December 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm (interesting, odds, science) (, , , , , )

There is a lot of talk of “big data” – but I quite like the idea that big data means “more data than you have the computing power to process”.  And that isn’t new.  I particularly like this talk by John Graham-Cumming about big data – describing a big data problem they encountered … in the 1950’s.  The blurb for the conference describes it thus:

It’s 1951 and you’ve got the world’s first business computer and you’ve just been handed a Big Data problem. Go! With 2K of memory it was  powerful enough to run the then massive Lyons business.  But it wasn’t long, in 1955, before Big Data came calling in the form of a request from British Rail to calculate the shortest distance between every one of their 5,000 railway stations.

So why mention it at all?  Well there is an interesting discussion going on at the moment that we might soon be running out of metric units to describe big data.  Andrew McAfee’s blog describes the problem:

Yotta- , signifying 10^24, is the only metrix prefix left on the list. Only 20+ years ago, we didn’t anticipate needing anything beyond yotta. It seems safe to say that before the current decade is out we’ll need to convene a 20th conference to come up with some more prefixes for extraordinarily large quantities not to describe intergalactic distances or the amount of energy released by nuclear reactions, but to capture the amount of digital data in the world.

Yotta?  See wikipedia for the full list:

  • kilo = 1,000
  • mega = 1,000,000
  • giga = 1,000,000,000
  • tera = 1,000,000,000,000
  • peta = 1,000,000,000,000,000
  • exa = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
  • zetta = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
  • yotta = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Yes, that is 1 followed by 24 zeros.  But even that might not be enough.

So what is being considered?  Well some have suggested hella for 1 followed by 27 zeros, but I think that is missing a great opportunity.  I think it should be helluva.  Then we can have distances that are a helluvameter, really heavy things that are a helluvagram and if you are into really big data then obviously you need storage that has a helluvabyte in it.

But, seeing as Google already recognises hella, we might have missed that chance.  But then Google also already knows about googols too.




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