FIGURE 1-1 Projected global information creation and available storage.

FIGURE 1-1 Projected global information creation and available storage.

NOTE: One exabtyte equals one billion gigabyptes.

SOURCE: IDC White Paper sponsored by EMC, The Diverse and Exploding Digital Universe, March 2008. Available at:

of high-energy particle collisions to probe the underlying structure of matter. They can extract information about the functioning of nerve cells and construct models of neural processing. They can combine simultaneous measurements of atmospheric and oceanic conditions to predict the effects of pollutants on climates. They can extract patterns of health from extensive databases of genetic and medical records. Examples of the impact of digital technologies on research fields appear as sidebars throughout this report, and the number of such examples could be multiplied many times.

The advances in digital technologies have caused a massive increase in the quantity of data generated by research projects. The proposed Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is expected to gather 30 terabytes of data per night and more than 60 petabytes over its lifetime (see Box 1-2). Particle physics experiments conducted with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (Figure 1-2) will generate 15 petabytes of data annually. Even relatively small-scale projects can generate immense quantities of data that can be valuable in multiple research fields. These quantities of data are much too large to examine by hand. Instead, computers must conduct the initial analysis of data before the processed and condensed results are reviewed by researchers.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement