Fun PlacesSeptember 29, 2006

Arecibo Observatory

Astronomy is definitely a passion of mine so I think telescopes are pretty cool, especially big ones. The biggest telescope out there is the 305m radio telescope at Arecibo Observatory. Because radio waves are larger than optical waves, the surface of the antenna does not have to be as smooth allowing the telescope to be built much larger. The dish of Arecibo is made of some 40,000 perforated aluminum panels. Here is a nice diagram of how Arecibo works.

The Arecibo Observatory is often used for SETI projects (among many other scientific research projects) and is also highly recognizable because it has been used in Contact by Ellie (the lead character) and as part of the villain’s evil plan in James Bond’s GoldenEye. Large telescopes often look fairly interesting from satellite imagery as well. Wikimapia has been used to mark a number of those telescopes to provide us with information about them. I will start with Arecibo and move on to a four large optical telescopes and two additional radio telescopes. Clicking an image will either take you to a larger image or to the location at Wikimapia.

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How ToSeptember 27, 2006

Cape Canaveral - Kennedy Space Center from Wikimapia
Cape Canaveral: A section of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Fairly recently Wikimapia added the ability to include images in place locations as well as comments/commentary. These are both new features and still have a few kinks to work out (I will explain later). For this How To post I will be looking at a section of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, specifically Launch Pad 39-B. (Most images are clickable for larger versions.)

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Wikimapia.orgSeptember 26, 2006

I have read some discussion about the relative benefits of using Wikimapia compared to Google Earth. My first thoughts on the subject: this is comparing apples to oranges. UPDATE! Check out my post: Wikimapia Invades Google Earth! Wikimapia just released a new Google Earth layer that will allow you to use all the cool features of Google Earth right along side the awesomeness of Wikimapia!

First let me go over the similarities. Both applications use the same imagery. Google Earth, Google Maps, and Wikimapia all use the same satellite / arial photography so the resolutions (amount of detail) will always be the same (there has been some indication that sometimes Google Maps will get the imagery sooner than Google Earth, but by and large, it is the same). Both applications have the ability to allow users to add information about various locations (but the do this very differently).

Now let me discuss the differences (some of these will be shown more explicitly in the photograph section further down the post).

  • Wikimapia is web based, Google Earth is program based. All of Wikimapia’s features are accessed directly through your web browser. Google Earth must be downloaded and run from your computer (and so will genearlly be more taxing on your system). Advantage: Personal Preference.
  • Differences in navigation: Wikimapia (as well as Google Maps) moves North and South, East and West and to zoom in and out, the appropriate level is choose from the navigation panel on the left side of the screen. Google Earth has the ability to move in any direction, can zoom in and out using the mouse scroller, and can change the angle at which you are viewing the imagery. Advantage: Google Earth.
  • Dimensionality: Wikimapia views the flat 2-dimensional map, Google Earth projects elevations so there is a more 3-dimensional feel. Advantage: Google Earth.
  • User additions: There is where Wikimapia shines (as it is a Wiki). Wikimapia allows all users to add and edit place locations by “Adding a New Place” which is then reviewed by other users. This is the backbone of “Describing the Entire World.” Google Earth also has a very large user base that can add place marker and descriptors. The disadvantage to Google Earth is that because it is computer based, it must open up a web browser that will then allow the user to put in information (the advantage that Google Earth has here is that the infmoration web page allows for a forum type atmosphere [that Wikimapia is also touching upon with the addition of “commenting”]). The way Google Earth displays the added information can also end up looking very cluttered (images below give good example of this). Advantage: Wikimapia.
  • Peer review: Wikimapia allows users to review “Upcoming Places” which helps reduce the amount of “graffiti” that shows up on the maps. Google Earth does not seem to have this ability. People can discuss the merits of the place marker in that marker’s web page, but regardless of the quality, it will still show up in Google Earth. Advantage: Wikimapia.
  • I am sure there are other similarities and differences, but those are what I came up with off the top of my head. And really, I shouldn’t be saying one has the advantage over the other, both work very well but, depending on what you want to do, each will work better in different situations. Let me know if you need me to clear any of this up.

    Here are some screen captures that help show the differences (images are clickable for larger versions).

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    Fun PlacesSeptember 23, 2006

    The Palm Islands in Dubai
    Palm Jumeirah

    Ever since seeing The Palm Islands being constructed in Dubai on the Discovery Channel I am been interested in them. The Palm Islands Wikipedia Article has a lot of good information about the construction of the islands (there will eventually be three palms in total and they are also starting on making the world into islands as well) so I won’t go into that aspect. One thing that I do want to mention is that because these structures are so large, they are actually changing the coastline! (Images are clickable for larger versions)

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    Wikimapia.orgSeptember 21, 2006

    Earlier today Wikimapia added a few more features. The biggest of those features is the addition of GPS Capabilities. These new features will allow users with a GPS device to have their present location marked on Wikimapia. This will allow those users to check out what places are near to their location.

    There are two ways you can add this functionality. Click here to continue reading this post…


    How ToSeptember 20, 2006

    This is the second post in my How to Use Wikimapia series. In this edition I will look at “Upcoming Places” and what their deal is. (Images are clickable for larger versions.)

    Mount St. Helens on Wikimapia

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