New Content for Google Moon

Google Moon

A very, very busy summer is drawing to a close, and we’ve been wrapping up some exciting projects at work. Our latest effort has been to prepare map data and educational content for a new version of Google Moon!

Although it lacks the cheese of the original version (which many people seem to miss), we’ve added a nice range of new features that should appeal to scientists and members of the public alike. Aside from the basic Visible and Elevation layers, you will find a collection of historical lunar Charts with a wealth of geological and topographic information. These charts should be useful to amateur astronomers, teachers, and even folks who might be planning their own private mission to the moon as part of the next X-Prize Competition. The charts are definitely handy, but the new Apollo layer is, without a doubt, the most exciting new addition. In this layer, you can zoom into each of the Apollo landing sites and take a tour that chronicles the story of that mission. There are fun anecdotes, images, movies, and even zoomable panoramas to explore. It’s an excellent way to become acquainted with what was learned during the Apollo program, both in terms of science and in terms of the operational challenges encountered by humans operating in the lunar environment. With NASA and other space agencies gearing up to return to the Moon at some point during the next decade, now is a good time to dust off that old knowledge so that we can start planning our next trip.

For more information, check out the NASA Planetary Content Team website about lunar data in Google Moon or read the post on the Google Lat Long Blog.

Burning Man 2007

Burning Man 2007

For years now, I have been trying to go to Burning Man, but life always conspires against me, and for one reason or another I have had to call off my plans. Well, this year I finally made it. And it was awesome.

I hardly know where to begin in describing the experience. For one, Burning Man is big. I’ve heard estimates that there were on the order of 40,000-50,000 people there this year, which is more than twice the size of the town I grew up in. The level of organization and infrastructure is staggering for a city that springs into existence for only one week out of the year, which is funny because very little of the event is actually centrally organized in the conventional sense. Instead, it seems that everyone brings something, and some people band together to bring big things. Some things have been brought repeatedly, and over the years they have evolved to become a lasting part of the Burning Man culture, and in some cases, to literally define it (e.g. the Temple, or the lamplighters). The culture means a lot to the people who participate in it, and there is a universal sense of respect and awe for what the event has become, especially given that no one person or group can claim credit for architecting it. Even the event organizers have adopted a hands-off strategy, encouraging the event to emerge based on the artistry and passion of the attendees.

I managed to take a small handful of pictures, but to be honest, I was having too much fun to be lugging around a camera most of the time. However, there were a few magical moments that just begged to be captured, including a spectacular double rainbow that nicely complemented the full lunar eclipse that I witnessed on the night when I first arrived. I also grabbed a few shots of some of the incredible large-scale art, including the Supplicant Figure, the Steampunk Tree House, and a life-size block puzzle. There are numerous places where you can find very good photos of the event; here for example.

There is no question — I will definitely be at Burning Man again next year. And for those of you who have been trying to come for years, as I had been, all I can say is that you should put in that extra bit of effort to make it happen. You’ll be impressed.