You know you are going to be an engineer if not a scientist if numbers fascinate you. And every time you encounter a big number for the first time your eyes pop open, baffled at even the existence of the concept – How can such large numbers exist? How many is really a mole? What! – the sun is 98 million miles from here? How far is 98 million miles really? These kinda questions that you could ponder about all day and your brain would just tire from thinking about them.
Then there comes a time, so sneakily that you don’t suspect it has come. You become used to the numbers. They become fact. They become usual and finally they become boring. Now the sun is no longer the exciting and unimaginable 98 million miles it was when you heard it for the first time. You take that mole is that ugly big number. Its kind of a coming of age thing, rites of passage if you will.
And Computer Science is no different, it offers its own bag of big numbers. In fact, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you most of the computer scientists are obsessed with big numbers. And so was I. My jaw dropped when I heard things like this program consumes 300 MB of ram. It takes 7 hours to get over. We need around 300 computers to do that. The pan-galactic gargle blaster effect. I was just as excited and confused as I was when I heard about the sun or the mole. But working with large data sets, multi- million word corpus, gigabyte size databases for someone whose biggest database was a puny address book, these big numbers have become usual, rather sneakily if I might add. They’ve become matter of factly, common and boring. Its not the pan-galactic gargle blaster anymore. Its not even strong russian vodka that any fellow comrade would swear by. Its kinda become beer – American beer.
I guess I’ve come of age, the necessary rite of passage before I can contemplate terabytes, exponential order and thousand-node clusters.
Vish(!hick!) nu Vyas