Science in cyberspace is topic of annual LTU lecture

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Southfield Sun | Published February 12, 2014

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SOUTHFIELD — Did you know that in a year and a half, our tech-savvy society will likely produce as much data as has been created in all of history?

The concept is called Moore’s law, which basically says that with almost constant advances in digital electronic devices, we nearly double the amount of information we create every 18 months. Our digital cameras have more pixels, our computers have more memory and run faster, and we continue to produce more and more digital content. Most scientists agree that technology is advancing more rapidly than it has during any other point in history.

The observation is impressive and almost overwhelming, and it definitely has a number of implications on those who work in the fields of science and academia.

“Big data,” as it’s called, will be the topic of discussion during the annual Walker L. Cisler lecture at Lawrence Technological University Feb. 26.

S. George Djorgovski, professor of astronomy at California Institute of Technology, will explain his thoughts on the topic during the event. According to Lior Shamir, associate professor in the computer science department at LTU, Djorgovski is something of a rock star in the scientific world, with many fans eager to hear his presentation.

“His impact goes way beyond astronomy. Now, the concept of the virtualization of data is very common, and a lot of that is thanks to him. His impact on science is just tremendous, and he’s a fascinating speaker, in general,” said Shamir.

During the engagement, to be held in the Mary E. Marburger Science and Engineering Auditorium in LTU’s science building, Djorgovski will discuss how big data and data virtualization are changing the way scientists and professors do what they do. He’ll explain how the growing capacity of computers — the way they collect and store data — is transforming science in such a way that anyone with access to a computer and an Internet connection can engage in scientific research.

Djorgovski says the task at hand is to develop new tools that will help us to organize these massive amounts of data so it can be used to yield new scientific discoveries.

“I think computer information technology is changing everything we do in every profession, and science technology is no exception to that,” said Djorgovski. “Scientists are essentially facing the need to develop new tools in this era of data-driven discovery. There will need to be a universal set of scientific tools everyone will need to master and use. That is the core of what we’re trying to do.”

Shamir explained that the Walker L. Cisler lecture is historically the main lecture of the year at LTU, with many Nobel laureates and famous scholars featured in years past. But, even so, the lecture is open to the public, and even those who don’t research or study science will be able to enjoy the event.

“The lecture itself is not in high scientific terms. The astronomy that (Djorgovski) does is very interesting, even for a person who is not necessarily an astronomer. There will be no equations on the board,” said Shamir. “He’s going to talk about the virtualization of data, how it’s done today and how it will be done in the next decade. You don’t need to be a scientist to enjoy that, really.”

LTU’s annual Walker L. Cisler lecture is supported by the Holley Foundation and honors Cisler for his nearly 20 years of leadership at Detroit Edison and his dedication to improving the lives of people everywhere.

For more information about this free event, contact LTU’s College of Arts and Science at (248) 204-3500 or visit ltu.edu.

Lawrence Technological University is located at 21000 W. 10 Mile Road in Southfield.

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