TITLE: You Know You're Doing Important Work... AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: February 20, 2008 2:55 PM DESC: ----- BODY: ... when Charlie Eppes invokes your research area on Numb3rs. In the episode I saw last Friday, the team used a recommender system, among other snazzy techie glitz, to track down a Robin Hood who was robbing from the dishonestly rich and giving to the poor through a collection of charities. A colleague of mine does work in recommender systems and collaborative filtering, so I thought of him immediately. His kind of work has entered the vernacular now. I don't recall the Numb3rs crew ever referring to knowledge-based systems or task-specific architectures, which was my area in the old days. Nor do I remember any references to design patterns or to programming language topics, which is where I have spent my time in the last decade or so. Should I feel left out? But Charlie and Amita did use the idea of steganography in an episode two years ago, to find a pornographic image hidden inside an ordinary image. I have given talks on steganography on campus occasionally in the last couple of years. The first time was at a conference on camouflage, and most recently I spoke to a graphic design class, earlier this month. (My next engagement is at UNI's Saturday Science Showcase, a public outreach lecture series my college runs in the spring.) So I feel like at least some of my intellectual work has been validated. Coincidentally, I usually bill my talks on this topic as "Numb3rs Meets The Da Vinci Code: Information Masquerading as Art", and one of the demonstrations I do is to hide an image of Numb3rs guys in a digitized version of the Mona Lisa. The talk is a lot of fun for me, but I wonder if college kids these days pay much attention to network television, let alone da Vinci's art. Lest you think that only we nth-tier researchers care to have our areas trumpeted in the pop world, even the great ones can draw such pleasure. Last spring, Grady Booch gave a keynote address at SIGCSE. As a part of his opening, he played for us a clip from a TV show that had brightened his day, because it mentioned, among other snazzy techie glitz, the Unified Modeling Language he had helped to create. Oh, and that video clip came from... Numb3rs! -----