It isn't just the tone of the articles, however; it's also the change in tone over time. According to Leetaru's findings, Saudia Arabia's government has remained in power because the tone of the news there has been equally negative in the past, whereas the tenor of it in Tunisia and Egypt has hit new lows. Leetaru notes that many country experts on Egypt said Mubarak would likely ride out the uprising, as he had done before.
Another pattern the supercomputer was able to tease out was evidence of Osama bin Laden living in Pakistan. It did so by checking how often his name was recorded in association with the country. Visualized as lines on a map (pictured above) connecting the cities mentioned in stories that also referenced bin Laden, a pattern emerged that centered on northern Pakistan - within a couple of hundred miles of Islamabad.
All this is possible because the supercomputer can seek patterns in networks with 100 trillion connections and 10 billion nodes (or actors). An ordinary computer, Leetaru says, can only look at small parts of the data at a time, and even attempting to run many in parallel wouldn't do the job. That's because when mapping networks, the amount of memory required goes up exponentially with the number of connections. Only a supercomputer could do it, and it was getting the time on the machine (140,000 hours per processor, or about a week with the whole thing running at once) that really enabled Leetaru to make the kinds of conclusions he did.