Update and note: Be sure to check out the comments. It turns out that while the MacArthur site does not list Paul Rothemund as a computer scientist, he actually is. So there is indeed at least one CS genius for 2007.
Well the 2007 MacArthur fellows were announced and it looks like no computer scientists made it onto the roles this year. The last time there were no computer scientists on the list was 2001. This is probably just a blip, but if the trend continues, it might be a warning sign that computer science is producing fewer visionaries. In a time when the intertubes are booming with social networking activity, this seems odd. Perhaps the problem is that there are too many players and no one stands out, even though as a whole the products are changing the world. At least two of the geniuses are doing some work that appears to draw a lot on computer science but deals more with computational applications of DNA. That is, the DNA is the computer. Maybe this isn’t such a bad sign for CS, but a sign that CS by itself is diminishing and interdisciplinary applications of CS are on the rise. I know I’m not the first person to say that, so if you have a quote or a reference, please leave a comment.
My picks for top geniuses are:
- Paul Rothemund – Caltech – DNA computation and nanotechnology. Awesome stuff. He has used
algorithmic self assembly methods with DNAscaffolded DNA origami to construct images like a map of the western hemisphere (see picture).
- Saul Griffith - Squid Labs - One of his inventions could bring cheap eyeglasses to poor communities throughout the world. Another was a handheld human powered generator. He’s also into nanotech, so we could see some cool stuff there.
- Michael Elowitz – Caltech – More algorithmic coolness with DNA and DNA circuits.