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 data—really massive amounts—can 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.
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Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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