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Vatican Chooses Open FITS Image Format 223

Posted by timothy
from the wouldn't-a-lossy-format-make-more-sense? dept.
@10u8 writes "The Vatican Library plans to digtize 80,000 manuscripts and store them in the open data format FITS, originally developed for astronomy and maintained under the IAU. The result is expected to be 40 million pages and 45 petabytes. FITS was chosen because it 'has been used for more than 40 years for the conservation of data concerning spatial missions and, in the past decade, in astrophysics and nuclear medicine. It permits the conservation of images with neither technical nor financial problems in the future, since it is systematically updated by the international scientific community.'"
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Vatican Chooses Open FITS Image Format

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  • by ProdigyPuNk (614140) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:25PM (#32019752) Journal
    Not really. Nowhere in TFA does it mention these records being available to the general public, let alone free to download over the net. Just because they are digitizing the archives for some safety/redundancy does NOT mean that the church is suddenly backtracking and opening the archives up to everyone.
  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:26PM (#32019768) Homepage
    Right. And by that, you mean that Slashdot said this other site said the Pope said. Did you ever consider looking at what he actually said, or are you just making another Regensburg lecture [wikipedia.org] out of it? :)
  • by qbzzt (11136) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:28PM (#32019792)

    Sadly, that PBS story didn't include any links to the original text. So we don't know what the Pope actually said, only what Margaret Warner claimed he said, based on an on the fly translation.

    BTW, why do you expect the Torah and the New Testament to be any more consistent than US law (about, say, races) in 1800 vs. 2000?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:29PM (#32019806)

    Otherwise the IAU might have had some problems with this.

  • Re:40 Years? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ProdigyPuNk (614140) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:34PM (#32019906) Journal

    The Flexible Image Transport System (FITS) data format was developed in the late 1970s to interchange astronomical image data. The final negotiations on its design occurred in March 1979. By 1981, the year that the specifications were published in an astronomical journal, FITS had become the de facto standard data interchange format of astronomy. This fact was recognized by the IAU, which adopted FITS as its standard data interchange and archiving format by a resolution at the Patras (1982) General Assembly.

    40 years is a bit of a stretch, but if you go from the time FITS was first thought of it is ~ 35 years old. Not bad for ANYTHING related to computing. Imagine if filesystems has 30+ year lifetimes ;p

  • by ProdigyPuNk (614140) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:45PM (#32020110) Journal

    I am naturally very excited about the news. This is a very ambitious project on one of the world's most important manuscript collections. I will keep my eyes peeled for any further details and developments. I am particularly interested in the business model that the Vatican Library will adopt in making these manuscripts digitally accessible. In particular, I am thinking of the manuscripts that are held across institutions and the potential for aggregating them (or even 'virtually re-uniting' them) in Virtual Research Environments.

    The way I read the article that paragraph is just the blogger's opinion. He says he will "keep his eyes peeled for any further details," and that he's interested in the "business model that the Vatican Library will adopt in making these manuscripts digitally accessible." Nowhere does he say that this will ACTUALLY happen, though.

  • by MacFury (659201) <me@johnkramli c h .com> on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:11PM (#32020648) Homepage

    (45 petabytes) / (40 million pages) ~= 1.2 gigabytes / page. Is it just me, or does that seem a little big?

    Storage is cheap. The manual process of scanning each of these documents is the costly part. It is thus better to scan at the maximum resolution and quality possible so that they never have to do it again. They may even be scanning multiple passes with different methods (visible, IR, etc.). 1.2GB per page is not unreasonable, even if it uses a lossless compression scheme.

  • Re:inb4 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:16PM (#32020752)
    You can find child abuse -everywhere- that you have people in charge of children. There have been child abuse in public schools, yet that hardly justifies condemning education.

    There are a -lot- of things you can condemn the Catholic church about, namely the power abuse historically, the sale of indulgences and the failure to adapt to the 21st century. The entire format of the Catholic church is born out of an illiterate population filled with 'visions'. But the entire church failed to change for an enlightened, reasoned population.

    But honestly, using child abuse to justify your argument against the Catholic church is simply sensationalized. Had it been anything other than a church it would already be forgotten.
  • Re:inb4 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:17PM (#32020772)

    Isn't the Vatican one of the more reasonable major religions when it comes to science and technology? Obviously, you can't expect any religious group to completely dismiss any role for God to play (if they did they wouldn't be a religion), but they've gone on record saying that Evolution is correct.

    It's the folks that read a few Bible verses and then take them as the 100% literal History Of The World that really oppose all things science (as opposed to being a book that man needs to interpret).

  • Re:inb4 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RockoTDF (1042780) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:23PM (#32020894) Homepage
    Had it been anything other than a church it would have been dealt with much more severely by outside powers.
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vbraga (228124) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:25PM (#32020952) Journal

    From the Wikipedia page on the Vatican Library [wikipedia.org]:

    The Vatican Library is a research library for history, law, philosophy, science and theology, open to anyone who can document their qualifications and their research needs to view the collection. Photocopies for private study of pages from books published between 1801 and 1990 can be requested in person or by mail.

    It's site is here [vaticanlibrary.va].

    It's not uncommon for a research library to be closed for the general public and only open for specialists due to the fragility of a manuscript collection.

    The BAV has not made any announcement if the digital archives are going to be open or not, so it's all speculation.

  • Re:inb4 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:28PM (#32021008)

    It's protestants that believe in creationism

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Panaflex (13191) <convivialdingo.yahoo@com> on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:33PM (#32021102)

    I doubt they're hiding much in the library... thousands of academics are there every year. No, having Joe Public in the stacks is not conducive with preservation - you are welcome to obtain copies.

    You can't check out the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives, either!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:47PM (#32021328)

    But everyone looks the other way from what the dick is doing.

  • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @07:28PM (#32023816)

    Not really, but I find very funny that the Vatican is using “science and technology" to store its manuscripts, when at the same time they spit so much on this same science and technology.

    The currently accepted theory regarding the origin of the universe, the "big bang" theory, was developed by a catholic priest
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema [wikipedia.org]ître

    The vatican operates a world class astronomical observatory.
    http://vaticanobservatory.org/VOF/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1 [vaticanobservatory.org]

    When I was an undergraduate at a california state university the dean of the chemistry department was also the parish priest at a small local church.

    Some religious individuals view math and science as a tool to understand god's creation. Isaac Newton comes to mind.

    --
    Perpenso Calc [perpenso.com] for iPhone and iPod touch, scientific and bill/tip calculator, fractions, complex numbers, RPN

  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:32PM (#32026070) Homepage

    "Does it matter?" I don't know, man, that depends on what sort of a moral world-view you're subscribing to, and what you mean by "matter". Personally, I don't have a world-view where it's all fine and dandy for me to twist peoples' words and laugh at them for being hypocrites in one matter just because they've done something wrong in another matter, in any case at all. I consider this, first, as a responsibility towards myself. Slashdot-types, who might be thought to ostensibly value Science, ought to be those best able to appreciate some notion of "intellectual honesty". If you then move to the world in general, I don't think that spreading lies or half-truths and such is ever called for, if you think that the Catholic Church is such a villain that you should be able to tell whatever [lies|half-truths|exxagerations] that you can get away with that day (in order to spread to the world a better sense of its villainy, even if it doesn't rest on a foundation of truth) then that's another matter, but I don't think there's any real room for doing so and not being aware that you're rationally doing so and instead relying on blind instinctual hate for the organization.

    So yeah, I'd say it does matter -- even if the Catholic Church is Hitler + Lenin + the child abuser of the week + the devil + [Al Gore|George W Bush] and worthy of nothing but hate, I don't see any way that ignorance improves the matter. In fact, it would be downright hypocritical to say that it does, in the light of talking about comments on openness, communication and transparency.

  • by shadowbearer (554144) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:58PM (#32026220) Homepage Journal

      Every religion ever created by man has splintered, and will continue to do so.

      There is no reality for them to agree on.

    SB

  • Re:Galileo affair (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @03:40PM (#32035630)

    Yes, and it was only in 1992 that they admitted that they had made a mistake in forcing Galileo to recant that the Earth went around the sun.

    I'm not defending the church's stance on Galileo in the 1630s, but I do find it interesting that you judge an organization by an action committed almost 400 years ago. While the church took longer to officially admit their wrong-doing, they had already taken Galileo's book off the banned list by the 1750s. They allowed access to scholars who wanted to study the affair beginning in the 19th century, and it was those scholars who actually wrote the history books that portrayed Galileo as the hero of the scientific revolution.

    What the church did was certainly wrong, but your 1992 date implies that they hadn't moved on from their objections until then, when actually the Vatican had long since admitted the basic truth of heliocentrism. It's just that they didn't get around to officially "apologizing" (in a way) for what they did to one particular person.

    According to your standard, let's start judging most organizations by what they did centuries ago. How many atrocities were committed, slaves captured and abused, genocides, wars, etc. How many of those have been officially admitted to be wrong by national governments and corporations that still exist today? It was only in the late 20th century that everybody started apologizing for various historical incidents, and most countries and corporations still haven't. Does that mean that they all still believe in slavery, etc.? Should we judge nations on their behavior in the 1600s?

    If anything, the Catholic Church should be applauded for taking the time to make such a formal statement on something that happened in its history, not ridiculed as if it were still as backward in 1992 as it was in 1632.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." -- Dr. Seuss

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