July 5th, 2009

Marquette Campus

Random: New Satellite Imagery of My Place

Google Earth has turned into a fun toy for me the last few years, as someone who loves geography and its intimate tie to history. It's fascinating to be able to access a reasonable facsimile of any part of the planet at will, and with the Google Earth program, as opposed to just using the maps on Google's website, being able to mark everything up. I supplemented my journal with those for the first time after my 2006 Geneva/Venice/Florence tour with Erik, making sure that I would remember where my wanderings took me.

The other day, using such satellite imagery on their home computer, I showed my nieces where their house was and where my home was in relation to it, zooming in on my building to show them where my journey was taking me that afternoon. And I noticed something odd. Google regularly updates it satellite imagery, naturally, but one of the annoying things about this is that often the new images are a little "off" from the previous ones, making all the markers I put down on Google Earth now off by several meters, having me walking through buildings instead of down a sidewalk, for example. A bit of a pain. In the image I pulled up of my building, I saw that this, too, had just been changed. But it was changed in a particularly interesting way.


The first image here is the one I had originally marked, where in fact my "pushpin" is so precisely placed as to be pointing to the very window that is next to me now as I type. The second image is the new one that came up when I went to show the nieces where I lived. Notice the oddity? Apparently, in the second image, it is right along the street outside my window where two images were merged. I'm pleased to see that there doesn't seem to be the problem of location "drift" that I've experienced before. (My pushpin looks to still be in relatively the correct spot, whereas the afternoon path I have marked of where I went wandering through Geneva now makes no sense on Google Earth, and I've not had the gumption to try to move each individual marker to correct that problem.) What's interesting here is that they merged two images taken from very different angles, giving the impression of some of the craziest, leaning architecture one could imagine. I had a kind of "M.C. Escher" experience for a moment, while my eyes tried to make sense of the photograph.

Just thought that that was kind of interesting.