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Electronic Brain Aids University Research

Any problem that can be reduced to a numerical analysis and requires a numerical answer can now be answered in minutes on the U of A campus through the medium of teletype and FERUT, a high-speed digital electronic computer housed in the computation centre at the University of Toronto.

A direct-line, teletype communication system with FERUT has been placed with the University through the courtesy of the Canadian National Telegraphs, on an experimental basis. Equipment is located in the Physics Department laboratory, basement floor, Arts Building.

This new type of "correspondence course" has students and physics professors at the U of A preparing problems on teletype ticker tape every week. Then, on Thursdays at 5:00 p.m., a direct line with the computation centre in Toronto is cleared for University use. Transmission time is made available by the Canadian National Telegraphs and time on FERUT is paid for by the National Research Council.

The mechanics of getting a solution to any mechanical problem are comparatively simple. Previously prepared tapes of problems are fed through the teletype machine on the campus and identical tapes are punched instantaneously in the computation centre in Toronto. FERUT is fed the problem tapes which are then processed and FERUT feeds back an answer tape in typed numbers in tabular form. The answer tape is fed through a Toronto teletype which activates the keys of the machine on the campus.

There are many particular advantages of the new hook-up. Ambitious problems in the fields of physics, mathematics, engineering, statistics, etc., can now be solved on the campus in a matter of minutes, that otherwise would have taken months, perhaps years, of hard labour on a desk calculator. Problems of a numerical nature can be solved much more accurately than previously, and through the teletype medium, operators at both ends can converse.

At present, the University of Alberta has five theoretical physicists on staff, the largest number of any university in Canada. It is expected that they, and several students doing graduate work in the Physics department, will keep the new "problem-answer" system busy.

Dr. A. B. Bhatia, who is writing a book on Ultrasonics, is an expert on nuclear physics and solid state physics — the study of atoms and molecules in bulk. Drs. D. D. Betts, G. K. Horton, and H. Schiff are collaborating with Dr. Bhatia in carrying out research on the thermal and electrical properties of metals. Dr. L. E. H. Trainor, who has specialized in the study of atomic nuclei, gave a paper on some aspects of the special theory of relativity in Ottawa recently. The National Research Council of Canada has recently awarded the group a substantial research grant to aid it in its work. Dr. P. C. Sood, who recently received his Ph.D. from Florida State University, has been appointed an N.R.C. post-doctoral research fellow in theoretical physics.

About half a dozen Ph.D. and M.Sc. students are working for their higher degrees with members of the group. They come from as far away as England and Pakistan.

Published Summer 1957.

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