Monday, May 16, 2011

Creativity Springs In Late Sunlight

I think because I don't spend evenings in the late spring and summer sulking in frustration over the limited daylight, this is the time of year when I feel most creative and when I get excited about possibilities. 

Recently, I've been thinking more and more about the original map-meets-web idea, which, for lack of a better idea I called "terraarte".  The idea is simple.  Make maps art.

The first road block came when I realized I am not an artist.

But I worked on it. 

I familiaraized myself with many of the tools I would need and scoured the WWW for images I could use.  I began to do mockups.  The first was this image of Angola.  Despite some issues, I was happy that it "looked cool".

The next hiccup was getting an iPad which allowed me to ignore the fact that my home computer functionally croaked.  As much as I rave about the device, it's not great for creating things such as, well, map art.

Soon I'll be remedying the latter of the two issues which unfortunately is probably the lesser of two weevils.

But some map art, combined with a swing at photography and historical integration is on its way.

And this Thursday I am Scotland bound!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Finding Osama with Mr. DNA and Google

I'm absolutely eating up all of this Osama (Fox: Usama) talk and simply must write one more post on the topic. For this post I'm going far beyond my area of expertise (hobby) and for that reason it's important you not allow facts, incorrect math or easily disproved thoughts to get in the way of the point- if you can decipher it. I would at this point insert the rules read by a member of the audience from "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" but I cannot, for the life of me, find the text. Curse you Google!

I have heard the phrase "hiding in plain sight" far too often this week, but it got me thinking about how common an occurance it must have been for random Google Earth users to unknowingly look at Osama's compound (and you know SOMEONE is looking into that data). The pictures we usually see of the compound show about a quarter square mile of area. So what are the odds of someone looking at this area or how long might it take to look through ALL of the Google Earth imagery at that scale?

I was reminded of the great Mr. DNA movie from Jurassic Park talking about the length of the human DNA sequence.

Google search delivered this time:

So the question is simple. Using Mr. DNA's logic, looking at screens as he described how long would it take to find the compound. This of course would only work if there was a picture of bin Laden on top of the compound ala Col. Sanders.

So if DNA has about 3 billion base pairs (don't worry I had to look it up too and am probably wrong despite it) reverse engineering leads us to a number of about 142 things being displayed per second...or as Mr. DNA says "screens like these".

142 things * 60 per minute * 60 per hour * 8 hours * 365 days * 2years. That was fun to figure out.

Let's use what we just learned.

Assuming we could comprehend 142 images of quarter square mile areas once a second (we've already skipped out on reality) for eight hours a day and just looked at areas covered by land. It would take us...

228000000/142/60/60/8/365 = .15 years or about two months.

If only the compound looked like this.

Good thing we have SEALs

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Little Black Dot that Proved to be Very Important

One of the things I like about cable news is the "breaking news" aspect.  Because they are on 24/7 they are better equipped to take on special news situations than network TV.  It was very exciting to watch as the news rolled in last night.  I was fascinated that while Geraldo was speculating that the Obama announcement involved Libya, CNN was taking great care not to speculate, all the while George Stephanopolous was zooming his way to ABC news headquarters and NBC was trying to figure out how to activate Brian Williams.  Looks like Katie Couric missed out on her best opportunity to have a sound byte live on.

While it took all the energy I could muster to stay awake, I was excited about finding out where he has been hiding.  Many times I've thought as I scan a map or google earth that I might be looking at the hiding place.

I never would have guessed it to be right in the burbs of Abbottabad (once I learned where it was).   Most conspiracy theories drive me nuts (this morning on the radio someone said that Obama made the announcement when he did to interrupt "The Apprentice") but Pakistan looks pretty bad in this situation.  The compound is too close to the central Pakistan Government area for comfort.  It's as if we were looking for a DC area celebrity and couldn't find him for ten years, only to discover he was hiding in the luxury suites at Camden Yards in Baltimore.   Add to this the proximity of the residence to a Pakistani military compound and the Google Earth imagery (and of course the fact that nobody thought this giant high security compound wasn't worth investigating) and, like I said, Pakistan looks bad.

The little black dot of Abbottabad just north of Islamabad seems awfully important today.

I have been spending some time over the last two weeks attempting to become more proficient at Google Sketchup.  After familiarizing myself with how not to do things, I went back and watched a couple dozen videos on youtube.  I found Aiden to be particularly helpful, in addition to the Google tutorials.

So I went and grabbed an image of the reported compound and through together a quick sketch model in about a minute. 
And just like that - a recreation of a place which has proved to be much more important than anyone could have imagined.