Data Crunching Is the New Science

What do algae blooms have to do with South American genocides? Computer companies searching for patterns amongst unfathomable amounts of data are changing how we do science.

What's the Latest Development?


At a recent technology conference in San Francisco, IBM discussed the future of computation, which may represent the future of science itself. The plummeting cost of data storage hardware means massive amounts of datareally massive amountscan be analyzed for patterns and compared to other fields. An algorithmic analysis of a power grid can be applied to a water distribution scheme. Even traffic, which works best when it flows easily, can be analyzed using the same mathematics.

What's the Big Idea?

The laboratory-based model of gaining scientific knowledge has company. Today, some of the most powerful scientific papers are meta-analyses, or findings gathered from hundreds, perhaps thousands of individual studies. Pure data crunching makes these findings possible and IBM, which employes more PhDs than any other company, want to find where different fields intersect to 'leverage the cost structure of new mathematics'. Algea blooms, for example, have been use to determine whether a genocide occurred in South America.

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

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