Thursday, December 12, 2013

Humans have created another Universe!

If you think about all of the information out in cyberspace its almost like another universe.  What do I mean?  We as humans live inside our physical universe that we observe with our senses and equipment we have developed to augment our senses, such as a telescope.  From this we have developed science that tries to interpret this data to tell us something about the space that we live in.  Think of Newton's three laws of motion or his theory of gravity.  By observing phenomenon we have developed theories and laws that help explain the universe. The domains examined define the various branches of science.  Gee sounds like a lecture to liberal arts students about science.  Anyways, the information out in cyberspace can be thought of in a similar manner.  The real problem is trying to understand what all of this data is telling us.  This information space is huge, recently we are storing over an exabytes of data (1 X10^18).  That's a 1 with 18 zeros behind it.  I remember when a megabyte, Mb (1 X 10^6, 1,000,000) was a large amount of data. Remember a CD  holds 650 Mb, so getting into the exabyte realm is like a trillion CD's.  Now we are trying to process and understand  this huge amount of data.  As I posted yesterday the potential of this data is astounding.  The problem is how to understand this data and what is it telling us.  This is exactly what science does in trying to understand the physical universe.  Only now I'm thinking that all the data in cyberland is like another universe and we need to learn how to interpret this data and understand it in a manner possibly similar to what science does.

This nothing new.  There are faculty positions at universities in the US advertising for positions in Big Data.  Obama has announced a Big Data Research and Development Initiative.  I hope that one of the goals is to try and understand what this cyberland universe is telling us about ourselves.

As a concrete example one goal of the Large Hardon Collider (LHC) at CERN was to hopefully discover the Higgs Boson.  Which it did, as announced at CERN on July 4, 2012.  Two large multipurpose detectors where built and installed at the lab.  These detectors, each are the size of a multistory home, collect a huge amount of data.  Physicists have developed ways to analyze the data to look for events in the data that tell them that a Higg boson was created.  In analyzing their data the events expected from a Higgs particle production were observed!  Thus confirming a theory developed back in the 1964.  Two theoretical physicists, Francois Englert and Peter Higgs were awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in physics.  However and this is a big however, in that data collected by the two detectors there are a huge number of events recorded.  What is in all those events that might possibly be telling us something that was not looked for in the Higgs search?  This is assuming of course that they didn't throw away too much data in their hard wire triggers before the data was stored. There maybe in that data something telling us about dark matter or dark energy but that we just don't understand what to look for in the data.  What kind of patterns are there in that amount of data?  How do we go about sifting through all that data?  This is one example of how Big Data can be used.  Think of all the other possibilities!  Humans have created another universe!!

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