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The Petabyte Age

Wired has an interesting online resource detailing massive changes in data - The Petabyte Age. A broad range of topics are reviewed that reflect how massive data abundance creates new challenges and opportunities. Included: data visualization, tracking airline fares, commodity prices, tension/conflict, etc. The articles are unfortunately placed under a grand theme titled: The end of theory which makes the bold Google-love-in proclamation based on correlations revealed in data exploration: “Correlation supersedes causation, and science can advance even without coherent models, unified theories, or really any mechanistic explanation at all. There’s no reason to cling to our old ways. It’s time to ask: What can science learn from Google?”

Um, yeah, ok. Google is all about science, innovation, and exploration. Simply being able to do different things with data does not eliminate the need for rigor, research, etc. Doing things with data – at any level – is founded in some type of theory. As stated here: “Correlations are a way of catching a scientist’s attention, but the models and mechanisms that explain them are how we make the predictions that not only advance science, but generate practical applications.”