Google has invented the Holodeck. Well, not really, but for the moment it's probably the next best thing. Google's Liquid Galaxy Project, a virtual glass elevator that lets you fly around the world, makes for a stunning presentation. Developed as part of Google’s “20 per cent time” initiative, which sees its engineers encouraged to pursue their own projects on company time, Liquid Galaxy allows users to fly through the Grand Canyon, leap into low-Earth orbit and back down into the oceans and even perch oneself on the Great Pyramid of Giza, all without even breaking a sweat. Check out the amazing video here.
Precursor to Google Maps? Overhead photos of NYC circa 1924. (Click the camera icon and slide to 1924)
The Encyclopedia of Life [previously] is E.O. Wilson's dream become reality. It has been online since February of 2008, aiming to catalog the currently known 1.9 million species on our planet. You can also add text, images, video, comments, and tags. [ FAQ • Video Introduction • Tutorials ]
"Less than 10% of the world's land is more than 48 hours of ground-based travel from the nearest city." In August, archeologists discovered what may be the oldest map in the world. Years ago, MetaFilter introduced us to the concept of the "upside-down map". But a new map released Friday attempts to illustrate how our improved transportation network has managed to consolidate distances on earth.
Stephen Hawking: "Asteroid Impacts Biggest Threat to Intelligent Life in the Galaxy" Dare I say... there's more outside. [more inside]
A 1,124-pound (510-kilogram) space probe will "collide" with our home planet in June 2010 to simulate an approaching asteroid, Japanese scientists have announced. [more inside]
Go buy a helmet because Astronomers calculate there is a tiny chance that Mars or Venus could collide with Earth. [more inside]
June 5th was established in 1972 as World Environment Day by the United Nations General Assembly. Home, the movie by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, which premieres today for the occasion, has some nice aerial visuals. [more inside]
Geoengineering and the New Climate Denialism. "[S]ometimes the politics around an issue become so twisted that it's necessary to address the politics before we can have a real discussion about the problems and how to solve them. That's the case with geoengineering."
Reviews and thoughts on the Battlestar Galatica finale, and a few answers from show creator Ron Moore
42 Works of Modern Earth and Land Art. 42 Works of Water, Snow and Ice Art. 30 Works of Air, Sky and Wind Art. 42 Works of Fire Art and Design.
Rethinking Earthrise. On the 40th anniversary of the NASA's Apollo 8 mission [caution: weird JFK animation], which answered Stewart Brand's epochal, LSD-inspired question "Why haven't we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?" with an unforgettable image of a seemingly fragile and isolated blue planet, Nature editor Oliver Morton -- author of a new book on photosynthesis called Eating the Sun -- disputes the notion that the Earth is fragile and isolated. "The fragility is an illusion," he writes. "The planet Earth is a remarkably robust thing, and this strength flows from its ancient and intimate connection to the cosmos beyond. To see the photo this way does not undermine its environmental relevance -- but it does recast it."
Magnetic Portals Connect Sun and Earth. "Like giant, cosmic chutes between the Earth and sun, magnetic portals open up every eight minutes or so to connect our planet with its host star. Once the portals open, loads of high-energy particles can travel the 93 million miles (150 million km) through the conduit during its brief opening, space scientists say." [Via]
Elemental ‘Earth Art’: 15 Epic Land Formations. 15 Epic Water and Ice Formations and Phenomena. 12 Elemental Fire and Light Formations and Phenomena: Flares, Lightning, Smoke and Meteors. 10 Breathtaking Natural Cloud and Color Formations.
From grainy stills to gorgeous high-resolution portraits, from intimate pairings to stark contrasts, and from old standbys to little-known surprises, The Planetary Society's Earth galleries offer a rich collection of stunning photography and video footage of our world as seen from both planetary spacecraft and geostationary satellites. It is a vista that has inspired many a deep thought in the lucky few that have seen it firsthand [previously]. Oh, and the rest of the Solar System is pretty neat, too.
80 percent of Americans say global warming is real and poses a threat to humanity. Which is good because if the global temperature raises by 4 degrees we're all dead. However only 44 percent would be willing to face any financial hardship in the name of a solution.
30 Incredible Abstract Satellite Images of Earth "From 400 miles away, the earth transforms into abstract art. The global landscape is impressionist, cubist and pointillist." Nice NASA images from 2000, downloadable as wallpaper.
Yale Environment 360 is an online environment magazine from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. It has a lot of great material, like "Biodiversity in the Balance" by Carl Zimmer and "Carbon’s Burden on the World’s Oceans" by Carl Safina and Marah J. Hardt. [Via Zimmer's blog The Loom]
Gary Snyder, sublime and seminal poet of ecological awareness and activism [YouTube link], Zen appreciation of "ordinary mind" and American speech, shamanistic intimacy with the natural world, and surviving member of the Beat Generation (West Coast posse) at age 78, has won the $100,000 Ruth Lilly poetry prize. "Gary Snyder is in essence a contemporary devotional poet, though he is not devoted to any one god or way of being so much as to Being itself," said Poetry magazine editor Christian Wiman. "His poetry is a testament to the sacredness of the natural world and our relation to it, and a prophecy of what we stand to lose if we forget that relation.” Previous recipients of the Lilly prize include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, and W.S. Merwin. [Previously mentioned here.]
Cities at Night, an Orbital Tour Around the World was made when astronauts added stabilizers to the cameras on the orbital space station, allowing them to get sharp, crisp nighttime images.
The most widely-distributed photograph in history may be The Blue Marble, a shot taken in 1972 by an unknown crewmember on Apollo 17. In 2002, NASA released a new Blue Marble photograph, familiar to desktops everywhere, using a composite of many photographs. In 2005, Blue Marble: The Next Generation offered even better views and some spectacular animations of the seasons from space. In the same spirit, the Discovery Channel just launched Earth Live, which lets you see the dynamics of weather and climate through a well done interface.
Who Speaks for Earth? "After decades of searching, scientists have found no trace of extraterrestrial intelligence. Now, some of them hope to make contact by broadcasting messages to the stars. Are we prepared for an answer?"
The Meaning of Life. "We create life, we search for it, we manipulate and revere it. Is it possible that we haven't yet defined the term (PDF)?" [Via The Loom.]
We've seen that one picture of earth at night. And we all know what Google Earth is. But someone has put the two together. Be sure to check out the map overlays, including the dusk map.
Not content to merely index all things terrestrial, Google Earth now lets you set your sights on the sky.
Because everyone loves a good superlative, the Google Earth Community's "Huge and Unique" page lists the world's tallest, deepest, longest, widest & general all-around most of everything there is. With pictures! Found via.
A Pale Blue Dot - An Unauthorized view. Some time before he died in 1996, Carl Sagan recorded a partial audio version of his 1994 book "Pale Blue Dot". Often described as the "sequel" to Cosmos, the audio version of Pale Blue Dot is, at this moment, regrettably out of print. This video is "episode one" of an unauthorized attempt at producing a series of videos based on Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" audio book combined with a soundtrack and appropriate video and still images intended to recall the feel of the classic documentary series "Ascent of Man" and "Cosmos"
Earthlings (1 hr 35 min Google video) is "a feature length documentary about humanity's absolute dependence on animals (for pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and scientific research) but also illustrates our complete disrespect for these so-called 'non-human providers.'" Also in three parts on YouTube.
An Earth Without People. An interesting (and I am sure it will be debatable) article in the current issue of Scientific American. Personally, I have always liked Douglas Coupland's version too
Have you played with Google Earth recently? You can track flights live and in 3-D, or watch an animation of global cloud cover over the last 10 days, or simply make Google Earth prettier using NASA images. Google Earth isn't limited to the current, you can also enable historical maps from the 1700s, and view an animation that will show you what will happen in the future to New York and San Francisco if the sea levels rise. Google Earth can also shed light on previous MeFi discussions, from the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (and, indeed many other ship wrecks) to the discussion over America's top 150 buildings, now in all of their 3-D glory.
Knowing that Sputnick went up in 1957, when would you guess the first photo from space was taken? If your answer is "more than 10 years earlier", you'd be right. (Previously 1 and 2)
The Children of Húrin is the first complete book by J.R.R. Tolkien in three decades, co-written by his son Christopher. His grandson Adam Tolkein explains how it came about. The Washington Post gives a great review.
A Moment on Earth: hundreds of pictures of different places on earth, all taken at exactly the same time (Flash Based). On August 5th, 2004 at 12:00 Noon GMT, 60 filmmakers in over 40 countries and on all 7 continents captured a single "moment" on earth. The results were used to build a composite image of Iraq and the Pacific Ocean. By hovering over the composite image, the individual frames of the mosiac can be viewed along with details about the individual pictures.
How to blow up the Earth (with a coffee can), and why we should, along with some discussion of how it is done in fiction. Blowing up the moon (and how the US nearly did in 1958, with the help of Carl Sagan), and lots of reasons why, including one in song [YouTube]. How to blow up a star. How we might accidentally blow up the universe in November. [prev. discussion of Earth destruction]
When I grow up I want to be an environmental engineer. I want to work on projects that can provide potable water for people. I want to clean the polluted Mother Ganga [Ganges] who provides life giving water from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. Or the Nile, both blue and white, spilling fertility from her bunds on a regular cycle. I want to design products that use the least amount of energy and fuel, from recycled materials and are biodegradable. I want to seek alternative sources of energy, such as using biofuel to power cellphones. I want to design with maximum constraints. Call her mother earth, gaia, demeter, ceres or inanna, our planet is on the brink of no return. Or is it all just a matter of perspective?
How's the weather? Is it polluted? Do you have plenty of rainforests? Send someone a Geography Information Postcard and tell them about where you live by filling out infographics. (via)
Voyager's Golden Record This is life on earth 1977 as it will appear when Voyager 1 meets life (ETA 40.000 years from now)... and finds a turntable. Pioneers 10 and 11, which preceded Voyager, both carried small metal plaques identifying their time and place of origin for the benefit of any other spacefarers that might find them in the distant future. With this example before them, NASA placed a more ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 and 2-a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record-a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. Hello, ET!