Everything in computers needs storage – blogs, instant messaging, social media and personal documents, all on our own computers or on someone else’s, such as Gmail in the case of emails. As the amount of data available increases, the storage requirement and its units of measurement also increase.
The storage units in the calculations start with bytes (or 8 bits). Just over a thousand bytes (ie 1024 bytes) contain kilobytes (KB), 1024 KB contain megabytes (MB) and 1024 MB contain gigabytes (GB), which is the most common storage unit today. This multiplication by 1024 continues to define a terabyte and then a petabyte.
The Petabyte is considered a milestone in the scientific approach – to the extent that it is sometimes called the Petabyte Age. What distinguishes this vast amount of data from the limited data available so far is the prediction that in the Petabay era, researchers will no longer have to create hypotheses, models, and then test whether their hypothesis and model are correct or not.
For example, instead of assuming that a particular age group is more vulnerable to health risks or a particular geographical area is likely to be affected by riots or political uncertainty for some reason and to test this with some data, advanced data retrieval may to be used. Such digging of petabytes of data would make it possible to cut off a virtually unlimited flow of information, such as scanning news around the world, to identify problem areas, together with trends and problems of “high importance or seriousness”, without the need to identify their root causes. This type of “geotagging” has already started in the form of projects such as Google Zeitgeist and Europe Media Monitor – EMM. Therefore, in the age of petabytes, centuries-old scientific methods for hypotheses, models, tests are ready to be replaced by what huge amounts of data tell us. In short, the findings of huge data collected from around the world will not need models to explain them, as the numbers would speak for themselves. For example, to quickly monitor epidemics, predict wars, voting patterns, etc. In an article entitled The End of Theory, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired, wrote: “Science can progress even without consistent models, unified theories, or indeed no mechanistic explanation at all.” More radical views even called the Petabyte era the end of science, while others dismissed it as too futuristic.
The terminologies are already defined beyond Petabyte – this includes Exabyte, Zettabyte, Yottabyte and Brontobyte, each of which, starting with Petabyte, is multiplied by 1024 to arrive at the next terminology. But only time will tell whether Petabyte Age, capable of processing millions of data points and aggregating information through multiple sources and sensors using cloud processing, will change science or not.