An anonymous reader writes "New York Times article:
"as word swept through the high-technology community, dozens of Dr. Gray's colleagues, friends and former students began banding together on Monday to supplement the Coast Guard's efforts with the tool they know best: computer technology.
The flurry of activity, which began in earnest on Tuesday, escalated as the days and nights passed. 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."
Thursday's weather posed a problem for the satellite effort, as a layer cake of clouds hovered over the search area. "There definitely was a significant cloud cover," said Chuck Herring, a spokesman for DigitalGlobe. But because of the high and urgent demand for that particular strip, he said, the shot was taken.
Once the satellite's images were received by imaging experts on Thursday, Digital Globe engineers worked on making them accessible to engineers at Amazon, who divided them into manageable sizes and posted them to Amazon's Mechanical Turk site (http:///www.mturk.com and enter "Jim Gray" in the search tab), which allows the general public to scrutinize images in search of various objects.
"This is a first sift through these images," said Werner Vogels, chief technology officer at Amazon, who had Dr. Gray on his Ph.D. committee at Vrije University in Amsterdam. "If the volunteers see something, we ask them to please mark the image, and we'll take all the images that have been marked and review them."
Similarly, Microsoft's Virtual Earth division, is having satellites capture high-resolution imagery in an area along the coastline and will post the images for volunteers to scrutinize. Microsoft is also collecting radar satellite images which penetrate clouds and is using them together with its Oceanview software, which can automatically detect vessels.
Lt. Amy Marrs, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard, said that should a volunteer find something in one of the satellite images that appeared to be a "convincing and tangible" lead, the Coast Guard would follow up.
Lieutenant Marrs said it was highly unusual for there to be no trace whatsoever of a missing vessel, not even an oil slick."
Amazon has something like 1835 photos (various format of satellite, high resolution and IR) that need to be looked at. Slashdotter's could scan this number several times over in porbably a few hours."