Drowning in Data

Does it amaze you that you can type nearly anything into a web search engine and voila: there's an instant list of thousands or even millions of items for your perusal? With the price of magnetic storage media heading downward towards a buck per gigabyte, the technological capability will soon exist for the average person to have access to nearly everything. Everything...just how much is that?

Professor Peter Lyman and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, studied that question. What they learned was that the world produces between one and two exabytes of unique information per year.

What's an exabyte? Let's put it this way: the US Library of Congress Print Collection of 19 million books and 56 million manuscripts equates to about 10 terabytes of information. (One terabyte is roughly equivalent to 50,000 trees made into paper and printed.) One exabyte is about 100,000 Libraries of Congress. So...one exabyte is a lot? That's about right.

Not only do individuals have access to a huge amount of data, but they are also the creators of more and more of it. The researchers refer to the relatively recent ability of the average person to create and share gigabytes of information as the "democratization of data."

The study concludes, "It is clear that we are all drowning in a sea of information. The challenge is to learn to swim in that sea, rather than drown in it. Better understanding and better tools are desperately needed if we are to take full advantage of the ever-increasing supply of information."

Sources: www.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info/index.html and http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3227467.stm

Here Comes the Sun!

Having communication problems this past fall? Blame it on the sun.

During the last week of October, 2003, powerful solar flares hammered the earth in an unusual show of force. Forecasters at the NOAA Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo., reported that the sun emitted a powerful geomagnetic storm that sped through space at five million mph and reached Earth early on October 29.

NOAA space weather forecaster Larry Combs said, "It took the geomagnetic storm just 19 hours to reach Earth after it occurred on the sun. That's one of the fastest traveling solar storms this cycle." The storm came in as a G-5 geomagnetic storm on the NOAA space weather scales. Since these scales run one to five, G-5 is extreme, to put it mildly.

The solar flare caused an S-4 radiation event, which is the fourth largest in history since NOAA began keeping records in 1976. The flare was classified as an X-17 with a full Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). (Obviously that particular scale runs higher than one to five!)

The spectacular flare, 13 times larger than the earth itself, was an unusual occurrence. Solar cycles of high and low activity repeat about every eleven years; oddly, the sun had been moving into a time of low activity for the past three years.

"Big solar storms like the current one can create brilliant northern lights but can also threaten with increased exposure to X-rays, damage and disrupt communications, energy delivery systems and aviation operations," explained retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, Undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

More sun to come, say the NOAA forecasters.

Source: www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2003/s2110.htm

Do Not Call...or Else!

The Federal Communication Commission is making it clear that it means what it says. Or at least, it's soon going to be clear what it meant.

By citing AT&T as the first violator of the Do Not Call Registry law (which went into effect this past fall), telemarketers are put on notice that the FCC intends to prosecute those who disobey. Proposing that AT&T be fined $10,000 per instance, the FCC is creating a lot of wide-eyed marketers. All will be looking to AT&T to help clarify this sometimes-confusing new law.

Up for clarity are companies' rights to pursue consumers "for three months after an inquiry." What constitutes an "inquiry"? Could it be as nondescript as a click on the company's website? And what does the law mean when it says that companies have the right to communicate with someone who has an "existing relationship" with them? While it's obvious that this includes people who purchased something, could it also include those who merely fill out a web-based contest form from that company?

Those of us who are independent marketers can give thanks (and breathe a sigh of relief) that someone as prestigious as AT&T was the first to be called on the carpet; in defending themselves, they undoubtedly will unravel some of the loopholes of this new law and make it clear for the rest of us what is legal and what is not. Until then, you may want to heed the advice given by the title of this new registry and "Do Not Call"!

Source: www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/22618.html

Grant Us Health

Acupuncture and antioxidant research received the first grants from the Centers of Excellence for Research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This new component of The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) was created "to support established researchers in applying cutting-edge technologies to explore the underlying mechanisms and potential benefits of CAM practices, which are often used to address critical public health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and chronic pain."

The first two five-year grants in this program, funded by parent organization National Institutes of Health (NIH), were awarded to the Massachusetts General Hospital for studying how acupuncture affects human brain activity ($5.9 million) and to Oregon State University for exploring antioxidants' potential for the prevention and treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease), cardiovascular disease and aging in general ($5.8 million).

"The field needs this enhanced level of experience and rigor to transform the promise of CAM into proven treatments," said Stephen E. Straus, MD, NCCAM Director.

Source: www.nih.gov/news/pr/oct2003/nccam-29b.htm