Scientific discoveries of enormous significance are happening at lightning speed in the field of Astronomy. These new breakthroughs convey enormous amounts of data. Scientists are sounding the alarm. Consequently, the present astrostatistics and astroinformatics tools are becoming insufficient to deal with what researchers are calling a”data tsunami.”
With the advance of new technology and the perfection of research instruments, colossal scientific discoveries in astronomy, quantum mechanics, and other fields are occurring at an increasing rate. ”Astronomy, like many other scientific disciplines, is facing a data tsunami that necessitates changes to the means and methodologies used for scientific research,” say Yanxia Zhang and Yonheng Zhao. Coincidentally, the good news is that Bitcoin’s blockchain-based technology is here to help.
Astronomy & the Big Data Deluge
As of this writing, scientists have just announced the discovery of gravitational waves. According to the announcement, researchers have detected clear gravitational wave signals that ripple in space-time. Einstein had predicted the existence of gravitational waves 100 years ago.
“Gravitational waves are the evanescent vibrations of space-time generated by some of the most violent explosions and events occurring in the Universe; events like supernovae (exploding stars) and the collision and merger of black holes and neutron stars (the remnants of massive stars after their thermonuclear deaths),” according to LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory).
Newly developed detectors now allow LIGO researchers to “listen for gravitational waves from as far away as 225 million light years.” And, after some fine-tuning of LIGO’s gigantic detectors, researchers expect to reach for gravitational waves as far away as 650 million light years.
Also, in early February, scientists announced that they had detected hundreds of previously undetected galaxies. These galaxies were hidden behind the Milky Way. Using new radio telescopes, researchers at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), “have found 883 galaxies, a third of which had never been seen before,” ICRAR reported.
“The discovery may help to explain the Great Attractor region, which appears to be drawing the Milky Way and hundreds of thousands of other galaxies towards it with a gravitational force equivalent to a million billion Suns,” affirmed lead author Professor Lister Staveley-Smith, from the University of Western Australia.
So, these new frontiers in astronomy confront scientists, among other things, with formidable data management challenges.
Bitcoin & Its Blockchain Poised to Handle Big Data
Precipitously, the current data tools are becoming obsolete because they are unable to handle these volumes of valuable data.
To process and make use of this data, researchers need assurance that the data they are working with is complete, valid, timely, reliable, and formatted in accordance with established requirements. Precision in timing when data is collected, stored, and manipulated is also fundamental.
Researchers also need assurance that the data is secured to prevent unauthorized modifications or corrupted. In this regard, researchers could now consider the advantages that Bitcoin and its blockchain technology offer.
The Bitcoin’s blockchain is a permissionless, distributed database that continuously captures and stores the records of all the Bitcoin transactions that have ever occurred since the first block was ever created, the genesis block.
Inherent attributes of the blockchain are reliability and availability. Because the data stored in the blockchain is kept and maintained in thousands of nodes, which are distributed all over the globe, it is protected from a single point of failure. If one node fails, all the other nodes continue operating.
Additional features that the blockchain provides are irrevocability, immutability (undetected changes in the blockchain cannot happen), and transparency.
Already, startups are developing data management applications supported by the Bitcoin blockchain technology.
For instance, Tierion offers products capable of collecting and recording data in the Bitcoin blockchain. According to its website, Tierion generates a blockchain receipt for each record, which provides irrefutable proof that the data was recorded in the Bitcoin blockchain. The website also says that Tieron’s product creates an immutable audit trail that spans multiple systems and apps.
Storj.io offers Metadisk, which is a decentralized cloud storage system based on the blockchain. To ensure data security, Storj protects data by encrypting files on the user’s computer before they are moved into the network. Data is kept encrypted, with SHA-256 algorithms. And, only the possessor of a private key can have access to the data.
Factom also provides means to securely store vast amounts of data, using Bitcoin and its blockchain technology. According to its website, Factom maintains a permanent, time-stamped record of the data in the blockchain. Factom technology also provides Proof of Existence (data existed in this format at a particular time); Proof of Process (the document is linked to this new updated document), and Proof of Audit (verifying the changes in the new document).
Granted, because of the present exponential growth of data volume, the blockchain technology will soon require the support of greater computer power than the currently provided by today’s computers. Hopefully, quantum computers, which are 3,600 times faster than a supercomputer at solving complex problems, will be ready for prime-time in the near future. So, Bitcoin and its blockchain in tandem with quantum computing will help our civilization to cross new and, as yet, unimaginable space frontiers.
What are your thoughts on how Bitcoin’s blockchain can help researchers handle data issues? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Pixabay, LIGO, and NASA.