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Peter J. Denning, Editor in ChiefThe digitally connected world has become a large, swirling sea of information stripped of context.

We help our readers make sense of it, find meaning in it, learn what to trust, and prepare for the future that may show up. "Ubiquity and Your Future

Peter J. Denning,

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Workings of science: How software engineering research became empirical

by Walter Tichy

Software engineering was recognized as its own type of engineering in the 1960s. At first, the tools and guidelines developed for it were mostly based on common sense, intuition, and personal experience, but not empirical evidence. It took until the late 1990s for researchers in the area to embrace empirical methods. This article is a personal story of how I experienced the maturing of Software Engineering research into an evidence-based science. I will interpret this development using two competing philosophical concepts, rationalism and empiricism, and describe how pragmatism reconciles them.



Why is expository writing so undervalued---and what to do about it

by Philip Yaffe

Expository (non-fiction) writing is the kind of writing most people do in their jobs and elsewhere. Yet the importance of good expository writing is generally underrated, often severely so. This Communication Corner essay explores why undervaluing expository writing is so costly and detrimental, and what might be done about it. ...


Workings of science: Debunked software theories

by Walter Tichy

Falsifiability is a cornerstone of science. It states that scientific claims---propositions, hypotheses, theories---must be testable by experiment. A scientific claim is falsified if an empirical test contradicts it; if a claim withstands repeated attempts at falsification, it is accepted as fact. This article discusses three examples of falsified theories about software. They address the reliability of multi-version programs, the prediction of program bugs by means of software metrics, and the advantages of software models (UML). These examples demonstrate how falsifiability can eliminate incorrect theories and help reorient research and practice. ...


Workings of science: Trust in science and mathematics

by Jeffrey Johnson, Andrew Odlyzko

Concerns about the trustworthiness of science are not confined to fringe groups that reject science entirely. There is substantial unease even among researchers about the reliability of peer review and the reproducibility crisis---where scientific results are not or cannot be tested by replication. Here the authors point out that such worries even apply to mathematics---for many the language of science. This is largely caused by the growing complexity of our knowledge base, where results are more complicated and investigators sometimes have to rely on the results of others that they do not fully understand. This means, as with the sciences, mathematical discoveries increasingly have to be treated as not absolutely reliable, but as part of a process of searching for the truth, and even what it means for something to true. ...