Tapping into Big Data

The Following Article Appears in the Spring 2014 issue of Johns Hopkins University’s Arts & Sciences magazine

The secrets of hundreds of millions of galaxies and stars are stored in a humming, whirring computer-filled room on the first floor of the School of Arts and Sciences’ Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy. And they have lots of company, such as the genetic coding of loblolly pine trees (six times longer than human genetic sequences), sensor-collected soil data, and multi-terabyte data sets used to chart air turbulence in three dimensions.

“What we have here is probably hundreds of times the amount of information in the Library of Congress,” says Alex Szalay, director of the Institute for Data Intensive Engineering and Science (IDIES), standing amid 16 racks of neatly stacked processors and disks holding a combined 10 petabytes of storage.

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