PAUL BOUTIN — What are we looking for? I truly don't mean to offend anyone, but the high-tech hunt for Jim Gray is equal parts ultimate question and technological hubris.The authorities called off their search last week. What's a geek to do? Question Authority! Fire up the satellites! Start a wiki! In a story filed on Groundhog Day, The New York Times reported that:
A veritable Who's Who of computer scientists from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, NASA and universities across the country spent sleepless nights writing ad hoc software, creating a blog and reconfiguring satellite images so that dozens of volunteers could pore over them, searching for a speck of red hull and white deck among a sea of gray pixels.The Coast Guard said it's "highly unusual for there to be no trace whatsoever of a missing vessel." To a scientist, no one vanishes with no trace whatsoever . It's as if Jim Gray were trying to tell us something. He understood more than most about the storage and recovery of information. There's only one sin in Science: unquestioning attitude. The longer we keep looking - for Jim, or whatever it is we seek at this point - the more we'll learn about everything, including our own vanity. Sunday afternoon on San Francisco's ocean coast, a crowd leaned into the wind at Land's End. Hundreds strained their eyes to sea, as helicopters circled overhead. What did we seek? A sign of the Queen Mary. The world's largest ocean liner was late for arrival, from the same direction into which Jim Gray had sailed with his mom's ashes on a boat named, appropriately, Tenacious. Eventually someone had to say it: "We're all waiting for the mothership to return."