What is data science? Did we really need a yet another discipline in science? What can be achieved in data science that other areas of science have not provided?

In mathematics we compute unknown variables by solving equations. Supercomputers help us compute previously unsolvable nonlinear differential equations accurately and fast. When it comes to understanding the universe, those equations represent an approximate model of how a particular phenomenon operates in nature.

In physics, we measure one quantity by comparing it with another quantity assumed to be the reference quantity. For example when they say an object has moved a distance of three meters, effectively they are comparing the object's movement as a distance quantity with a considered one meter distance quantity as the reference quantity. The rules that govern the relationship between these quantities are known as approximate models. These rules manifest in the form of equations to be solved.

In this point of view, mathematics can be seen as the science of computing the variables and physics as the science of comparing the quantities. These two branches of science have hand in hand helped us find the answer for many of our questions about the universe and have left some still unanswered. What will be the role of data science in this picture?

Data usually comes with a specific structure. Some particular variables, (categorical or quantitative) are gathered from a number of observations. The task is to find some pattern in this dataset. In this point of view, data science is the science of comparing the variables. Note that here unlike mathematics the variables are not computed. Their values are available in datasets and we only compare them. Also note that unlike physics, variables are not limited to meaningful physical quantities. Data can be collected from any biological, economic, social system or organism.

Hidden patterns inside datasets are already helping corporates to predict the future, act proactively and hence find themselves a better position in their market. Will they be able to unlock the seemingly closed doors in our understanding of the universe?