How Big Data Works Like a Parallel Universe

The quantity of knowledge contained by humanity increases by about five billion bits per second, yet our poor understanding of how information systems work could spell disaster. 

What's the Latest Development?

The era of Big Data has arrived, increasing the world's store of electronic information by about five trillion bits per second, but we have yet to fully understand the system we have constructed, says science historian George Dyson. This world of information--which contains data on everything from our shopping habbits to catalogs of stars in distant galaxies--constitutes a parallel universe of "numbers and codes and viruses with its own 'physics' and 'biology,'" said Dyson. And theses processes which we have yet to grasp can create unpleasant surprises, such as they did during the "flash crash" in May 2010. 

What's the Big Idea?

Like climate cycles yet undetected in the geological record, it may be that the patterns and currents that determine our lives remain invisible to us. Were data engineers to uncover what makes the gears of the Big Clock turn, whoever posessed that information could, in principle, hold a great deal of power over society--perhaps even rule the world. J. Doyne Farmer, a physicist and complexity theorist at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, says classical economics has failed properly explain human behavior. So he has begun using Big Data to create agent-based models of the economy, where seemingly random behavior gives rise to order. 

Photo credit:

Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
  • The judge described the ruling as narrow, and didn't rule one way or the other on violations of the First Amendment.
  • The case is still open, and the administration may choose to appeal the ruling.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Scientists just voted to change the definition of a kilogram

The definition of a kilogram will now be fixed to Planck's constant, a fundamental part of quantum physics.

Greg L via Wikipedia
Surprising Science
  • The new definition of a kilogram is based on a physical constant in quantum physics.
  • Unlike the current definition of a kilogram, this measurement will never change.
  • Scientists also voted to update the definitions of several other measurements in physics.
Keep reading Show less