“Imagine if you could search for any calculations and then just use them directly without ever having to work it out yourself from scratch.”
This is the vision of developer Daniel Maxwell, the creator of livesheets.com, whose dream it is for no one in the world to perform the same calculation twice again.
Livesheets allows users to input calculations and formulas and to save and share them with the world. Perhaps the easiest way to describe Livesheets is the way that it describes itself, as ‘numerical lego’. So someone sitting in NASA makes and saves a formula and you log on and can use and manipulate it, add it to other formulas and experiment.
Maxwell believes that the benefits of this are twofold:
“Technophobes can use stored formulae over and over again and people right at the top can pull other people’s expertise off the shelf. If you want to forge new boundaries in science you can always be doing something new, you never have to open a blank sheet and figure stuff out from scratch.”
Although it may sound like a glorified place to save Excel formulae the possibilities range far beyond that. Livesheets can calculate your income tax, solve quadratic equations or just work out your porn star name.
Livesheets is – and Maxwell promises it will remain – a “completely open source, not-for-profit platform,” and he believes that it will offer new capabilities to those with inquisitive minds without the need to understand the science behind calculations.
“I want this to make every child into a rocket scientist and we can really do that. Kids could go on there and search for calculations that have been done by NASA or the Astronomy department at Cambridge University and just start snapping them together and see what they can do.
“They don’t necessarily have to be able to understand everything that’s going on, they just have to know what that calculation is supposed to do.”
What Livesheets needs now is input from those people with calculations to build a database and, if that can be built up successfully, there may one day be no real need for anyone to ever perform the same equation twice.