Panoramic View of Angel Falls, Venezuela

We’ve featured AirPano before on the site, but a set they’ve put up just took my breath away.  They have a wonderful 360 degree air panoramic of Angel Falls in Venezuela.  You can see these falls from the base on up to the top of the waterfall.  The waterfall drops water nearly a half a mile to the ground.  It’s just amazing.  I really liked being able to start at the bast of the fall and virtually travel up via helicopter to the top.  If you’re really interested in some of the details of the shoot, the link also has a bit of a pholoblog of the shoot and the area.

Unfortunately most of us won’t have the opportunity to see majestic sites like this in person, so effort
s like the AirPano project can really help us see our amazing world in ways never before possible.  Not everything on the site is geographic (the ‘being a sandwich‘ one is kinda quirky), but the vast majority cover sites around the globe.  Take some time to explore what they have – I think you’ll be blown away by the sites.

Foo Fighters Rock The Planet

Nice try Scorpions. Not good enough. The Foo Fighters ACTUALLY rocked us WITH earthquakes! Real, honest to goodness earthquakes! The band took the stage in New Zealand after Tenacious D for a 3 hour set that caused tremors a mile away. How do they know it was the band and not a freak occurrence? Science explains all – ‘There are lulls in the signal between the songs and peaks in signal intensity during the songs.’ Scientists believe the tremors came from the 50,000 fans dancing to songs. In fairness, Tenacious D actually started the tremors during their opening act (I like to think this kicked it off). But really, it was the Foo Fighters that took the tremors to the wall… possibly with this 🙂

How Long Is A Piece Of String?

It’s amazing what you can find if you slow down when you’re flipping through the channels.  The other day I happened to stop at PBS and caught this wonderful documentary, “How Long Is A Piece Of String?”, published by the BBC.  It features comedian Alan Davies attempting to accurately measure the length of a piece of string.  Ultimately the documentary becomes an exploration of quantum physics, but along the way they cover a great bit of geography in the form of scale.  In fact there’s a whole bit in the middle there where Davies attempts to measure a bit of coast line, which neatly demonstrates the coastline paradox.  If you want to jump to the paradox bit, it can be found at around 2:15 through just over 5:00 in this smaller video.

And Another Great Tech Pioneer Leaves Us

The news around the Internet today is that Dennis Ritchie, inventor of the C programming language and the UNIX operating system, passed away over the weekend. I think it’s a mark of his impact that it might not be readily apparent exactly how important Ritchie was to our modern technology world. The fact of the matter is the majority of today’s Internet runs on some form of Unix. If I might steal a phrase from Steve Jobs, Unix largely ‘just works’. We don’t realize how much it’s humming along every single day. Arc was originally released on Unix, and I think it still impacts its current development. ERDAS’s Imagine feels like it still wants to be primarily a Unix program. Heck, even fundamental OS systems like Mac OS X and Android wouldn’t exist withouth Ritchie’s work.

On top of that, he invented arguably the most important programming language of all time. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts parts the upcoming Arc 10.1 was written in the language he invented. If programming languages were tracked like human languages, C would be the Latin of the programming world. C and it’s off shoots (C++, Objective-C, C#, and even Java) drive pretty much every technology device in the last 20 years or longer.

We lost Steve Jobs last week and his visionary designs will be sorely missed. Almost equally missed will be Ritchie’s visionary infrastructure designs. RIPC Dennis Ritchie…. RIPC.

A Story As A Map

I’m a pretty big fan boy of Wil Wheaton (although I still hate Wesley Crusher – SHUT UP Wesley!) I’ve never had a situation when the Venn diagram of my fan boy nerdness (it’s a pretty big chart) has overlapping circles in both ‘geo’ and ‘Wil Wheaton’… until today. In his blog, WWdN In Exile, Mr. Wheaton has a pretty neat post about how he mentally thinks of a story. Rather than try to describe the relevant bit, I’ll just quote it here (and hopefully not violate Wheaton’s Law in doing so):

When I write fiction, the first thing I do is break the story into acts, then into important things within those acts, and then into a few key scenes. Think of it like a map, with some pins pushed into it showing a route from beginning to end. It’s a zoomable map, so some of the pins are closer together on a well-defined path, while others are more general.

The whole thing struck me as rather Google Maps-esque way of thinking about story telling. It’s actually inspired me to pick up the pen a bit more in the future because it gives me a very accessible way to think about story telling. It seems like it’s a mental model that has applications even for those working on non-fiction, so I thought I’d pass it along!

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!

Kansas Flatter Than A Pancake

Don’t let anyone tell you that geographers aren’t cool! A group of three geographers from Texas State University and Arizona State University decided to test the old adage, “Kansas is flat as a pancake”. To quote the authors: “To the authors, this adage seems to qualitatively capture some characteristic of a topographic geodetic survey 2. This obvious question “how flat is a pancake” spurned our analytical interest, and we set out to find the ‘flatness’ of both a pancake and one particular state: Kansas.” Their method is reasonably sound and deliciously geographic! The results clearly show that a pancake has a flatness quotient of .957, whereas Kansas has a quotient of .9997 – what the authors call “damn flat”.

Man I love geography!