Sketch Up has announced their first annual Halloween Challenge. You can pick three categories: 1:Jack 0′Lantern, 2: Haunted House, 3: Both together. You need to fill out a challenge submission form and upload your model to 3D Warehouse in publicly downloadable format. The SketchUp team will judge the entries on October 28th. Here is a link to Googlemeister’s Amazing Haunted House Walk Through Collection from last year in 3D Modeler.
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?
I really like that quote. The good folks at the Center for Environmental Research Technology (CERT) at the University of California have been engaged in researching new fuel efficiency technology. Their conclusions – fix the driver, not the car. The way we drive has a huge impact on the efficiency of our vehicles. The researchers at CERT estimate you can realize a much as a 30% increase in fuel efficiency with some changes to your driving habits. Unfortunately, we don’t like to change how we drive. The team is trying to develop ways which give the driver feedback on ‘good’ habits that increase fuel efficiency as well as ‘bad’ habits. The trick is doing so without being obnoxious (a trick I’ve never personally learned, as I’m sure Sue and Jesse will attest). They’ve used a variety of techniques, from visual chances on the dashboard to audio clues to force feedback on your gas pedal. The hard part is walking the line between good information and not distracting information. As the research notes, better use of navigation tied to smart traffic networks will reduce start/stop traffic and needless idling, which helps even more.
As a bit of a ‘hypermiler’ from an early age, I can tell you these tricks can really impact your fuel efficiency in a positive way.
Flickr has added a pretty cool new feature to their API set – Geofences. The idea is based upon the increasing concern over privacy, particularly spatial privacy. In the past versions of the API, one could only make the spatial location available to all or hide it from all. Geofences adds the ability to specify where ‘public’ photos are taken in your stream and where ‘private’ photos are taken. You can then share your ‘private’ fence with different classes of people of your choosing. For instance, you might make photos taken in and around your home in a ‘Family and Friends’ private Geofence and those taken at a public park as a public Geofence. The neat thing is you set the geofence spatially. You draw an area around a place you want to be private and by default any photos taken within that area are private. It’s a fairly cool implementation of privacy and it allows you to change your feelings about place without having to edit a ton of photos to reflect that change. Plus, to be honest, I love the phrase ‘geofence’ ?
NOAA just released a fascinating video showing the birth and death of hurricane Irene as seen from space. The video was created from imagery captured by the GOES-13 weather satellite. This lovely new satellite captures a view every 30 minutes and has been running for a little over a year (more to be found about this satellite at the link).
Wired has a beautiful article highlighting the views of US National Parks as seen from space. The views are simply breathtaking. I think a lot of people in the US forget our National Park system features some truly majestic and amazing places on the Earth. Looking at them from space gives a whole new appreciation of their wonder, if you ask me. Furthermore, it highlights how critical remote sensing is to our modern existence. Having this type of data available isn’t just beautiful, it’s important for understanding how our land changes over time.
Each entry features a little background on the park and a couple of views from various sources. The vast majority of the data comes from NASA’s Earth Observatory site. There are a number of GeoEye images and one from the University of Maryland’s Global Land Cover Facility as well.
I get to make a cheesy statement here about how Garmin-Cervelo race team has found their way to the top in August with Garmin, but I think the picture on their home page explains it better. You can follow the official Garmin Team on Garmin Connect or sign up to support them via Facebook or Twitter. They have some really cool team apparel including some national champion bike jerseys. Jean-François Phillips has a blog called Tour de France or Bust where he is going to us a Garmin GPS to track the route of the 2011 Tour de France on a day-by-day basis starting August 27, 2011. He is doing it to raise money for the charity Help for Heroes. You can also visit the official Le Tour de France site to find out more about the route or its famous history.
Climate models have predicted this for years, but it’s never been observed… until now. Ars Technica discusses the issue in brief. For the non-physical geographers out there (of which I count myself), storm tracks are the mid-latitude storm patterns that bring most of the precipitation to the heavy population centers in the world. As the climate changes, these storm tracks should gravitate to the poles. Scientists have been using data from The International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project to attempt to track the movement of storm tracks. They note lots of issues with the data, but repeated sampling and analysis methods have shown a clear trend – the tracks are moving as predicted. On top of that, apparently we’ve lost 2-3% of our total cloud cover worldwide!
So what’s the takeaway from all of this? It seems to me that the issues with the data combined with the need to track this stuff in a more comprehensive and accessible way point to one major conclusion – we need more satellites to get more accurate and timelier data. It really doesn’t matter where you fall on the climate change issue. Better information can only lead to a more informed scientific community and public, which is always a good thing.
On Tuesday at the ESRI UC I spent the majority of my day wandering through the many tables and displays set up in the exposition hall. At first I was overwhelmed by the size of the exhibition hall and the number of exhibitors but as I walked through the displays I became impressed with the number of ingenious ways that society makes use of GIS.
ESRI had a fantastic set up this year with their showcase featuring workstations set up to help with specific skill sets or applications regarding ArcGIS. Each station was staffed with knowledgeable assistants to help with your questions or comments. I stopped by the Training and Certification to inquire about ESRI’s new technical certification program. If you haven’t checked it out lately you should as large changes from their past instructor certification program have taken place.
Finally, I got the urge to enter drawings that many of the vendors were offering. One such company was offering a large remote controlled helicopter and I couldn’t resist. That entry led to a conversation with Bill Emison of Merrick & Company. Bill informed me that Merrick & Company were demonstrating Lidar processing software and gave me the tour of their product Merrick Advanced Remote Sensing Software (MARS).
All I can say is wow! The software processes millions of points super fast! After my whiplash settled down, Bill showed me some of the software’s capabilities in generating different GIS friendly formats, generating TIN surfaces, classification tools, and filtering abilities. Merrick & Company provides a free viewer and a 30 day evaluation of the full viewer. Definitely worth checking out if you make heavy use of Lidar data especially since it exports to so many usable formats.