Watch Dogs

Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with Big Data collection.

There are so many benefits to be gained by the processing of data, and so many aspects of privacy to be lost.

This case is no exception.

Over at Watch_Dogs – WeareData, you can take a look at three cities – London, Berlin, or Paris – and observe all manner of data activity in live time. Here’s a screenshot I took of Kensington Gardens, where we were sitting just a couple of days ago. All the icons are clickable (on the live site), so you can read just who is saying what at any given moment.

Source: WeareData

Source: WeareData

The spooky sound effects and ambient noise on the site do nothing to decrease the sense of being privy to Big Data spyware, although I am missing the data being sent by all the exercise programs so I can see just how efficiently various Hyde Park runners are training today. And what about all the chips implanted in dog ears so I know whether my favorite hound is out on a walk right now? Watch Dogs, indeed.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go in the garden for the rest of the day and leave all my electronics in the house.

Harnessing Big Data at CERN

CERN map  Source: Symmetry Magazine via Duke Physics

CERN map
Source: Symmetry Magazine via Duke Physics

According to this playful map by Symmetry Magazine, we live somewhere in France between the Kingdom of CMS and the Canton of Alice. My regular running path takes me past a large access point to the CERN accelerator, which is 17 miles (27 km) in circumference. If it were shown on this map, I suppose it would be a large gate with a drawbridge.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest high-energy particle accelerator and arguably the largest microscope ever constructed, generates almost unimaginable amounts of data when it is running. Actually, it’s on a hiatus right now, but that doesn’t really matter much because there is so much data to process and examine before the LHC starts up again in 18 months. There’s a good article in Symmetry Magazine on how the LHC is a model for the processing of big data, a challenge faced all over the world in a number of sectors. Here’s a big infographic on big data.

Big Data Source: via

Big Data
Source: via

Collaboration strategies for big data are driving many of the open science initiatives today, not to mention commercial, artistic, military and government projects. For me, big data processing holds promise when applied to shared data that creates large, publicaly available collaborative projects like OneZoom (a phylogenetic tree project), or the LHC, or Wikipedia for that matter. Big data shows its teeth as well as its shortcomings with surveillance capabilities.

To get an idea of just how much data is ‘big’, another helpful illustration.

Big Data Comparison Source: Symmetry Magazine

Big Data Comparison
Source: Symmetry Magazine

Finally, here’s a short film on just how LHC manages to collect and process those massive quantities of information.




Symmetry Magazine article – Particle physics tames big data, by Leah Hesla

You can also view the CERN short film here.