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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dove Satellite & The Protestant Work Ethic

Dove Photo Reconnaissance Satellite. The lens is about the size of a coffee cup. The main body is about one foot long.
The Planet company built these tiny satellites and handed them over to NASA to get them into orbit. NASA carries them to the ISS (International Space Station) and then they get booted out the door (launch the probe, Mr. Data). There are a handful if LEO (Low Earth Orbit) now, but they expect to launch around 100 more. They claim a resolution of 3 to 5 meters, so they probably tell you how many cars are in the Walmart parking lot, but they won't be able to tell you the license numbers or even the make and model. Via a story in the real paper version of the WSJ.
     The data is freely available, though you would need a small server farm to record it all, and then you would need some sophisticated image processing software in order to extract any useful information from it, which is Planet's stock in trade.
     Making the data freely available follows the open data model. I followed that link because in these days of euphemistic naming practices, who knows what 'open data' really means? Therein I found this little tidbit:
Merton Thesis
The Merton Thesis is an argument about the nature of early experimental science proposed by Robert K. Merton. Similar to Max Weber's famous claim on the link between Protestant ethic and the capitalist economy, Merton argued for a similar positive correlation between the rise of Protestant Pietism and early experimental science. The Merton Thesis has resulted in continuous debates. Although scholars are still debating it, Merton's 1936 doctoral dissertation (and two years later his first monograph by the same title) Science, Technology and Society in 17th-Century England raised important issues on the connections between religion and the rise of modern science, became a significant work in the realm of the sociology of science and continues to be cited in new scholarship.
I've heard this bit about the Protestant work ethic before. Not sure if I agree with it, but if you have been immersed in such a culture since day one, could you even tell? Fictional Russian billionaires have a different view.

Max Weber's book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism book is available on Amazon.

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