Remote Sensing Teaches Us the Cause of The Northern Lights

Thanks to NASA, the age old question of what causes the Northern Lights has been solved! NASA satellites from the THEMIS project were able to watch the whole sequence between the buildup and the appearance of the lights. Apparently giant magnetic fields are pulled then snapped back into place. The force creates the lights. Watch the video on Gizmodo’s site and you can see it happening as the satellites captured it. What did we do before remote sensing?

Happy System Administrator Appreciation Day!

Anyone who’s worked in GIS with more than two people can tell you that one person is critical to keeping all this stuff working…. the system administrator. Today happens to be the 9th annual System Administrator Appreciation Day! The sys admin is normally the person you call when things go all kablewie, so you’re normally too freaked out to give him or her a pat on the shoulder in thanks. Take some time out today to find that person and give this a hearty thanks for their work. Remember, it takes all of a few minutes for an unhappy sys admin to make your life much less productive, as the good people of San Francisco recently found out.

iPhone 2.1 Firmware may offer More GPS Features

A few sites are talking about the beta of the updated iPhone 2.x software, of course what is most interesting to our readers is the suggestion of extended GPS functionality. So far it has been suggested that the iPhone will offer speed and direction capabilities, ala navigation. It is a bit odd that folks seem to be more interested in the GPS functionality instead of making the OS a bit more stable/responsive.

App Store wise, this week has seen Platial add their “Nearby” app and the first geocaching app, “Geopher lite“. I like the look of “TapeMeasure” which measures the distance between locations providing lat/long, altitude, and relative accuracy, but I haven’t had a chance to play with it.

IPhone 3G: iPhone 2.1 Firmware Currently In Beta, More GPS Features On The Way

Alabama Public Water System Mapping Project

In 2009, the State of Alabama will begin a project to map all of the municipal and rural water systems within the state. As many of us here in the US know, a number of areas of the country have been experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions, and water resources are a contentious issue. Conflicts between various groups and government entities will likely grow, as more and more people move into areas that already have scarce water supplies. Although the Governor of Alabama denied that such issues played a role in the decision to set up the mapping program, Alabama and neighboring Georgia are already arguing about water rights. I expect that we will begin to see more initiatives like this in the coming years, as the first step in claiming the rights to scarce resources is identifying where they are and mapping them.

Via Prattville Progress

Dr Horrible coming next week

For those of you who have listened to our first 6 months of podcasts you will know that we are all rabid fans of Joss Whedon. We will consume basically anything he has a hand in for one simple reason…it is good. So when Sue came across the mention of Joss working on something with Neil “Doogie” Patrick Harris and Nathan “Capt Reynolds” Fillion during the writers strike we were beside ourselves in anticipation (not just any anticipation, but the way that Tim “Franke-N-Furter” Curry said it in Rocky Horror) for the wonderfully titled Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. The one week online video event has a great cast that also includes Felicia Day (creator of the The Guild), Simon Helberg (Howard on Big Bang Theory), and others.

There will be three web episodes of Dr Horrible which will roll out on July 15, 17, and 19 respectively, but they will all go away on July 20th. That’s right you have to watch ’em all next week to see them online. If you are going on vacation or your network connection is down next week, don’t worry they already plan to release them on DVD, probably in the fall. There is a trailer up on the Dr Horrible site to give you a taste of the action, along with a link to an online comic book about Nathan Fillion’s character Capt. Hammer that sets up a little of the story. And in case you aren’t sure about whether Neil Patrick Harris can hold his own in the vocals, check out this great clip of him with How I Met Your Mother cast mate Jason Segel rock the song “Confrontation” from Les Miserables.

ESRI ‘GIS In Action’ Video contest

ESRI prizesWe are really interested in what will come out of the recently announced ESRI video contest. Hopefully, if you are entering the contest, you will think of us and send us a link to your video so that we can take a look at what you are doing in your daily (geospatial) lives. Since they will be up on YouTube or other video sharing site we will link to those that are sent in in a future post. The details are available in our ad copy from this week’s podcast ad below. Good luck!

ESRI is sponsoring a video contest called GIS in Action. Create a short amateur video showing how you use GIS in the workplace, and enter the contest by July 25th, 2008 with a chance to win prizes valued up to $125. Winners will be announced on August 7th, 2008.
Visit to find out more.

GIS and the art of LEGO

According to this CNN, a former lawyer is making a living out of creating Lego structure art. If a lawyer can do it, can you imagine what a person with a GIS background could do. What if there was an ARC or other spatial Lego software? Anyone already doing something using GIS and Legos? You can become one of the few Lego certified professionals in the world! Imagine Greenwich Village, NY Lego to scale. Incidentally, there is a Lego Land near San Diego, if you want to stop by during the ESRI Users Conference. Someone posted in the reply section about L Cad which allows users to create CAD models using Legos. Too cool

Life size Leia (StarWars)

leiaClick on the image to the see a larger version…no really, if you like Star Wars even just a little you must see this life size statue version of Princess Leia. But this isn’t your standard bikini clad Leia, it is the re-envisioned for the Clone Wars cartoons Leia. She is in her full Episode IV, A New Hope, original Star Wars my-unknown-father-just-took-over-my-ship-and-I-have-to-hide-these-plans-in-an-R2-unit-that-belonged-to-my-mom-though-I-will-never-know-that-bit-of-info glory complete with buns and white flimsy “dress” and laser gun. Our local(ish) comic store got this in for one of the customers and while the picture does this (5 foot tall) statue some justice…it is still one of those things that must be seen to believe. This may take the title of “coolest statue” from the current holder, a (larger than) life size Hagrid made out of Legos that I saw in London.

Big Ole’ World!

Ubisoft, maker of… well… LOTS of video games, is working on Far Cry 2. For those not in the video game know, Far Cry has pushed the limits of PC gaming hardware in the last year. Far Cry 2 looks to raise the bar even higher. The game takes place in Africa and features a game world of over 50 square kilometers, which is the biggest game world I think I’ve heard. There are a lot of innovative features in the engine, like a custom wind engine and the destructibility of everything in the world itself, particularly with the foliage (which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a MAJOR improvement in gaming technology). Even if you aren’t into games, the possible applications of an engine like this for serious games or real world gaming can’t be ignored. Shacknews features a 20 minute demo video of the game (WARNING: the video is R rated!)