Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018
Sunday, October 29th, 2017
A lovely interactive photo essay charting the results of what happens when evolution produces a life form that allows a planet to take selfies.
Wednesday, February 1st, 2017
A gorgeous visualisation of satellites in Earth orbit. Click around to grasp the scale of the network.
Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
Earth as seen on one day in 2015 from Himawari-8. Beautiful.
Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
This infographic offers a visual way to explore the various stages of the Earth’s history using a 12 hour clock analogy.
Thursday, July 16th, 2015
When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries.
The New Madrid Seismic Zone earned its reputation on the strength of three massive earthquakes that struck in the winter of 1811-1812. The region was very sparsely settled at the time, and became more sparsely settled immediately afterwards, as anyone with legs made it their life’s mission to get out of southern Missouri.
The articles are fascinating and entertaining in equal measure. No surprise there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Maciej Cegłowski is the best writer on the web. Every so often I find myself revisiting Argentina On Two Steaks A Day or A Rocket To Nowhere just for the sheer pleasure of it.
I want to read more from Maciej, and there’s a way to make it happen. If we back him on Kickstarter, he’ll take a trip to the Antarctic and turn it into words:
Soliciting donations to take a 36-day voyage to the Ross Ice Shelf, Bay of Whales and subantarctic islands, and write it up real good.
Let’s make it happen. Let’s throw money at him like he’s a performing monkey. Dance, writer-boy, dance!
Saturday, December 6th, 2014
This is an awareness project I can get behind: a Clarke-like Project Spaceguard to protect the Earth from asteroid collisions. This campaign will focus awareness of this issue on one single day…
Now if only the front page of this website actually said when that day will be.
Update: And now it does.
Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
A beautiful real-time visualisation of winds on our planet.
Saturday, October 5th, 2013
This gives me a warm fuzzy glow. The Mefites are using Radio Free Earth to find out which stars are receiving the number one hits from their birthdays.
Friday, October 4th, 2013
Radio Free Earth
Back at the first San Francisco Science Hack Day I wanted to do some kind of mashup involving the speed of light and the distance of stars:
I wanted to build a visualisation based on Matt’s brilliant light cone idea, but I found it far too daunting to try to find data in a usable format and come up with a way of drawing a customisable geocentric starmap of our corner of the galaxy. So I put that idea on the back burner…
At this year’s San Francisco Science Hack Day, I came back to that idea. I wanted some kind of mashup that demonstrated the connection between the time that light has travelled from distant stars, and the events that would have been happening on this planet at that moment. So, for example, a star would be labelled with “the battle of Hastings” or “the sack of Rome” or “Columbus’s voyage to America”. To do that, I’d need two datasets; the distance of stars, and the dates of historical events (leaving aside any Gregorian/Julian fuzziness).
For wont of a better hack, Chloe agreed to help me out. We set to work finding a good dataset of stellar objects. It turned out that a lot of the best datasets from NASA were either about our local solar neighbourhood, or else really distant galaxies and stars that are emitting prehistoric light.
The best dataset we could find was the Near Star Catalogue from Uranometria but the most distant star in that collection was only 70 or 80 light years away. That meant that we could only mash it up with historical events from the twentieth century. We figured we could maybe choose important scientific dates from the past 70 or 80 years, but to be honest, we really weren’t feeling it.
We had reached this impasse when it was time for the Science Hack Day planetarium show. It was terrific: we were treated to a panoramic tour of space, beginning with low Earth orbit and expanding all the way out to the cosmic microwave background radiation. At one point, the presenter outlined the reach of Earth’s radiosphere. That’s the distance that ionosphere-penetrating radio and television signals from Earth, travelling at the speed of light, have reached. “It extends about 70 light years out”, said the presenter.
This was perfect! That was exactly the dataset of stars that we had. It was a time for a pivot. Instead of the lofty goal of mapping historical events to the night sky, what if we tried to do something more trivial and fun? We could demonstrate how far classic television shows have travelled. Has Star Trek reached Altair? Is Sirius receiving I Love Lucy yet?
No, not TV shows …music! Now we were onto something. We would show how far the songs of planet Earth had travelled through space and which stars were currently receiving which hits.
Chloe remembered there being an API from Billboard, who have collected data on chart-topping songs since the 1940s. But that API appears to be gone, and the Echonest API doesn’t have chart dates. So instead, Chloe set to work screen-scraping Wikipedia for number one hits of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s …you get the picture. It was a lot of finding and replacing, but in the end we had a JSON file with every number one for the past 70 years.
Meanwhile, I was putting together the logic. Our list of stars had the distances in parsecs. So I needed to convert the date of a number one hit song into the number of parsecs that song had travelled, and then find the last star that it has passed.
By the end of the first day, the functionality was in place: you could enter a date, and find out what was number one on that date, and which star is just now receiving that song.
After the sleepover (more like a wakeover) in the aquarium, we started to style the interface. I say “we” …Chloe wrote the CSS while I made unhelpful remarks.
For the icing on the cake, Chloe used her previous experience with the Rdio API to add playback of short snippets of each song (when it’s available).
Here’s the (more or less) finished hack:
Basically, it’s a simple mashup of music and space …which is why I spent the whole time thinking “What would Matt do?”
Just keep hitting that button to hear a hit from planet Earth and see which lucky star is currently receiving the signal.*
*I know, I know: the inverse-square law means it’s practically impossible that the signal would be in any state to be received, but hey, it’s a hack.
Monday, August 12th, 2013
Beautiful animated GIFs showing the lungs of our planet.
Sunday, February 3rd, 2013
Communal satellite eyes. A Mac screensaver is also available.
Sunday, December 9th, 2012
Gorgeous pictures from the Suomi satellite, just released by NASA
Sunday, July 22nd, 2012
Another beautiful timelapse video made from photographs taken from the International Space Station.
The music from Sunshine gets me every time.
Tuesday, June 12th, 2012
Beautiful time-lapse photography from Don “we’ve got a Dragon by the tail” Pettit, taken from the International Space Station.
Wednesday, October 31st, 2007
There was a quake in San Francisco last night. The correct response to this situation is to Twitter it.
Monday, September 10th, 2007
There's something very Gibsonesque about this real world mashup of Google Maps and Amazon's Mechanical Turk.
Sunday, May 6th, 2007
This is the first picture of Earth taken from space, specifically from a V2 rocket 60 miles up.
Wednesday, March 8th, 2006
Google Earth is now available for the Mac. Get downloading.