SAM MORRELL


ASTROPHYSICIST

Talking ‘Big Data in Astronomy’ with Digital Taunton

July 13, 2019   |   Reading time: ~2 mins
Discussing how recent advances in data sotrage and processing techniques have made us as scientists able to make discoveries now that would have been impossible before. These includes experiments such as LIGO / VIRGO and the Event Horizon Telescope – shown above.
Credit: Shane Griffiths (Digital Taunton and The Idea Bureau)

On 27th June I got the pleasure of going to Taunton to do a talk about the crossover between technology and astronomy at the 5th Digital Taunton meetup. The natural topic is of course the way modern astronomy has embraced the use of ‘big data’ datasets and techniques.

When I first put the fledgling version of this talk together for a similar event for Tech Exeter in January it got me thinking about what big data was. I ended up with two key conclusions. Not only is big data referring to increasingly large volumes of data being utilised for modern astronomy, and the increasingly complicated processing techniques involved in deriving data products from them, but it is also referring somewhat to the evolving structure of the scientific method – something of which astronomy does in fact have a long history of doing. The ubiquity of wide-area surveys means that the problem space shifts more into what questions can this data guide us towards asking and answering, and what inferrence methods do we need to develop in order to perform this analysis, as opposed to letting the questions alone inform the data we collect.

This was the crux of my talk, the takeaway message being that the increasingly robust data collection and inferrence methods being developed for cutting edge of astronomy can actually be applied readily to everyday life, and are seeing increasing use in a wide variety of fields. If you would like to see the talk, it kicks off around 1:14:00 in the Facebook Live Stream of the event. Thanks very much to my hosts for the night, Shane, Ben and Jeremy and thanks for all of the Digital Taunton community for being incredibly positive and welcoming… and for listening to me talk about stars and planets for a bit

The next Digital Taunton meetup is going ahead on 26th July 2019, if you’re in the area and it sounds like something you could benefit from I highly recommend it.

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