Conserving the Night Sky

Is your portion of the night sky polluted by artificial light?  Check out this really slick Google Map interface I found on the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) web site .  For over 22 years, the IDA has been advocating to keep our night sky clean of light pollution.  Their reasons go beyond astronomy purposes and have provided resources for legislation that would both reduce night sky lighting and provide very large amounts of energy savings to the global economy.

Find A Dark Spot Tonight
Click on the image to go directly to map viewer

Data for the map comes from the NGDC, where you can find some links to more interactive maps and other imagery services.


Discounts for your GAW and holiday gifts

Each year as the holidays approach (and yes I include GAW in that list of holidays) we try to reach out to a vendor who carries Geographic or cartographic items to see if they would be willing to cut you guys a break/provide a discount in exchange for some free ad space on VerySpatial. This year we have talked into working with us…and for the first time it was actually easy to get a retailer on board.

We hope to have an ad up on the site soon that will highlight the 10% discount you can get using our coupon code veryspatial on the ODT Maps order summary page. However, in the short term they would like you to know that if you sign up for the ODT Maps newsletter you will get an exclusive newsletter subscriber discount in the November 21 issue of the ODT Maps newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter head over to and select Get E-Updates or follow this direct link. The newsletter discount will save you 30% Nov 23-28…ah Black Friday/CyberMonday sales.

If haven’t visited the ODT Maps site before take a minute to check it out. They have everything from maps to inflatable globes to magnets and stickers. They also have a selection of gift suggestions which includes a Hugg-a-Planet skin for those do-it-yourselfers who want to make the world themselves…and then hugg it (our Hugg-a-Planet still holds a place of honor). But perhaps most awesome of all is the large collection of south oriented maps and the EarthBall which has NITEGLOW CITIES! I am telling you now the the EarthBall may very well be the grand prize for our 6.5 year anniversary contest coming up in January…which means I need to go register for the newsletter so that we can afford to give one away (with the help of the coupon).

GEOGRAFREE – Front Line podcast in English

We are always excited about new Geography or geospatial podcasts since they are few and far between, but I am even more excited that a longstanding Geography podcast has become accessible to me (and other english speakers). The GEOGRAFREE Front-Line podcast has been produced in German for 106 episodes but has switched to english with episode 107. The podcast is hosted by Dr Torsten Wißmann who is a faculty member at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, though he is currently a visiting professor at UT Austin. Based on the first english episode he takes a more focused perspective than the 3 of us on avsp could ever hope to have (ah, the clarity of having only one host). The episode’s topics centered on human geography with a great sense of humor and a perspective that helps to highlight the aspects of Geography in the content he discusses.

As Torsten says in episode 107, I hope he doesn’t upset too many of his German speaking listeners in his switch to English, but I am very happy that he has opened the podcast to those of us who only know a handful of words in German. Be sure to check out GEOGRAFREE Front Line and become a US Frontliner

Royal Society Opens Its Archives

Prepare to watch today’s productivity sink like a log tied with rocks and encased in a block of cement. The Royal Society in the UK has thrown open its archives of papers that date back to the 17th century. There are some seriously amazing gems in that collection. Newton’s first paper? It’s in there. Ben Franklin’s kite experiment? It’s in there. Kinda curious what Darwin was publishing before his famous book? Guess what? In there. What to know what the first mention of ‘geography’ was in the collection? That would have been all the way back at the beginning in 1686.

Let’s be honest – I could spend weeks and weeks in this collection and still only scratch the outer coating of the packaging for the surface. All you have to do it begin your journey into the history of science is click this little link.

It’s HERE! It’s Finally HERE!

Just in time for my switch to the iOS platform. ESRI has finally released ArcGIS for Android! If you’re on the Android platform, head over to the Android Marketplace and you can download this free app. If you’re familiar with the iOS or the Windows 7 Phone version, you should know what to expect – mobile mapping, location based information, data collection ability, the ability to link to your own Arc Server installation, etc. All great stuff and it’s wonderful to see it finally here! Guess what I’ll be playing with this morning?

Search For Life on Mars

Ok, not Mars. Not just yet, at least. Researchers have created really cool science project called MAPPER. The idea is to leverage citizen scientists to comb through data and find signs of life on far away planets. For now, they have tapped into a couple of DeepWorker bots currently exploring the depths of two lakes in Canada. It’s more or less a groundwork (or more like underwater groundwork, I guess) project to lay down the foundations for a system that could be used on other planets. The system uses a cool web interface that should be immediately recognizable to anyone who plays games. Taking a clue from modern gaming, the scientists have built in social media and achievements. Let’s be honest – who DOESN’T want to unlock the ‘Found Life On Other Planet’ achievement?

Via Gizmodo

National Geographic Challenge for PS3, XBOX360, and Wii

As you know, many of our discussions here on VerySpatial have touched on the increasing convergence between geography, geospatial technologies, and games and gaming technology. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw the announcement and trailer for National Geographic Challenge, a new console game that will be available for all 3 of the big gaming platforms – PlayStation 3, XBOX 360, and Wii. It will be released on October 25th, and is available for pre-order now. It’ll cost you $29.99 for the PS3 or XBOX 360 version, and $19.99 for the Wii. (The National Geographic Challenge webpage shows a PC version, but I couldn’t confirm that on any of the retail sites I checked.)

It’s a single or multi-player quiz/challenge game that asks players to explore and answer questions about the world, and will draw on National Geographic’s great multimedia resources. I know I’m going to be grabbing a copy for the VerySpatial crew, and we’ll let you know what we think!

Here’s the official trailer if you want to see a glimpse of the game in action:

A Post of Extremes in Mapping

Artist Yataka Sone has created what may be the heaviest map ever – a marble carving of Manhattan, called ‘Little Manhattan’. The 3D model map of the Big Apple was carved out of a block of white marble that weighs over 2 ½ tons. The artist used photographs, helicopter rides, and Google Earth to make the model.(Visual News)

If that’s a bit much for you to carry around, then a company called Fluid Forms will make a nice silver pendant of any location you desire (not just Manhattan). The company takes a satellite image of the place you desire to see in a pendant then individually crafts the jewelry for you. You’ll get a copy of the source image with your jewelry so you can compare. They’re not cheap (especially for silver jewelry), but they’re way cool and much easier to cart around than a 2 ½ ton block of marble.(Gizmodo)

Transportation… OF THE FUTURE!

If you’ve ever heard me chatting with Elvin of the ArcPad team, you’ll know that I can wax poetic about cars almost more easily than I can about GIS. I think an awful lot about transportation (mostly old cars, but still…) It always fascinates me to think how well all get around in the future. How we move about our urban and suburban spaces has a large impact on our cultural and social development, so keeping tabs on this sort of thing could be important. Luckily people who actually have the power to make things happen share this same fascination.

Two European car companies have recently tossed their hat into the ring for personal transportation of the future. Last week Volkswagen showed their NILS single seat electric car. Obviously it’s just a prototype, but I can get behind any moving vehicle that features gull wing doors. Neither the speed or range is anything to write home about, but it might be attractive to those with relatively short commutes. Volkswagen says it could actually go into production. Renault has launched a slightly sexier (at least to my eye) vehicle that has no doors at all! The Twizy will come in two different models, what I’m going to call the ‘slow’ model and the ‘SUPER slow’ one. Unlike the VW, this isn’t a prototype – it’s going on sale in Europe in the not too distant future. One interesting feature of the Twizy is you won’t own your batteries; you’ll rent them from Renault instead at the price of $68/month. At European gas prices, that’s probably a pretty good deal.

VW and Renault aren’t the only one’s exploring this market, as you’d imagine. Check out a slightly old but still interesting video from the British series Top Gear where they explore Toyota’s concept vehicle iReal. Of course if you really want a historical perspective, check out this other Top Gear video showing the smallest car……… in the world!