Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Editor's Corner

Article excerpt

Big Data

When the Sloan Digital Sky Survey started work in 2000, its telescope in New Mexico collected more data in its first few weeks than had been amassed in the entire history of astronomy. Now, a decade later, its archive contains a whopping 140 terabytes of information. A successor, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope... will acquire that quantity of data every five days (Cukier 2010).

It's a Cambrian explosion of data. Ever-increasing volumes of information from sensors, satellites, cell phones, telescopes, global information systems, and social media provide unprecedented opportunities for scientists, citizens, and students to investigate complex systems. This has led to what has been called the Age of Big Data (Lohr 2012).

Scientific progress doesn't result from simply accumulating data. But there's no doubt that big data is revolutionizing fields as diverse as astronomy, marketing, genomics, climate science, oceanography, social science, and health care.

Data collected from millions of cell phones helped track the 2009 swine flu pandemic and fight the recent Ebola outbreak. Geospatial big data is growing by at least 20% each year (Lee and King 2015). Vast Google user databases have improved the software programs that check spelling, recognize speech, and translate languages.

Discovering the Higgs boson required both big data and big connectivity: 10,000 scientists and engineers from 600 institutions in more than 100 countries analyzed the hundreds of millions of particle collisions generated every second by the 27 km--long collider at CERN. …

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