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The World of Big Data, Part 1

Tech Talker: Quick and Dirty Tips to Navigate the Digital World



Quick and Dirty Tips

Scientific American presents Tech Talker by Quick & Dirty Tips. Scientific American and Quick & Dirty Tips are both Macmillan companies.

You may have heard the term "Big Data" before, but did you ever wonder what it means exactly, or more importantly, how it affects your life? Today we'll discuss just that.

What Is Big Data?
Let's talk about what Big Data actually is. Big Data is a pretty general term used to describe huge datasets that require a massive amount of storage (measured in terabytes, petabytes, and exabytes), and huge amounts of processing power to make sense of all the data.

Many of you are probably familiar with gigabytes because this is what most of our electronics are measured in. Well, a terabyte is a thousand gigabytes. There are devices such as hard drives that can be measured in terabytes. The next order of magnitude is petabytes, which is 1 million gigabytes, and then followed by the next order of magnitude which is exabytes - that's 1 billion gigabytes.

Let's put this into perspective. One petabyte of high definition 1080p video would last for 34 years, non-stop, always playing. Two petabytes of data comprises information from all of the United States' academic research libraries.

If we take the next jump in magnitude into the exabyte range, things get even more crazy! It's pretty difficult to put any real perspective to 1 exabyte, but one statistic I came across noted that 1 exabyte would be the record of every word ever spoken by every human being that ever existed. To me, that is insane. To top it off, the SKA telescope initiative is predicted to produce that much data each day within the next few years.

You'll have to excuse me, I'm an engineer and I get carried away with math and large numbers.

 

> Continue reading on QuickAndDirtyTips.com

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