Information Technology


Information technology is a broad category of hardware, software and networks related to the processing and distribution of data. Departments within an organization that handle these systems, hardware and software are known as information technology departments. A person who works in information technology is called an IT technician.

A chess computer, for instance, can be programmed to play chess well, but go is a much more complex game and it would take millions of lines of code to do even a fraction of the best possible job. Even so, a good chess program will never beat an experienced human player at go. The reason is that a computer’s ability to search the board for moves is limited by its memory and computational power. Its complexity is also limited by a number called Shannon’s number, named after Bell Laboratory pioneer Claude Shannon, who developed information theory and wrote the first paper on how to program a machine to play chess back in 1950.

GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) is a series of geostationary weather satellites that has formed the backbone of short-term weather forecasting in the United States since the late 1970s. The real-time satellite data, combined with data from Doppler radars and automated surface observing systems, allows meteorologists to warn of tornadoes, lightning storms, floods and hurricanes.

The current GOES satellites, GOES-S through GOES-R, are equipped with a suite of Earth-sensing and space weather instruments, including an Advanced Baseline Imager, Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, Geostationary Lightning Mapper and Space Environment Monitor/Magnetometer. In addition, GOES-R carries a search and rescue capability that detects 406 MHz distress signals transmitted by planes, ocean-going vessels and individuals in emergency situations and relays the location of the signal to COSPAS-SARSAT ground-based systems.

Two GOES satellites are required to constantly monitor the Earth’s surface and atmosphere, day and night. The data is disseminated in real-time to National Weather Service forecast offices and centers, volcanic ash advisory centers and aviation safety agencies. The new GOES-R satellite, with its faster temporal cadence, will help improve aviation safety by providing images that allow more rapid identification of volcanic ash clouds and improved detection of lightning strikes.

GOES is operated by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in partnership with NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). The spacecraft are designed, built and launched by NOAA, while NASA handles the design, development and operation of the launch vehicle and its payload. NOAA takes over the satellites once they are in geostationary orbit. In turn, NOAA provides the real-time satellite data to the National Weather Service’s Weather Forecast Offices and Centers and its research partners. NOAA’s Satellite Operations Center in Suitland, Maryland is responsible for the operational control of the GOES satellites. There are other geostationary weather satellites in operation around the world that provide additional coverage for areas not covered by GOES.