Perusing Google Earth’s quilt of aerial images is good for hours of stalkerish fun (Find your house! Find your ex’s house!). But every now and then, Google’s geo toy can also bend the fabric of reality—literally:
Something’s wrong with this picture…
Google reportedly got suspicious after it found that Bing’s search results replicated misspelled words from its own results, so the company decided to run a test by linking fake search results to nonsense search terms–and Bing took the bait.
“A search for ‘hiybbprqug’ on Bing returned a page about seating at a theatre in Los Angeles. As far as we know the only connection between the query and result is Google’s result page,” he said…. “We noticed that URLs from Google search results would later appear in Bing with increasing frequency,” he went on.
Cell phones will soon make a giant leap for mankind–right into outer space. In the coming year, British engineers from Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) plan to send a cell phone into orbit to test whether cell phones are tough enough to withstand outer space, and whether they’re powerful enough to control satellites. As the BBC reports:
“Modern smartphones are pretty amazing,” said SSTL project manager Shaun Kenyon…. “They come now with processors that can go up to 1GHz, and they have loads of flash memory…. We’re not taking it apart; we’re not gutting it; we’re not taking out the printed circuit boards and re-soldering them into our satellite – we’re flying it as is,” Mr Kenyon explained.
The jury’s still out as to what cell phone model will be the world’s first orbital smartphone–but the scientists have already decided to pick one that uses Google’s Android operating system. That software is open source, allowing the engineers to tweak the phone’s functions. Not every phone, after all, comes off the shelf with the ability to navigate a nearly 12-inch-long, GPS-equipped, pulsed-plasma thruster satellite.
This morning, the company announced its first worldwide science fair for students between the ages of 13 and 18. Students can participate from anywhere by posting a write-up of their project on the Internet (Google got one high school senior from Oregon to create an example). In its announcement, Google says it hopes this project will encourage talented young scientists to pursue their ideas:
In 1996, two young computer science students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had a hypothesis that there was a better way to find information on the web. They did their research, tested their theories and built a search engine which (eventually) changed the way people found information online. Larry and Sergey were fortunate to be able to get their idea in front of lots of people. But how many ideas are lost because people don’t have the right forum for their talents to be discovered?
This science fair sounds fancier than your average high school competition–prizes include a trip to the Galapagos and a jaunt to the physics mecca, CERN. We’ll be keeping an eye on the contest as it progresses to the final round of judging in July, which will take place at Google headquarters. See the science fair’s official site for info on how to enter and more.
As a goofy celebration of the inaugural event, Google commissioned a delightful Rube Goldberg machine from Syyn Labs, the same fine folks who made OK Go’s extravagant Rube Goldberg contraption.
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In a great convergence of old and new, Google and the Israel Antiquities Authority are teaming up to digitize the millennia-old Dead Sea Scrolls.
The scrolls are the oldest known surviving biblical texts, created between 150 BC and 79 AD. They are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and include nearly every book of the Old Testament (except the Book of Esther), and several other religious texts.
The scrolls have been tightly guarded because of their delicate nature. Only two scholars are allowed to study the scrolls at a time, which are held in a room where temperature, light, and humidity are all carefully controlled. Public access to the writings will change how they are studied, Rob Enderle told Computer World:
“This is information few have ever seen and a piece of our oldest written history,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. “What makes this epic is that it could be important for generations of religious scholars. This is a project that could have an impact on thousands of years in the future. There are few projects that have that kind of life expectancy.”
Google’s expansion of its Street View project to all seven continents has the sweet reward of allowing you to visit Antarctica while sitting on your couch in your leopard-print snuggie. (They also filled in the holes of Ireland and Brazil, but much as we love those countries, Antarctica is still more exciting.)
Ed Parsons, Google’s geospatial technologist, told The Guardian that this feat was “hugely significant” to the Goog:
“One of the challenges we wanted to crack is to go to these remote places, and one of geo team at Google went to Antarctica so he took some kit and took some imagery. It’s called Street View, but there aren’t many streets in Antarctica,” he said. “This allows people to understand the contrast between New York Times Square and being on the edge of a glacier looking at penguins.”
It’s also making the chinstrap penguins and red-parka’d researchers that inhabit the island the victims of some pretty intense privacy invasion. The images were shot in Half Moon Island, a part of the South Shetland Island chain in the northern most part of the continent, under South America.
You can explore the colony and other views of the earth on Google’s Street View gallery. The Antarctica views were shot by Google’s own Brian McClendon, vice-president of engineering, who carried around a camera while visiting the area with his wife. He announced the new features in a blog post, saying:
We hope this new imagery will help people in Ireland, Brazil, and even the penguins of Antarctica to navigate nearby, as well as enable people around the world to learn more about these areas.
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Image: Google Maps
A human-powered monorail system called Shweeb won $1 million from Google’s 10^100 innovations contest.
The company that manufactured the Shweeb is one of five to be awarded a total of $10 million from the competition. They will use the money to develop the Shweeb for use as a city commuter transport option.
The Shweeb efficiently uses human power from a rider sitting in the recumbent seat, pedaling the bubble-shaped pod through the air. This vision for public transportation is a little out there, but the Shweeb has some promise, says Gearlog:
Like all truly forward thinking ideas, Shweeb seems completely nuts at first glance. As a tech blogger I’d love nothing more than to mock Google and it’s choice of Shweeb with its poor-man’s take on the Jetsons opening sequence. But the more you read about it, the more Shweeb’s innovative take urban transport makes a whole lot of sense.
If the 2008 Large Hadron Collider rap didn’t appeal to your musical sensibilities, you might try two science songs now making the internets rounds.
The first isn’t really new at all: Joe Sabia has employed Google Instant for a pastiche based on Tom Lehrer’s 1959 Elements Song, which in turn parodied Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1879 Major General’s Song.
[via Boing Boing]
Annoyed by Google’s revised stance on “net neutrality“? Pissed off by the company’s power to collect personal data in applications like Buzz (which can show others who you Gmail the most) and Street View (which shows the locations of cars and faceless people)? Worried about the news that a Street View project gone awry mistakenly collected information from the Wi-Fi networks that Google’s mapping vehicles cruised past? The activist group Consumer Watchdog feels your pain. And to spread the anti-Google message further, the group is running the video ad below on a 540 square foot video billboard in Times Square.
The cartoon shows Google CEO Eric Schmidt giving children free ice cream, body-scanning them, and divulging their parents’ secrets. Consumer Watchdog hopes the video will inspire viewers to pressure Congress to make a ‘Do Not Track Me’ list, similar to the existing ‘Do Not Call List.’
Tired of the faceless urbanites crowding their Google Street Views, computer scientists aimed to remove the pedestrians entirely. The images above show they succeeded, mostly.
The software was developed by Arturo Flores of the University of California, San Diego; earlier this summer he unveiled (pdf) the proof-of-concept. It’s built off of a previous algorithm developed in 2005 that can pick out pedestrians in urban settings. The new program removes the identified pedestrian and covers the gap using pixels from slightly ahead and slightly behind what appears to be someone walking down the street. But it only works in cities (where tall buildings give a relatively flat backdrop), can create a human smear when the photographed person walked at the same speed as the Google camera, and, one could imagine, has trouble in huge crowds–where neighboring pixel-swapping might result in blurry Frankenhumans.
But otherwise, it leaves a non-distracting, relatively “ghost free” image, a university press release says, that will further protect pedestrian privacy. When it almost succeeds, it gives users a good laugh: a post-apocalyptic cityscape including disembodied feet, ownerless dogs, and floating umbrellas.
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Images: Arturo Flores