As a scientist, I have a love/hate relationship with data. When I don’t have enough data, life can be very difficult. When there’s too much, I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of numbers and pixels. Faced with the latter problem, a Berkeley researcher recently came up with a brilliant solution: share it!
Filipe Maia, a postdoc with LBNL’s Petascale Initiative, created a public database for people to browse and share their treasure troves of images taken with x-ray lasers. That’s right, I said x-ray lasers (as if lasers weren’t cool enough already). The Coherent X-ray Imaging Data Bank (CXIDB) aims to make the most of the terabytes of imaging data that is produced each day by researchers at particle accelerators around the world. That’s 1012 zeros and ones– put them together, and you get pictures of single molecules in motion. Because the laser pulse is so fast, it can capture snapshots of atoms as they move around. As you can imagine, scientists are using this opportunity and taking as many snapshots as they can, which means a LOT of data (thus the need for petascale computing, i.e. 1015 zeros and ones at a time).
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