More than a hundred terabytes dedicated to maps of the universe
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 11.03.2011 at 5:13 pm 1 Comment
In 1998, astronomers using the 2.5-meter Sloan telescope at New Mexico’s Apache Point Observatory began scanning the sky and loading the images they captured into the freely available Sloan Digital Sky Survey database. Since then, astronomers have used that 100-terabyte-plus cache to map half a billion stars, galaxies, asteroids and quasars; create 3-D maps of our outer galaxy; and study the structure of the universe.
On Oct. 6, 1846, prisoner of war Friedrich Adolph Wislizenus ventured into the rocky hills near the secluded Mexican town of Cusihuiriachi to collect some plants. He and his westward exploration party had been captured as the Mexican-American War broke out, but the St. Louis-based doctor and naturalist decided to continue his research during his imprisonment. He pulled up a crimson wildflower, henceforth named Heuchera sanguinea, and hiked back to the village.
He arranged the spindly plant so that once it was dried and mounted on paper, both sides of its leaves would be visible to future botanists, and then he pressed it between sheets of newsprint. After he was freed in the spring of 1847, he carried the dried plant and many others back to St. Louis, presenting it to his friend and fellow doctor Georg Engelmann. And this is where the crisp, rust-colored sample remains — a piece of botanical history, but also an important piece of data, one of almost 6.3 million specimens stored in a forest of manila folders at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Visualize the rise of robots -- or any other word -- over 139 years of PopSci
By Pitch InteractivePosted 11.03.2011 at 3:17 pm 0 Comments
In 2009, Popular Science worked with Google to digitize the magazine's archives back to its inception in 1872, transforming 1,563 issues into mineable data. By counting the frequency of every word and two-word phrase in a 1.35-gigabyte file containing the full text from those issues, data visualizers Jer Thorp and Mark Hansen capture the rise and fall of technological trends throughout the magazine's history.
Popular Science editor Mark Jannot talks to the data wizard about big data, human understanding, and the origin of the universe
By Mark JannotPosted 11.03.2011 at 2:34 pm 2 Comments
At some point about halfway through the hurly-burly of pulling together our special issue on what I'd taken to calling The Data Age, senior associate editor Ryan Bradley noticed that Stephen Wolfram had created a timeline of significant milestones in the historical march of data. We thought it would be an excellent piece of contextual glue to apply to our analysis of the burgeoning power of data, well wielded, to both illuminate and influence our world. Fortunately, Wolfram agreed, and the timeline ran as connective tissue along the bottom of our magazine pages.
Within the vast, undifferentiated torrent of data that courses through the Internet, there hides an intricate topology of information. Decision makers with millions of dollars on the line need a much more detailed map of that information texture than mass-market engines like Google can provide. For bespoke, targeted data curation, corporations and governments turn to a young company called Quid to find hidden connections in the maelstrom of data that can make fortunes or save lives.
The dating site also keeps enough data to crack the code of human relationships
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 11.03.2011 at 12:00 pm 7 Comments
For the past two years, the four Harvard graduates behind the dating site OkCupid have been studying user data for insight into human behavior and sharing the results publicly. The site has seven million active members, each of whom answers an average of 200 personal questions.
This week, PopSci is peeking under the hood of some of the nation's biggest and baddest supercomputers--the machines that turn big data into big discoveries, big technologies, and big leaps forward. Over the last week, we managed to get each of the busy machines in this series on the phone to see what they were up to on during a particular day. They were happy to share.
Today: Meet Franklin, a searingly fast Cray.
Over the last week, we managed to get some of the nation's biggest and baddest supercomputers to take a moment away from their gigabusy schedules and tell us what they were working on. They were happy to share.
Now: a word with iForge, the pride of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.
See how computing power has increased just about a quadrillion-fold over six decades
By CatalogTreePosted 11.02.2011 at 4:29 pm 3 Comments
Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar invented the first commercially successful mechanical calculator in 1820. It was 100 years before mechanical calculators gave way, in the 1930s, to electromechanical calculators, which then quickly gave way to the first general-purpose electronic computer, ENIAC, in 1946. By 1965, Gordon Moore was predicting that engineers would be able to double the number of components on a microchip every two years (and by 1968, he co-founded Intel to help them do so).
On many a college campus are inscribed somewhere or other the words of Isaac Newton, who in 1676 said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Among those raising his stature you could probably count the people who took the young math prodigy seriously, and decided to publish his work on things like calculus and optics. The Royal Society, the world's oldest academic publishing institution, was the first to do so.