Court Corley, a data scientist at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, has created a powerful digital system capable of analyzing billions of tweets and other social media messages in seconds.
He's dubbed his social media analysis tool -- designed to discover patterns and make sense of all the information -- SALSA, for SociAL Sensor Analytics, a PNNL release reported Friday.
"The world is equipped with human sensors -- more than 7 billion and counting. It's by far the most extensive sensor network on the planet. What can we learn by paying attention?" Corley asked.
Analyzing the masses of information flowing through the "twitterverse" could help emergency responders receive crucial early information about natural disasters such as tornadoes; could create a tool that could help provide better protection for public health; and could provide information about social unrest that could help nations protect their citizens, Corley said.
"The task we all face is separating out the trivia, the useless information we all are blasted with every day, from the really good stuff that helps us live better lives," he said. "There's a lot of noise, but there's some very valuable information too."
To analyze the massive amounts of data created by social networking sites daily, Corley used PNNL's Olympus supercomputer.
"We are using the institutional computing horsepower of PNNL to analyze one of the richest data sets ever available to researchers," he said.