Huge volumes of information are changing the nature of science

Wednesday, 03 December, 2008

CSIROvision, CSIRO’s new ultra high-resolution visualisation system, is a window to a near future world where such huge volumes of information are generated that science itself will change, according to Dr Alex Zelinsky, CSIRO group executive, Information and Communication Sciences and Technologies.

CSIROvision was launched recently at CSIRO Discovery in Canberra by CSIRO chief executive, Dr Geoff Garrett.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Zelinsky said science was entering a new phase, where scientists moved from laboratory experiments to analysis of huge datasets.

“In the first six hours of operation of Australia’s astronomy project, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) in 2012, this instrument will generate more information than the entire history of radio astronomy,” Dr Zelinsky said.

“The amount of information processed by ASKAP in one week will be greater than the number of human words ever spoken.

“The time has come — we are living in the petabyte age.”

A petabyte is equal to one million gigabytes, or a million billion bytes.

“Our data requirements are growing exponentially, and for this reason CSIRO is investing in infrastructure to address the challenges for petabyte science,” he said.

CSIROvision is based on and extends the OptIPortal technology developed by the University of California, San Diego.

“It allows us to see images that are over 100 million pixels in size,” Dr Zelinsky said.

CSIROvision will be used to communicate to the general public, as a collaboration system when linked with other optiportals, as a visualisation device for researchers and as a test bed for developing enhancements to the optiportal technology.

At the launch, CSIRO applications in the fields of climate change, health, water management and plant breeding were displayed.

Dr Zelinsky said in the next 18 months CSIRO will add over one petabyte of data storage. A petabyte is capable of storing 200,000 movies — equivalent to all the movies ever made.


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