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Jim Gray Is Missing 283

Posted by kdawson
from the red-sky-at-night dept.
K-Man writes "Jim Gray, Turing Award winner and developer of many fundamental database technologies, was reported missing at sea after a short solo sailing trip to the Farallon Islands off San Francisco. Gray is manager of Microsoft's eScience group. The Coast Guard is searching for his vessel over 4,000 square miles of ocean, and there have been no distress calls or signals of any kind. Gray is 63 and a sailor with 10 years' experience."
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Jim Gray Is Missing

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  • by mfh (56) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @01:29AM (#17810496) Homepage Journal
    SFGate's Report - Mirrored [sfgate.com]:

    (01-29) 15:23 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- The U.S. Coast Guard is looking for a San Francisco computer scientist who may be lost at sea after he failed to return from an outing to the Farallon Islands Sunday afternoon.

    Jim Gray, 63, set out alone on his 40-foot sailboat, "Tenacious," Sunday morning and was expected back sometime that afternoon, officials said.

    Gray is a prize-winning researcher and the manager of the Microsoft Science Group in downtown San Francisco.

    His wife notified authorities at 8:35 p.m. Sunday after Gray failed to return and did not answer cell phone calls, the Coast Guard said.

    The Coast Guard searched all night with an aircraft, helicopter, coastal patrol boat and motor life boat, officials said, but found no sign of the missing vessel. They also found no signs of distress.

    Officials said that Gray has more than 10 years of sailing experience and that his boat is "well-equipped with communication, safety and emergency gear."

    The Farallon Islands are about 27 miles off the coast from the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @01:31AM (#17810506) Homepage

    Jim Gray, Turing Award winner and developer of many fundamental database technologies ...

    Isn't reiserfs organized sort of like a database?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @01:31AM (#17810508)
    he accidently did a Cartesian Join, and flooded the boat
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      All you guys posting jokes, do me a favor. Bookmark this page, then when you grow up - say in 5 or 10 years, however long it takes you, come back to this thread and read what you wrote. You will then notice, like the rest of us reading this now, that you are all completely insensitive dicks..
  • Penguins (Score:2, Funny)

    by Camel Pilot (78781)
    Let's hope he is saved by Penguins.
    • Re:Penguins (Score:4, Funny)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @03:38AM (#17811140)
      This is one of the moments when I wish the Linux mascot was a dolphin.
      • Re:Penguins (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ggeens (53767) <.moc.dnalyggi. .ta. .sneegg.> on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @06:08AM (#17811814) Homepage Journal

        MySQL [mysql.com]'s mascot is a dolphin.

        And it seems like this guy worked on databases.

  • Hm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cyberax (705495) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @01:41AM (#17810566)
    > SELECT loc FROM Locations loc, People p WHERE p.name="Jim Gray" AND p.loc=loc.id

    The query returned 0 results.
    • Re:Hm... (Score:4, Funny)

      by tedivm (942879) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @03:11AM (#17811030)
      He probably drowned himself when he realized that the majority of the world learned SQL from a tee shirt, and just like the shirt [http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts/coder/595d/], you forgot the semi-colon.
      • Re:Hm... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Cyberax (705495) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @03:20AM (#17811070)
        Actually, my development environment does not require semicolons after lone SQL statements. Besides, when you embed SQL statements in code using JDBC/DBI/... you also don't need semicolons.

        And I don't like semicolons because one time I accidentally typed "DELETE FROM Table; WHERE ..." on a production database. Luckily, one entry had a constraint which forced transaction to rollback.
      • Maybe it was MS Sql Server. You don't need semi-colons in MS-SS procedural code.
  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @01:45AM (#17810594) Homepage
    The Coast Guard is searching for his vessel over 4,000 square miles of ocean

    Sounds like Gray's Anatomy is meeting up with Gray's Marine Biology.
  • by kbob88 (951258) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @01:57AM (#17810660)
    Cue up the jokes about how he shouldn't have automated his sailboat using Windows. Now facing the Blue Wave of Death.

    Seriously though, there's a good chance he's OK. The weather out here has been great today, and he hasn't been gone that long. One of the following probably happened:
    • Something broke and he's drifting around out there, probably to be spotted fairly soon as there's plenty of ship traffic and the Coasties are looking;
    • Got blown off course and had to put in somewhere remote on the coast (unlikely as the winds aren't bad);
    • Navigation broke down, he missed the Farallons (although you can usually see them from shore on a good day), went too far out, and is down coming back;
    • Hit a whale / whale hit him -- not good, could sink the boat; hopefully he had a liferaft and was able to get into it;
    • Hit by a ship (it's busy out there); definitely not good; but unlikely as weather has been very good
    • Accidently fell overboard -- very bad, especially with our cold water here. That's why you don't make ocean passages alone, no matter how experienced you are.
    • by SeaFox (739806) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @02:26AM (#17810814)

      Cue up the jokes about how he shouldn't have automated his sailboat using Windows. Now facing the Blue Wave of Death.
      And now, the Blue Wave of Death is rendered in glass-like clarity!*
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      *Tsunami Premium or Ultimate and supported tidal card required
      • Accidently fell overboard -- very bad, especially with our cold water here. That's why you don't make ocean passages alone, no matter how experienced you are.

      And on a related topic:

      • Incapacitating medical problem -- 63 is probably about the median age for a heart attack.

      Lets hope he is found shacked up with something soft and sultry - RAH

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Perhaps he came across a shark with a frikking laser?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bl8n8r (649187)
      >Cue up the jokes about how he shouldn't have automated his sailboat using Windows. Now facing the Blue Wave of Death.

      Captains log 8:13am
      * Nice weather, perfect day for sailing. Easy trip. Good time to upgrade sailboat using Windows today.

      Captains log 8:57am
      * Started Vista install on dock but it said "monitor revoked". Must need to upgrade to HD monitor. Cool, this old 20.1" LCD is a relic anyway. Off to Best Buy!

      Captains log 10:17am
      * Those guys at Best Buy are so helpful! They noticed I didn't have
    • by MoogMan (442253)
      Lets hope he reads Slashdot on his satellite connection, and phones home to say he's alife... just like all good things coming out of Microsoft.
    • by aldheorte (162967)
      "Accidently fell overboard -- very bad, especially with our cold water here. That's why you don't make ocean passages alone, no matter how experienced you are."

      While that is generally true, I would point out that the way watches work, unless you have enough people that you can have two people on watch at all times (takes a lot of people), if you go overboard on your watch alone it's functionally the same as if you were alone. While you are drowning, everyone else onboard is snoring away peacefully. I even h
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hoi Polloi (522990)
        Even if people are awake they'll never hear you through the bulkhead door and over the engine noise. When I went out at night onto the quarterdeck of an oceangraphic vessel I always made sure to stand well back from the edge.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Agree with the above, he has only been gone less than 72 hours and he is on a 40 foot sailboat.

      Cell phone will be useless out there, Marine band VHF will be good for line of sight off the mast (9 to 28 miles, YMMV) and nobody knows if he has a SSB rig on board.

      Even with total equipment failure he should be good for at least a week. Pretty obvious that a lot of slash-dot folks don't do offshore sailing. Major concern is if he is solo on the boat, not tethered in, and goes over the side. Then you watch the bo
  • Easy simple and cheap to hookup live GPS for realtime tracking and updating to a mapserver.. I do it in my car even when in civilisation.. let alone if I was going out to sea or up in the sky over wilderness!

    If he's with Microsoft then has enough $ to buy satellite comms if *really* out of cheap-to-use standard mobile range..

    I wish them all the best but if they had his track and time could concentrate in that area straight away instead of 4000 sq km of guessing and save precious time..

    Why don't technologists with (or even without!) money USE the readily available technology for such basic primary safety?

    • by Strider- (39683) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @02:15AM (#17810764)
      If he was going offshore, he either had or should have had an EPIRB [wikipedia.org] (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. In effect, when deployed they transmit a beacon signal at 406MHz that contains a unique identifier, and can also include GPS coordinates.

      These signals are picked up by either the INMARSAT geostationary satellites, or also passing weather satellites. Without a GPS position, the weather satellites can locate the beacon to within about 50 miles. With an integrated GPS receiver, the position will be reported to about 2 miles or so. (The message format doesn't have the space to transmit full resolution).
      • by Technician (215283) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @03:25AM (#17811082)
        If he was going offshore, he either had or should have had an EPIRB [wikipedia.org] (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.

        Most of these are designed to float out of their holder in case of a sinking and are water activated. The lack of a signal for this size vessel is a good sign it's still afloat. Whether he is alive or onboard is to be seen. He could have had a medical emergency or fallen overboard which would not activate the beacon.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Bearhouse (1034238)
        It's a sad fact that many sailors are found drowned with their flies open - they fall in taking a leak off the back of the boat...which then sails away without them. Even an olympic-class swimmer couldn't keep up with a boat sailing at moderate speed.. Worse still, many people put the ship on autopilot when having a leak, or doing some minor work, (which usually involves hanging over the side, or in another position where it's easy to fall overboard. Even (especially?) experienced sailors 'forget' to use
    • When a "technologist" is off-duty, he want to get as far *away* from technology as possible?
    • by mrmeval (662166)
      Sometimes the technologist wants the extreme rush of dispensing with all but the most rudementary technology and sailing the high seas....OMG he's turned to PIRACY!!!

  • Uh-oh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jello B. (950817) <jellobmello@noSPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @02:08AM (#17810724) Homepage
    I hope this turns out to be better than Mario is Missing.
  • by Sabathius (566108) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @02:26AM (#17810810)
    I heard he made an anti-microsoft comment and a chair hit the side of his boat.
  • More Info (Score:5, Informative)

    by K-Man (4117) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @02:29AM (#17810830)
    This story [slashdot.org] covers some of his recent database work.

    Several news stories say that he called his daughter Sunday morning to say he was going out of cellphone range, but he didn't indicate any problems. The weather was clear, so it's puzzling that there were no sightings.
    • Most of us come from the exact-reasoning world -- but most of our clients are now asking questions that require approximate or probabilistic answers.'

      Indeed. But the technology to answer those questions has been around for decades, it's just that the database vendors (and academics) were on such a gravy train with relational databases that they simply didn't let anything else in. Gray's own efforts to move in new directions have been far behind the state of the art, but because of his name recognition, he
  • Sickening (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @02:45AM (#17810900)
    Seeing all these Slashdot posts joking about a man who may very well be dead makes me sick.
    Please have some respect for the man. I can understand joking about Hans Reiser because there is a motive behind what he did.
    But this man hasn't done anything (at least to the best of my knowledge) to warrant any sort of morbid humor.

    The man has 10 years of sailing experience apparently, so I can only hope for the best for him.
    • Re:Sickening (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @03:14AM (#17811038)
      In the last story, which was about debate over whether a small person was a separate species, a guy repeatedly threw around the term "bible thumper", presumably to refer to Christians. It was condescending enough to be a troll and definitely off-topic but he got modded insightful. The guys making fun of a guy who may have just died and presumably did nothing wrong, are getting modded funny. Somebody's going to be disgusted with what I'm saying right now and I have no idea how it will get modded or not modded. We'll all have a reason to feel sickened by Slashdot. I don't know if it's worth fighting.
    • by daddyrief (910385)
      I agree. Every comment besides this one is a joke...

      It's too bad, it seems like he was (is?) working on some ambitious projects too. Not to mention attaining the Turing award and the first Berkeley CS Ph.D.

      I guess nobody deserves respect, not even a distinguished contributor to a field. (That is, if they work for msft.)
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @03:47AM (#17811176)
      He's working for MS. This by itself does not really endear him to a sizeable portion of the people here. Besides, few people know him, and those who do (read the comments, a few people here actually met him) do show compassion.

      Do you show compassion for people you don't know? Or at least heard about? I have a hunch the reaction would be slightly different if, say, Hawking was gone missing or even dead.

      People dying is no longer something that bothers us. That's not even a Slashdot phenomenon. We see and hear it all the times, in the news. People die. Deal. That's what we get told, and thus death (as long as it's not someone we care about) has become something to shrug off. When you get told that people dying in a war as innocent bystanders are brushed aside as collateral damage, you tend to get quite cold inside.

      So I wouldn't really wonder how that comments come into existance. It's simply the normal flow of operation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rew190 (138940)
        There's a difference between being compassionate and having the baseline level of decency to not crack jokes about what could be a man's death.

        If you're desensitized to a stranger's death, fine, most of us are, but let's not pretend that you don't cross the threshold of being an asshole when you begin cracking jokes about it because of a Microsoft affiliation.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417)
          Oh c'mon, just think about Steve biting the dust and retain a straight face when telling me you wouldn't crack jokes about it, and whether he throws his throne at God when he comes up to him, or whether he'll dance around in hell yelling devil-opers.

          That's one way of dealing with death. It's good practice where I come from to sit around after a funeral, having a feast and telling anectotes about the deceased (and not necessarily in his 'best behaviour', quite the contrary).

          But, and here's the catch, he's no
    • by Riktov (632) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @04:57AM (#17811460) Journal
      Is there anything anyone here can actually do to help rescue Jim Gray? I'd say almost certainly not.

      So what are we to do? Those who have a connection with the man (knew him, worked with him, admire his work, etc.) will have serious and informative comments to make. But for the rest who've never heard of him, there's just nothing to discuss -- the story's not about technology in any way, it's just about a human being who happens to be related to technology. And death is easiest thing in the world to come up with jokes about -- "I bet he died because [a common failure in whatever area of technology he is related to]...ha,ha". Yes, the Microsoft/bluescreen jokes are pretty lame, but the SQL/database ones get a chuckle out of me.

      What's the harm?
      • Is there anything anyone here can actually do to help rescue Jim Gray?

        Create a btree index over the area where he went missing. It'll be faster to search than doing a sequential scan.
    • Re:Sickening (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LordLucless (582312) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @05:31AM (#17811650)
      "Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."
              - George Bernard Shaw
    • Life is like that, in many ocassions the only thing left is to joke about tragedy.
    • This reminds me of the Challenger disaster. At the time, Budweiser ads were running where somebody would get a flaming torch, or a blinding splot-light in their face, etc., and the tagline was, "No, I wanted a Bud Lite". So that got picked up and rolled into one of the most popular "sick jokes" associated with Challenger. The way I see it, this is a common way of coping with death. Morbid humor seems to be particularly popular around puberty, when kids are just becoming aware of their own mortality (and

  • Pirates! (Score:2, Funny)

    by austinpoet (789122)
    I had a funny feeling that my bittorrent of Windows Vista was a little fishy...
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @03:16AM (#17811052) Homepage

    He went out in a 40-foot C&C 121 yacht [c-cyachts.com]. That's a very nice boat, with a epoxy resin laminate hull, carbon fiber reinforcement and masts, Kevlar sails, and a 38HP engine. There hasn't been any weather lately bad enough to give a boat like that any serious trouble. If it ran aground it would probably survive the experience.

    But between San Francisco and the Farralon Islands is a major shipping lane. One with fog. Container ships and oil tankers come through there. Sizable fishing boats have been run down and sunk without anyone on a large ship even noticing. There's a USGS Vessel Traffic Service [uscg.mil] station and established traffic lanes for large ships, but small boats aren't required to check in with traffic control.

    • by nmg196 (184961) *
      > Kevlar sails, and a 38HP engine.

      Surely you need more than 38 HP to move a 40ft boat that size in water?
      • by Temkin (112574)

        Surely you need more than 38 HP to move a 40ft boat that size in water?



        Displacement hulls are remarkably effecient. A human is roughly 1/8th a hp, maybe 1/2hp in short bursts. You could probably make it move by giving it a good shove from the dock, but I wouldn't expect much in the way of speed. 38 hp will probably move it at close to the hull speed limit. kts = 1.2*sqrt(length) for most displacement hulls.

  • EPIRB (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrSpiff (515611) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @04:06AM (#17811248) Homepage
    a solo sailor with 10 years of experience should probably have known to bring an EPIRB [wikipedia.org] that is either activated manually or when getting in contact with water, even though they're still quite expensive, there's no faster way of getting help out there.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @04:36AM (#17811342)
    of meeting Jim a number of years ago. He struck me as a very thoughtful, very conscientious, and very nice man. My thoughts are with him and his family.

    The rest of you modding and getting modded funny can die in a fire.
  • Whoa there. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Making jokes about a situation such as this might not be considered acceptable by everyone, but let's look at the facts here. A small percentage of Slashdotters know this guy. A small percentage of people react with shock/grief upon hearing of the possible death of someone they do not know, and possibly have never heard of. It is scarcely reasonable to expect everyone to treat the situation with as much gravity as you guys are doing. If any of us here had the opportunity to actually rescue this man, I'm s
  • by Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @07:17AM (#17812102) Homepage
    Do not make any sick jokes until AFTER a trragedy is confirmed.
  • by Temkin (112574) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @08:20AM (#17812532)


    Just a couple bits of information for those not familiar with sailing in the SF bay. I used to own a small sailboat in the SF bay, a Cal-20. Just about the smallest (and slowest) real keel boat you can find. The SF Bay has some of the finest sailing in the world. Between April and October, the wind at the gate is a nice steady 7 to 10 knots all day long.

    Most people think of California and picture the sunny beaches and warm water off LA. This doesn't exist north of Santa Cruz. California north of Santa Cruz has a rocky cliff shore. The water off SF is chilled by a current that comes down from Alaska. This time of year, it's probably 40 deg/F (4.5 deg/C), in the summer, it's not much warmer. The cold water kills people very fast. You fall in this time of year, and you have maybe 15 minutes before you're dead. They've lost experienced sailors to hypothermia inside the bay, where the water is slightly warmer, in the amount of time it takes the crew to pull down the sheets and do a man overboard 180. If he fell overboard without some kind of wetsuit or thermal protection, he's done. A 40 foot boat set up for solo would probably have some kind of steering autopilot, and would sail outside the initial search area on it's own in just a few hours.

    The sea will try very hard to kill you. A fellow geek made the good life, and appears to have been settling in to enjoy his golden years. Most of us have similar dreams and aspirations. I don't know him, but I'm going to think good thoughts for him and his family, and hope for the best.

  • It is a long trip from Galapagos Islands (the far-North penguins habitat), but it may be doable for an elite commando unit dedicated to punish Microsoft...

    Ubcr, ur vf nyvir naq jryy, bs pbhefr...

  • Already said, but (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @08:44AM (#17812700)
    "Jim Gray, Turing Award winner and developer of many fundamental database technologies, was reported missing at sea after a short solo sailing trip to the Farallon Islands off San Francisco."

    So it's probably calloused to be talking about the Darwin award, but this is something you simply have to expect when you go on these solo sailing expeditions. Sure, there's the allure of "one man against the sea," but the sea often wins (has a very long history of wins, in fact), and if you don't take the necessary precautions, well... when you want to take your life into your own hands like that, by definition everything that happens to you is your own fault.
  • The Coast Guard didn't recognize his distress signal, because he sent it in Gray code instead of Morse.

    (Yes, I know they're different people.)
  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @10:01AM (#17813582)
    In addition to water temperature and ships posing lethality, there is one rarely talked about for any typical yacht. In my earlier years I designed sailboats, before I figured out it was all fun and no money.

    I have a friend in high places at the Port of Los Angeles, and though the shipping companies do NOT like to talk about it, the ship grounding on the U.K. coast just a week ago illustrated the problem. Some dozens or a hundred containers or so came off the ship when it listed, and then some FLOATED ashore.

    The numbers I have heard is about 10,000 containers a year 'go missing' overboard as a result of all sorts of problems in bad weather usually. I don't remember whether that was the Pacific only or worldwide.

    Lots of these containers floating right near the water surface with any waves at all, are virtually impossible to see from any distance.

    If you hit one in a fiberglass or a thin-skinned metal boat boat, you can take on water and sink in a minute or two if it is bad.

    Lots of small boats go missing every year with no explanation.
  • OK, this is not a joke or flamebait, is it possible that he simply got sick of corporate life and wanted to live 'off the grid' ??

    I mean, it's possible, just throwin it out there. Doubtful, but possible.

    If it's not the case, then I sure hope he turns up OK.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BoRegardless (721219)
      Sterling Hayden departed for a day voyage with a dozen or more friends on Wanderer out of San Francisco, and the next time anyone saw the yacht was when it entered Tahitian waters.

      None of the guests had any idea they were being "Shanghaid". He didn't give them any choice.

      See his book titled after his boat's name.
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @10:15AM (#17813788) Journal
    "...and developer of many fundamental database technologies..."

    SELECT latitude,longitude FROM t_location WHERE ocean='PACIFIC' AND first_name='JIM' AND last_name='GRAY' AND status='F*CKED'
  • Morning news (Score:2, Informative)

    by FrenchSilk (847696)
    On the morning news in San Francisco, his daughter said that he had a marine radio aboard and a rubber dinghy. Let us hope for the best.
  • by ChrisA90278 (905188) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @02:02PM (#17817452)
    As a sailor, I can think of several bad things that could have happened

    1) He fell overboard. With or without a PDF (life jacket) he'd be dead. Th water is cold up there, low 50's I think so hypothermia will get him even if he does not drown.

    2) A common danger is the boom. If the boat does an unplanned jibe and the sailor forgets to duck he can get hit hard on the head with a fairly massive chunk of aluminum boom. This could knock him out, kill him outright (not likely) or (more likely) knock him overboard. (see #1 above)

    3) His boat could have hit something and sunk. Then we are back to #1 above. If he was very lcky he could have goten a life raft out. But them most rafts are equipted with a GPS and a radio.

    4) some kind of a medical problem. Then it's not really a boating accident but just not a good place to have such a problem

    It's hard to understand how any of this could happen. An experienced sailor would have himself tethered to the boat at all times with a tether short enough that he could not fall into the water. He would know not to let a boom hit him and would maintain a watch for ship traffic.

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