Posts Tagged ‘national geographic’

RUMOR: Google Earth 5 on Monday (Google Earth Blog)

Friday, January 30th, 2009

[Editor's note: New features are coming to an application near you. Thanks Laris!]

Republished from Google Earth Blog.
Original publish date: January 26, 2009.

Big Google Earth Announcement with Al Gore and More

The tech world was abuzz this weekend with rumors about a big upcoming event concerning Google Earth. WebProNews and AppScout were the first to report on Friday. Google has sent out an invitation to the press, including Google Earth Blog, for a “Special announcement about Google Earth” on February 2nd in San Francisco. And this event looks like it could be the biggest announcement since Google Earth was released! Speakers include: former Vice President Al Gore, CEO of Google Eric Schmidt, VP of Google Marissa Mayer, and Director of Google Geo John Hanke. Wow!

There are no specifics on the announcement mentioned in the invitation. Just some comments about how Google Earth has reached hundreds of millions of people around the world. The last time Google had this many dignitaries to make an announcement for Google Earth was in June of 2006 when they announced the upcoming release of Google Earth 4. Eric Schmidt and the two co-founders of Google (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) were there for the announcement made by John Hanke at that event. Google Earth 4 introduced photorealistic textures to 3D models, GE for the Mac and Linux, multi-lingual support, and a huge global imagery update covering many countries for the first time.

Another clue for this announcement was some other speakers for the announcement: Sylvia Earle – Explorer-in-Residence for National Geographic Society; Terry Garcia – EVP for National Geographic Society, and Greg Farrington, Executive Director for California Academy of Sciences. The last one isn’t surprising because the invitation says the announcement will be held at the California Academy of Sciences.

The big clue is Sylvia Earle. As pointed out by everyone, Sylvia Earle is a world renowned oceanographer. So, of course, the immediate conclusion is that Google Ocean is finally about to be introduced. Rumors have been flying about Google Ocean for quite a while.

So, clearly Google Earth is going to get some new Ocean-related data. Google just added new detailed ocean floor imagery last week. And, it’s a known fact that several of the parties involved with that also have worked on 3D bathymetry. Google Earth to date has not had many layers which provide data about the ocean. And the ocean terrain has always been flat (2D) in Google Earth. More ocean data is an area I’ve been looking forward to with great anticipation. Especially since this year my wife and I are departing to spend the next five years circumnavigating the oceans by sailboat. Having Google Earth help us explore the oceans will be handy! Google Earth has needed more information about the 75% of the Earth most of us ignore.

I don’t think this announcement will be confined to just Google Ocean though. When Google makes an announcement like this, they always try to push the envelope on multiple fronts. And, with Al Gore headlining the event, I’m sure we’re going to get some data about the environment. I’m expecting lots of new features and data to write about in February. It’s going to be exciting! I just wish I could attend the event myself – but, unfortunately we’ve got plans for next week which keep me from going. But, have no fear, I’ll still be reporting on this major event!

Race To The Moon with Richard Furno, Part 2 (Kelso)

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Follow along with Richard’s first hand narration of how historic events shaped the map, the cutting edge science involved in assembling the photographic base material, and the many explanatory notes included on the final design. The wall map is a piece of art, please enjoy :)

Please join me in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Race to the Moon! Map co-author Richard Furno has allowed me to turn his keynote presentation into a post on my blog illustrating the trials and tribulations of creating this fabulous wall map for the National Geographic Society’s magazine.

This is part 2. Return to Part 1. View zoomable map at National Geographic.

Orbitor 5 Recap

Orbiters 1 through 4 had covered much of the Far Side (shown in green) but much was still missing. Orbiter 5 devoted time to photographing the rest of the unknown part of the Far Side, and as a result, nearly all of the remaining area was taken. After the mission’s success, NASA announced it had all the photos that would cover the Moon. I called NASA to see if their Far Side map was finished, since we would use it for our relief artist so he could render the relief map.

1967: NASA’S Moon Map

But, in fact, NASA had produced only a partial map of the Far Side and had no intention to finish a complete map of the Moon before our scheduled publication. What’s more, I was told that the one partial map they HAD prepared was put together very quickly and they could guarantee that the positional control of features was poor.

(Above) This is the 1976 edition of the map of that 1967 map which was probably greatly improved. It covered from 50 degrees south to 50 degrees north only. Eventually they would finish the polar maps to complete it but that didn’t happen until 1970, more than a year after we published the Moon map. This meant we would have to create our own positional control (selenodetic control) of the Moon’s Far Side features.

Selenodetic Control

Dave is adjusting the globe, I’m moving the camera box and Vic is moving the light.

So we had to come up with another answer. Actually, it was natural for me to think of a scheme to solve the selenodetic control problem. I had learned and done technical perspective drafting for my architect father and I knew picture planes, station points, vanishing points, 2 and 3-point perspective, etc. inside out. As many know, rectification of photos is an exercise in perspective. Unfortunately, I had little time to do the control and we had no rectification equipment. The photos had to be quickly prepared for Tibor to use as he was rapidly finishing his relief of the Near Side.

We needed a large globe in order to reproduce the Orbiter / Moon configurations. It needed a latitude longitude grid preferably without other obscuring information. Well, there just happened to be a one-meter globe in old Hubbard Hall. On the globe, drawn in black ink by hand, was a 5° grid and the shorelines of the earth. With that in hand, we needed a platform to mount it and a slidable camera. Dave and I came in hammers and saws and literally built this contraption, sometimes making up the design as we went

The globe was mounted on a pair of rolling pins. A plumb bob hung from overhead that pointed to a center line drawn the length of a platform and which aligned with the globe’s center. A camera was mounted on a box so its focal point was half a meter above the platform and directly over a  camera swivel. It could then be pointed in different directions while keeping its position directly above the platform’s center line. The platform was long enough in scale so all pictures would be within the range of all the Orbiter photos.

The setup made it possible to roll the globe into any position. We had a hinged measuring stick in front of the globe, with a half meter tick mark so we could align three key points, 1) a designated latitude longitude point (nadir point), 2) the center of the globe and 3) the camera focal point.

Precision

Dave Cook uses proportional dividers to mark the correct latitude and longitude for the camera’s Nadir point. The point is then set on the plumb bob string.

To take a picture of the globe, we followed these steps:

  1. Place the latitude longitude nadir point at the half meter point (by measuring stick) and in line with the tangential plumb bob.
  2. Move the camera to the scaled distance from the plumb bob (putting it directly “above” the nadir point)
  3. Mark the latitude longitude aiming point on the globe (we use a dark X on a piece of masking tape)
  4. Swivel the camera to aim at the Orbiter’s aiming point

The camera recorded a large film plate for accuracy (8 x 6 inches I think) and so the aiming point was clearly visible in the back of the camera. Vic Boswell did a miraculous job of lighting so that the negatives would show the grid lines all the way around the globe. He took about 5 or 6 exposures to ensure a decent one. Vic and I yakked constantly about “foreign cars” back in the day when they were still exotic. He had restored a 1948 MG TC which he drove around on sunny days.

Tibor’s Relief


Tibor is shown working on Tsiolkovsky crater on the Far Side hemisphere.

True rectification means taking distorted photos and removing the distortion. In our case, I would take the photographed grid, draft it onto the Orbiter photo and give it Tibor. He had to rectify the 5° gridded portion of photo in is head by visually subdividing the distorted photo square and mentally transferring the terrain onto a corresponding Lambert Azimuthal square.

Some photos were quite relatively perfect but many were severely foreshortened. While we took these pictures, Tibor was busy drawing the relief for the Near Side of the Moon. I needed to start giving him source material so it would be ready when he started work on the Far Side. Tibor drafted on some sort of paper. Other plates for the map were produced on cronoflex.

Selenodetic Control II

Same photo with Tsiolkovsky crater and holding the clear gridded overlay.

After getting the developed negatives, I had to calculate the correct size for the overlay positive, a more difficult task than I expected. The Orbiter photos were pieced together in strips, often slightly off register. Trying to size by the arc radius could be a tricky affair, but that and a couple of known coordinates made it relatively straightforward.

In the photo below, the moon’s limb is in the particular Orbiter frame and could serve as a way of sizing the corresponding picture of our globe. Yet, with the strips slightly off, it was never that easy. Frames showing no edge of the moon meant aligning by known coordinate points was the only way. I had to order each negative in several different sizes and would inevitably find the one that lined up with two or more known coordinate points on the photo. And when known points were only those by extension across the far side, it meant errors could start to add up.

With the correct, registered positive in hand, I pierced through the overlay at grid intersections into the Orbiter photo. (Notice the spots on the overlay. There was a lightly inked shoreline drawn on the one-meter globe and it appeared on all photos along with the grid.)

Transfered Grid

I used “ships curves” to connect the points. The gut- killer was that there was nothing I could use to check my work. I had to work across the entire Far Side hoping everything would meet up correctly. Fortunately it did.

(more…)

Race To The Moon with Richard Furno, Part 1 (Kelso)

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Follow along with Richard’s first hand narration of how historic events shaped the map, the cutting edge science involved in assembling the photographic base material, and the many explanatory notes included on the final design. The wall map is a piece of art, please enjoy :)

Please join me in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Race to the Moon! Map co-author Richard Furno has allowed me to turn his keynote presentation into a post on my blog illustrating the trials and tribulations of creating this fabulous wall map for the National Geographic Society’s magazine.

This is part 1. Skip to part 2. View zoomable map at National Geographic.

My friend and cartography colleague Richard Furno retired from The Washington Post as of January 1st, 2009. He had a long and productive career first at National Geographic Maps starting in 1963 and afterwards for the newspaper making daily, deadline driven maps for publication in the next day’s newspaper from 1978 to 2008. He was a victim of a changing media landscape and dreery economic times. Read more about Richard Furno.

Richard has been a great mentor to me and we officially honored him last week in the NewsArt department. While he was at National Geographic, Richard worked on The Moon Map and I’d like to share it’s story with everyone around the globe. Because of it’s length, this blog post will be in 2 parts.

NOTE: You may also be interested in my photo essay on Toni Mair-Terrain Artist Extraordinaire.

The remainder of this post is taken directly from Dick’s Keynote presentation. Any references to “I” are in his first person, not mine. Photo and illustrations either (c) National Geographic or variety of  unnamed sources.

While I worked at the National Geographic, no map produced there was so closely tied to events occurring on the country’s and world’s political stage. With each of many developments — a new satellite, a capsule crash, an important space photo — our enthusiasm for or anticipation of actual publication of the Moon map was affected.

The principal author of the National Geographic’s Moon map was Dave Cook, not myself. The history below relates my involvement. Dave was virtually the sole designer. He was also the main researcher and writer of all the material on the map. He established contact with all the phenomenal people who took part in reviewing and editing the final map, many of whom were involved in NASA’s push to the Moon.

After the Moon map was finished, Dave went on to produce the Geographic’s Mars map showing the newly discovered topography as photographed by the spacecraft of the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

When I finished this presentation, I sent it to Dave asking for his edits and urged that he make abundant additions of his own. He said it was “great” but didn’t take the time to add details of his own. I wish he had. This story is far from complete without his part.

Dave and I have been best of friends from 1963 to today and we continue to love astronomy and all things “space-programish”.

1959: Luna 3

In 1959, the Russians sent a spacecraft called Luna 3 into space that looped around the moon and took the first pictures of the… Far Side of the Moon.

There were many Russian space mission that jolted the citizens, and politicians, of the United States from Sputnik in 1957 well into the 1960′s. The Soviets seemed to be able to do anything in space that they chose. These were truly spectacular events.

At the time, the Soviets did not reveal the results of their space missions unless the Kremlin chose to do so. Much of what happened during their space effort wasn’t learned until after 1990. Their secrecy simply enhanced the U.S. drive to beat the Russians to the Moon.

Luna 3’s Far Side Photo

But the photos Luna 3 took were extremely disappointing (above). The right hand two-thirds of the photo is the Far Side of the Moon. The Russians made detailed maps out of this and a few other comparable photos, but they were simply attempts to apply a mass of Russian names to any and all possible features that they could discern. Eventually, only two features here are somewhat clear and their names have stuck. At bottom right is a dark crater with a bright central peak. They named it Tsiolkovsky. The dark patch toward the top was named the Sea of Moscow.

1959: Mercury Program Announced

America’s rollout of its first Mercury space capsule to the launch pad was literally an afterthought. When the US had its first test launch of a Mercury capsule, NASA hadn’t thought of a way to move it to the launch pad. Someone volunteered their flat bed truck. To prevent bumps on the road from being transferred to the capsule, a mattress was placed on the truck to act as a cushion (it’s just noticeable in the picture sandwiched between the capsule platform and the flat bed). Compare this jerry-rigged contraption with…

(Preview) Dec. 16, 1969: Apollo 13 Rollout

Ten years later in 1969 rocket technology had advanced (above). But let’s get back to our story…

1961: Alan Shepard Rockets into Space (Barely)

“Why don’t you light this candle?!!” Alan Shepard on the pad, May 5, 1961

Following the Soviet Union’s dramatic, first manned orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin, the U.S. sent Alan Shepard into space. But Shepard’s flight was suborbital, far less dramatic and a month later than Gagarin’s flight. It lasted 15 minutes, traveled 116 miles high and went 298 miles downrange.

1961: Quest for the Moon

With just those 15 minutes worth of experience in space, President Kennedy made a startling announcement.

May, 1961: President Kennedy Announced We Were Going to Land on the Moon within 8 years!

America was well behind Russia in its space program. The Russians were succeeding in their space missions at an alarming yet. Yet with nothing more that 15 minutes of manned spaceflight experience,  Kennedy made a speech before Congress proposing the moon landing. The speech followed this exploratory memo sent to Vice President Johnson asking if there was any kind of space effort in which the U.S could catch up and beat Russia. President Kennedy wanted to devote “maximum effort” to such a program.

After meeting with NASA administrator Jim Webb and NASA scientists, Johnson came back with their mutually agreed upon idea to go to the Moon. Kennedy then drafted his famous speech. I was still in college but I was getting interested in astronomy and this got me interested in the MOON.

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Flying With a Chemical Compass? (Washington Post)

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Ed note: I’m partial to this topic having researched bird migration while working at National Geographic producing the Americas side of the Bird Migration map supplement (wall poster), see that here.  

Scientists have synthesized a molecule that responds to a magnetic field like Earth’s. Similar compounds might exist in the nervous systems of birds and help them orient during migratory flight. Props to my colleague Patterson for this graphic. 

Read the full article. Read the chat transcript.

bird migration chem compas

SOURCE: Devens Gust | GRAPHIC: Rick Weiss and Patterson Clark – The Washington Post – May 05, 2008 

Human Footprint Graphics

Monday, March 24th, 2008

National Geographic Magazine’s April edition has a curious graphic in the back mater’s Inside Geographic promoting a show on the NG Channel looking at our “Human Footprint”. If you look close enough, you’ll notice the U.S. flag is composed of loaves of bread, as much as one American will eat in a lifetime.

My uncle sent me a link with other “consumer” art to Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait recently where you can see more of this statistical art genre. 

Not familiar with the concept of a Human Footprint? I recommend getting ahold of “Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth“ by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, Illustrated by Phil Testenmale and printed by New Society Publishers. 

natty g human footprint