IBM is working in partnership with the Dutch space agency ASTRON to pull data from the universe and peer into what could be the beginnings of the universe. The project, which uses radio waves to peer into the furthest reaches of the universe, will attempt to pull in as much data as possible using a radio telescope and then process that data using superior processing capabilities to draw some insights into the origins of the universe.
Now, that is the simple definition of the project, which will cost the two organizations $42 million to achieve while generating a staggering amount of data that this planet has never seen before. The project, dubbed the DOME project, will see more data collected than all the data that is already on the Internet today, many times over. IBM and ASTRON will have to create processing capabilities to sift through this data and come up with rational inferences that point to the information the two organizations are looking for.
To put this in perspective, the project will generate a few Exabyte units of data per day (one exabyte is equivalent to 1 billion GB) and after processing, the team says they will be able to store between 300 and 1500 petabytes of data per year (again, one petabyte is equivalent to 1 million GB). This massive data feed will doubtless require a tremendous amount of processing power as well as electrical power. These two issues, the power and the amount of data collected, will present the two main challenges to the project.
A third challenge, which is perhaps that most insurmountable, is that in order for the data to be collected, the project must first install radio masts to collect the data. Now, this may seem simple, until you find out that to have enough radio masts to do this, they must install millions of masts on an area the size of the US continent.
My question is, what’s the purpose for all this? I mean, sure we would all like to know where the universe came from, but when you look at the Apollo Space mission, what tangible benefit did it lend to mankind? This seems to me another Apollo scenario with all the excitement and anticipation, but also with the same residual question, then what?