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OSTIblog Articles in the Enrico Fermi Topic

The Unbelievable Accuracy of the Monte Carlo Method


The Unbelievable Accuracy of the Monte Carlo Method

The year was 1945, the year I was born. That in itself is of great significance to me.  However, it was a momentous year in history. World War II came to its merciful end and the development of the first electronic computer – the ENIAC—was nearing completion. At a post-war Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), mathematician Stanislaw Ulam envisioned the possibilities of reviving statistical techniques that would have a huge impact on science and technology research today. (Read the history of Stanislaw Ulam in the special edition of Los Alamos Science No. 15, 1987.)

Fifteen years earlier, a too-good-to-believe method to predict experimental results by statistical sampling techniques rather than using differential equations had been used by Enrico Fermi while studying neutron transport.  Fermi used his new method to mystify his colleagues with unbelievable accuracy of experimental results. This new prediction method was in its infancy.

By the late 1940s, Ulam was so intrigued with the ENIAC and the increased computing power it offered, he soon realized that Fermi’s computational methods were now appropriate. He began to use random statistical sampling to gain insight into phenomena for which there’s no obvious method of exact analysis. John von Neumann recognized the potential in Ulam’s techniques and championed his effort.  What we now know as the Monte Carlo method was introduced.  (Read more about the Monte Carlo method in OSTI’s January 2013 Science Showcase “...

Related Topics: eniac, Enrico Fermi, LANL, Los Alamos, Monte Carlo, Stanislaw Ulam


World Wide Information: The Other Side of the Coin

Much has been written in this blog about  As regular readers well know, it is a global gateway to scientific and technical databases conceived, developed, and operated by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information. accelerates scientific discovery and technological progress by providing one-stop searching of enormous quantities of information published on behalf of governments from around the world.

Of course, the world’s information covers numerous topics other than science and technology.  For information about the cultures of the world, a particularly noteworthy virtual collection is theWorld Digital Library(WDL) developed and operated by the Library of Congress,which is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscriptsin its collections.  It makes available on the Internet significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.  The principal objectives of the WDL are to:

  • Promote international and intercultural understanding;
  • Expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet;
  • Provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences;
  • Build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and between countries.

WorldWideScience and the World Digital Library are complementary, one focusing on science and technology and the other on culture.  They are both free of charge and open to everyone with Internet access.

One key service provided by both WorldWideScience and the World Digital Library is that they help to transcend language barriers.  However, their approaches to overcoming language barriers differ.  The World Digital Library generally offers...

Related Topics: Enrico Fermi, history of science, multilingual, translations, World digial Library, (WWS)


Technical Reports and Journal Articles

Technical reports and journal articles are both used to report the results of research and development projects. There are differences between the two that are driven by the objectives of each form of reporting.

The primary objective of journal articles is to report results of experimental and/or theoretical scientific investigations to enhance the body of scientific knowledge. This is the primary way that (1) science advances and (2) the scientific community communicates among its members and practitioners. Typically, there are space limitations prescribed by the journal publisher that limit the length of journal articles usually to only a few pages. Journal articles are almost always subjected to a rigorous peer review process before they are accepted for publication.

The main objective of technical reports is to document the research findings together with the approaches and techniques to inform the research process. Unlike journal articles, technical reports face no space limitation. At OSTI, our technical reports range from a few pages in length to several hundred and average 60 pages in length. The content is more under the control of the author(s) and is rarely subject to peer review beyond that which the author(s) or their institution(s) may seek.

A commonality between electronic technical reports and journal articles is the use of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to uniquely identify each document. DOIs are used to ease the referencing of a technical report or a journal article in downstream publications. The advantage of using a DOI for a document is that it is a permanent identifier that will ride with the document even though the document’s location and other metadata may change. Referring to an online document by its DOI thus...

Related Topics: Enrico Fermi, journal articles, Manhattan Project, technical reports, Thomas Edison