During an IDIES Special Seminar, Steve Kent of Fermilab and the University of Chicago, spoke about his interest in and experience with modeling flight data from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. The enigmatic flight disappeared from RADAR on March 8, 2014 and is presumed to have crashed. To this day the crash site remains undiscovered. Professor Kent was one of may people motivated to use publicly available satellite and RADAR transmissions to understand how the official investigation arrived at the results it did and to make its own independent inquiry into the mystery of Flight MH370. Steve knew he could do the calculations – as he put it, “I do Doppler for my day job”. Yet what he found was that others, coming from different backgrounds in science, engineering, and aviation, were also doing the same thing and were able to get valid and useful results. He found himself amazed at what these members of the general public were able to determine from the data release using tools like Excel and publishing and describing their results on websites such as Dropbox and Reddit.
The take home message for Big Data researchers?
“Don’t underestimate what sufficiently motivated members of the public can do with your data release.”