We should all congratulate Gary on completing his corrections and on managing remote production of his thesis, "Ad hoc Cloud Computing", while in California, interning at Apple. It demonstrates the remarkable power of the Internet to arrange action at a distance! His thesis is now available here and should be read.
A better understanding of the ground beneath our feet will result from research by seismologists and Rapid—a group of computer scientists at the University of Edinburgh. The Earth's structure controls how earthquakes travel and the damage they can cause. A clear picture of this structure would be extremely valuable to earthquake planners, but it requires the analysis of huge amounts of data. The Rapid team developed a system that performs the seismologists' data-crunching, and have made it easy to use by relying on an interface familiar to all scientists – a web browser.
Portlets make inaccessible technology accessible, because they run from within a browser—a familiar interface for even the most technophobic researcher. To encourage the use of portlets, it is necessary for them to be easy to develop. This led OMII-UK to fund Rapid, an easy-to-use portlet development tool.