Livable Streets Initiative

Digg had an interesting link to a pretty cool visualization technique.  I like the addition of actual people into the “livable” street, as well as the architectural improvements.  I think the use of a real world place transformed in easily identifiable ways is incrediblly powerful to the public.  You can really see what they’re talking about quickly and efficently.  The flash annimation links to the Livable Streets Initiative, which includes a series of videos, a wiki, and a means of interacting with people in areas trying to make their streets more livable.  If you’re interested in this sort of thing, it’s worth taking some time to go through the site.

K-12 In West Virginia to get ESRI licenses

Just got a bit of news that’s not been officially announced but kicking around the state – the K-12 schools in West Virginia are getting a 3 year license for ESRI software, donated from ESRI itself!  I’m a little unclear exactly how much of the software they’re getting (does it include server for example?), but it will be a state wide site license and prominately feature the full ArcGIS license.  Supposedly the high schools and middle schools have greatly expanded their computer infrastructure, so they’ll have access to equipment that can run the software.  I’m slightly curious about hand-held stuff too, as I doubt many schools have GPS units capable of running ArcPad.  However, despite the vaugaries, this is pretty exciting news.  Kids who otherwise would have zero exposure to GIS and Geospatial technologies are going to get some good, hands on experience with arguablly the most widespread tools in the business.  That can’t help but be good for West Virginia.

ETA: Made it clearer this is a donation from ESRI.

The Miniature Earth

Something most people (especially in the US) don’t spend a lot of time thinking about is world demographics.  I’m sure everyone has heard some variation of the “if there were only 100 people on the planet”, but most might have heard it from second or third hand sources.  The website minature-earth.com features a neat video laying out what the planet would look like if there were only 100 people on it.  It’s a continuation of the work done by Donella Meadows in 1990.  There’s a downloadable version you can use, but it costs money to download (toward the costs of maintaining the site).  There’s also a blog, although it doesn’t seem to update often.  One bit of irony – you’re going to need a fast connection to view the short video.  According to the video, if there were only 100 people on the planet, only 3 of us would get to view the thing anyway.

The World’s Eyes Project

Gizmodo has a pretty cool post about MIT’s Word’s Eyes Project.  The idea behind the project is to look at the world through the photos posted on Flickr.  What they’re trying to capture are the ways we – mostly as tourists – capture the world around us.  Of course there are lots of projects and products out there to do this sort of thing, but I’m attracted to the rather “unauthorized” nature of this project.  In some ways, it seems like those that put their pictures up for purposes other than documenting a place might, completely inadvertantly, show us things about that place we might otherwise miss.

Time for Nuclear Power… again?

Ars Technica has a nice discussion about nuclear power discussions that took place at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.  The short of it is that several prominate scientists are arguing that nuclear power has a place in our future power needs.  Coming from a coal state, I’ve often wondered about which is the lesser of two evils – nuclear power or coal energy.  I’m certain strong and informed opinions can be made both in the pro and con column for each technology.  What I believe this strongly underscores is the notion that we will most likely use a mix of technologies to power ourselves in the future.

Geography of a Recession

The New York Times has a nice interactive map (flash based) of unemployement rates by county.  It shows that areas with housing booms, lots of manufacturing, and high existing unemployment got hit the hardest this last year, which isn’t a huge suprise.  However, you can use the map to see some regionalization to this stuff.

California Bill to Blur Schools and Churches

Ars Technica is reporting about a bill introduced by a California legislator about a month ago making it a crime to not blur out government buildings, including schools and churches.  The bill would make the punishment for non-compliance $250,000 per day and a minimum of a year of jail time for the company’s executive officers.  The idea behind this is the normal fears that these buildings could be targeted by terrorists for attack.  The article is fairly biased against the bill and I think its safe to say we at Very Spatial wouldn’t be big proponents if we lived there.  The odds are this bill will die out of the gate, but I think it does require some longer term strategy on data providers.  There needs to be some sort of guidelines published, possiblly at the national level, as to what constitutes a “safe” and “unsafe” risk with arial photography.  Otherwise, if data providers have to take all the local provisions and regulations into account it would become a nightmare patchwork of rules and regulations.

60 TB Of Everquest 2 Data for Science

Sony released around 60 terrabytes of raw log data to a group of researchers for analysis.  Lots of different disciplines appear to have mined the data looking for interesting patterns.  The data spans four years and 40,000 players.  What strikes me as particularly noteworthy is none of them seem to be geographers even though some of what they’re talking about is part and parcel of geography.  It’s also interesting to note that some of the research shows the limitations of current social science research methods.  Simply put, the data is just too darn large.  It also showed some existing survey methods tended to under-report phenomena, such as the number of older female gamers.  All in all, I’d love to get my hands on some of that data.  However, it would be fun to do the same thing with World Of Warcraft, who have signigicantly more players and thus significantly more datapoints.

Google Says They’re Not the Bad Guys

The Sydney Morning Herald has an interesting article heavily quoting Google Earth’s project head John Hanke, “We’re not the bad guys.”  The article goes on to heavily quote Hanke concerning the issue, but the gist of it is that technology is morally neutral.  You can use it for good and bad things and it’s up to the end user to dictate the use.  We talked about that point quite a bit in this week’s podcast.  However, it think it’s pretty clear that nearly any technology can be used for both good and bad purposes.  If you deny the good based upon the bad, is the net benefit to the public better or worse?  It’s a tricky situation and has to be largely decided on a case by case basis, I think.  In the case of geospatial technology, sometimes even on a layer by layer basis.  Certainly the debate is interesting and I believe that geospatial professionals should keep it in the forefront in our thinking.

Google Ocean…?

PCPro in the UK is reporting that Google may unveil a new product in its family of mapping tools – Google Ocean!  The application would feature topographic layers of the ocean floor, underwater photos, and even points of interest like famous ship wrecks.  For those intreguied by the inner space, this should be great!  Now call me when someone makes the first Google Earth Pirates of the Ocean Text and Map Adventure Game (TM) 🙂