Grassroots Mapping for the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Recently we featured the Grassroots Mapping project, a community participatory mapping initiative from the MIT Media Lab, on the podcast, and now the Grassroots team has headed down to Louisiana to try to utilize their balloon-based camera system to acquire imagery and map the Gulf oil spill along the Louisiana coast. Their goals are not to replace official imagery and mapping of the disaster, but rather to supplement the information by allowing citizens to provide their own documentation of the event using low-cost balloons to get aerial images for mapping.

If any of you are in the area, and would like to help out with the efforts, you can find more information at the Grassroots Mapping wiki for the Gulf Oil Spill project. There is also an article posted on

Celebrate Earth Day – Enjoy Great Images of Our Earth!

As I sit here STILL trying to fight off whatever cold/flu combo I brought back from AAG, I thought I would point out some great galleries of imagery of our Earth, from both government EO programs like NASA to private firms like GeoEye. Browsing through these galleries of amazing images of the Earth is a good reminder of why we observe Earth Day in the first place…

GeoEye High Resolution Image Gallery

NASA Earth Observatory


ESA Multimedia Gallery

DigitalGlobe’s Earth Day 2010 Flickr gallery

SIC Corp (Imagery reseller) Gallery

There are lots of other great sources of awesome Earth Observation imagery out there, so see what else you can find!

Inventor of Rubik’s Cube to appear at USA Science and Engineering Festival

You may remember that we’ve mentioned the USA Science and Engineering Festival, which will be held in October in Washington, DC. It is a great idea to celebrate science and engineering, and raise awareness of the importance of STEM education here in the US. There’s already a great lineup of universities, public agencies and private firms participating, and I’m hoping that there will be a strong showing from the Geography, GIS and geospatial community. So far, though, the long list of prestigious participants, like NOAA, NASA, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, the American Museum of Natural History, UC Berkeley, etc. doesn’t include any of the big players in the geospatial community, even though STEM education will be crucial in training the next generation of workers for the geospatial industry. Still, there’s plenty of time to get involved!

As part of the festivities, there will be a You CAN do the Rubik’s Cube Tournament, with cash prizes and lots of fun for all! The tournament is only open to youth organizations in the Greater Washington, DC area, but the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube, Dr. Erno Rubik, will actually be at the Science and Engineering Festival to meet the winners.

There are tons of other events planned for the Festival, culminating in the USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo on the National Mall on October 23 and 24th. So, if you can get to DC, you definitely have to check out the festival, because it’s shaping up to be a pretty amazing event!

Directions podcast COGO interview

Joe Francica over at Directions Media Podcast spoke with chair-elect of COGO, Geney Terry, about COGO, its membership, and its role in the community. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but this is one of those conversations that I think will say a lot about the Geography and geospatial tech arena.

But really, if you are listening to us, you are probably already subscribed to the Directions Media podcast too, right? [iTunes link]

Gulf Stream not Slowing Down

Apparently Dennis Quaid was wrong… the gulf stream is not slowing down as some climate change models (and over the top eco-adventure movies) predict.  Apparently the belief this might happen is a victim of the age old measurement error.  Initial measurements suggested the slow down.  It turns out over a longer period of time, there is no slow down, just an awful lot of variability from year to year.  Scientists are continuing to monitor the flow in attempt to collect more data to confirm these latest findings.  On top of that, they hope to figure out what causes the variability, which in and of itself is rather puzzling.

As an aside, what I find fascinating is the sheer magnitude of these sorts of issues.  We’re talking attempts to understand and predict phenomena on a global scale and time scales approaching geologic time.  That’s a seriously challenging task and more power to all the scientists out there trying to tackle it head on!

Bizarre Map Challenge

For all you students out there whose maps are greeted with a “That’s bizarre…”, I’ve got the perfect map challenge for you! Our reader Keith M. sent us a heads up about the Bizarre Map Challenge, a map design competition open to high school, college, and university students (only here in the US). The maps submitted by students are supposed to be “bizarre” in the sense of being out of the ordinary but still using real-world data, so thinking outside the box will pay off!

The deadline to submit your map is March 22nd, and you can find complete contest rules here

First Prize is $5000 and the top ten will all get cash prizes, so start designing those maps!


Popular Science Archive now online – and free!

Yes, that’s right, 137 years of awesome issues of Popular Science magazine are now available online by searching the archive at the PopSci website. If you’re a science or gadget nerd, you’ll have lots of fun checking out the science frontiers of decades gone by, and even checking out the advertising and graphics styles for the original issues.

About the only drawback is that you have to enter a search term to get into the archives, as there is no browse function available so far. However, once you’ve searched on a term, such as “rocket pack”, you can browse around through the whole issue using the archive viewer’s navigation.

Via Wired

Best US Government Blogs

Ran across this interesting post: the best government blogs and why they’re the best.  With the exception of NASA, none of these have a direct geospatial tie.  In fact, all but one of them are CIO’s of their respective organizations.  It sorta makes sense it would start there, but I’d like to challenge anybody in local, state, or federal government who has any stake in geospatial information to start blogging.  The points on what makes each of these blogs work are excellent starting points to use in your own blog.  I’d love to see more geospatial government blogs out there!

GPS Adventures at the Maryland Science Center

Dan at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore emailed to let us know that GPS Adventures, a traveling exhibit all about GPS and geocaching, will be opening tomorrow, February 20th and will be running until April 18th.
GPS Adventures gives visitors an introduction to GPS technology and the basics of navigation in general, and offers some cool hands on experience. The exhibit is set up like a small maze, which the idea of simulating a geocaching event by having visitors explore 4 different environments, find a hidden cache and solve a puzzle in each area, and then use the code to enter each of 4 Satellite Rooms.
GPS Adventures is a great way to get kids introduced to GPS and the role it plays in our world, so if you can get to Baltimore, definitely check it out. For those of you on the West Coast, GPS Adventures will be heading to Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, California after it leaves the Maryland Science Center in April.

Geographic Wills

According to the BBC, Eric Gordon Douglas from Edinburgh left nearly £11,000 for 20 towns around the world that share his surname. The Herald Scotland states that no one knows anything about their benefactor other than his name and home city. On the Rampant Scotland site you can find out “Is Your Home Town Named After Somewhere in Scotland?” I tried to find a MacLennan town on Rootweb but all I found was Mc Lennan Co. Texas. When I googled my surname I found that there is a book series character called Brodie MacLennan. “The start of a thrilling Edinburgh-based series starring rebellious young lawyer Brodie McLennan.”