Press Release: UBC SunSITE(TM) Launched

The University of British Columbia Mathematics department is pleased to announce the launch of the newest member of the global network of SunSITE (TM) Internet sites, funded by a donation of $135,000 of servers, workstations and software from Sun Microsystems, Inc. The UBC SunSITE (URL went on-line December 15, 1997.

The goals of the Sun SITE (Software, Information and Technology Exchange) program are to provide easy, global access to free software and tools, act as a repository for key Sun, local, and government information, promote development and research of new Internet tools, and to launch new Internet-based applications.

Sun's donation to the UBC Mathematics department will help to fund the Living Mathematics project, whose goal is the research, development, and deployment of internet-based technologies for teaching, learning, communicating and exploring mathematics. Additional funding for this project has come from the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIms).

The Living Mathematics project, headed by Bill Casselman and Djun Kim, began taking shape about two and a half years ago, shortly after Sun's Java® programming language was publicly released. Inspired by the possibilities of presenting interactive, dynamic content on the world-wide web, several members of the department began writing Java applets to demonstrate various aspects of Mathematics.

In the Summer of 1996, Djun Kim, a Ph.D. student in the Mathematics department, and Jim Morey, at the time a Masters student, were independent winners in Sun's JavaCup programming contest (Morey had previously won the grand prize in Sun's earlier Java contest for an interactive, animated version of Euclid's proof of Pythagoras' theorem.) Encouraged by this success, Kim decided to apply to Sun for a grant to further develop the work being done in the department on interactive presentation of Mathematics on the Web.

Sun's Java language gave programmers the ability to `Write Once, Run Anywhere'. A group of a half dozen researchers and students at the UBC mathematics department saw an immediate application to mathematics classroom demonstrations and resources. ``It was a completely natural extension of a direction that we were already following. Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the project so far has been the incredible response of our students to our programs and demonstrations.''

The UBC SunSITE server will host a new web-based electronic Journal, The Electronic Mathematician, focused on applications of computer technology to mathematics, including many of the tools used to build the interactive mathematics texts developed at the UBC Mathematics department. According to Kim: ``Our goal is to present Mathematics as the dynamic, multi-layered, multi-dimensional subject that it is. In a sense, we're contributing to the construction of a new medium for the communication of mathematics.''

The server will also be a publicly accessible archive of software, information and resources related to mathematics, as well as mirroring other archives of a wide range of software and information for Sun customers.

Additional content will be hosted on this system for various partners (to be announced), selected on the basis of interest, originality, depth, quality, "coolness", focus, and Local/Regional relevance. ``The world-wide web has often been characterized as lacking depth. We're interested in doing our part to remedying that.'' The UBC SunSITE will provide server space, access to equipment and computer resources, and technical and design expertise to qualifying partners.

For further information, contact

Email: sunsite(at)math(dot)ubc(dot)ca
Bill Casselman
UBC SunSITE Director
Department of Mathematics, UBC