We need Big Data where it will actually make a difference


Another earthquake took the lives of many thousands. As I am writing this blog post, scores of survivors will still be trapped underneath debris and rubble.

It will take weeks, if not months, before the damage done to Nepal will become fully apparent, in terms of life and limbs but also economically and spiritually.

The world’s poorest regions are often hardest hit because resilient structures that can withstand quakes of this magnitude are expensive.

Governments look to science to provide better earthquake warnings, but the progress of geophysical modeling is hampered by the lack of good, high quality data.

In this context, pushing the limits of remote sensing with new technologies such as Quantum Gravimeters becomes a matter of life and death, and it should make apparent that striving for ever more precise quantum clocks is anything but a vanity chase. After all we are just now closing in on the the level of accuracy needed to perform relativistic geodesy.

It goes without saying that the resource extraction industry will be among the first to profit from these new techniques.  While this industry has an image problem due to its less than stellar environmental track record, there’s no denying that anything that drives the rapid and ongoing productization of these technologies is a net positive if that makes them affordable and widely accessible to geophysicists who study the dynamic of active fault lines. Acquiring this kind of big data is the only chance to ever achieve a future when our planet will no longer shock us with its deadly geological force.

2 thoughts on “We need Big Data where it will actually make a difference

  1. Big data can make a difference in every industry, but especially in areas of poverty and where people are in need it could prove to make an important difference. Knowledge is power.

    1. To me this seems to be a somewhat neglected area.

      VC money pours into Big Data start-ups that promise solid profit opportunities, but there is no systematic coordination to pool and mine the data that originates from the poorest segment of humanity.

      Of course there is less data, but cell phone coverage is increasing in third world countries, and hence data collection and polling is much more feasible now than just a mere twenty years ago.

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