Friday, October 24, 2014

"The Pale Blue Dot" Effect and Big Data


Many of you may have heard of the “Pale Blue Dot” which is a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager One spacecraft when it was leaving the solar system.[1] The picture was taken from a distance of about 3.7 billion miles from the earth. In the photograph, the earth with all its magnificence (i.e., life) only appears as a fraction of a pixel against the vastness of space, hence the name “Pale Blue Dot.” 

This “Pale Blue Dot” effect may well represent insights that can potentially be extracted for some big data explorations. In such contexts, the insight itself may seem very small given the vastness of data collected, processed, and analyzed. However its value could be unimaginable when discovered. For example, some answers to potential cures for diseases may be hidden in DNA sequencing data, but it is extremely difficult and expensive to analyze this data and correlate it with known diseases, given the vastness of the data. However, if an insight is found and is leveraged for a cure, it will have huge value for society as a whole.


See the book site for "High-Performance Data Mining and Big Data Analytics: The Story of Insight from Big Data" (http://bigdataminingbook.info )


[1] Subsequently, the title of the photograph was used by Sagan as the main title of his 1994 book, Pale Blue Dot (Sagan, 1994).