Data-driven discovery reveals Earth’s missing minerals

6 June 2018

Fueled by advances in computing power and analytical methods, researchers in a growing number of scientific fields have taken to mining large datasets to reveal big-picture insights. By tallying the words that appear in a sampling of a book’s pages, for example, lexicologists — interested in tracking trends over time in language or literature — can mathematically predict the total number of distinct words in the book or, say, the number of different words containing a certain letter or certain combinations of letters.

Biologists apply similar techniques to estimate numbers and distributions of unknown species based on accumulated observations of known life. Such enumerations are a big part of efforts to illuminate Earth’s biodiversity, which is important not just in satisfying curiosity about the full breadth of life’s past and present, but also in applications to improve agriculture or conservation efforts, study disease pathology and transmission, and search for useful medicines.

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Recently Discovered Minerals