools they can use to either consider future actions, or react to new data or information that can be added to a model. There's a short interview from CNN with one of the researchers.
As I browse through the list of projects around the world at the various Microsoft Research facilities, it's an interesting mix of somewhat practical ideas with pure research into areas that may never become projects. One thing is clear, and that's much of this work involves large amount of data. Quite a few of the projects themselves deal with data issues, from searching to visualization to analytics. I have to think a few of them will influence or impact SQL Server over the next decade in some way.
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