April 19, 2005

Ways to make yourself the subject of official scrutiny.

I've been playing with Google Maps's satellite photos for the last few days (note the words "map" and "satellite" in the upper right and click whichever most interests you). They're a good way to pass time during slow afternoons at work: legal, decent, non-profane, unobtrusive and utterly inoffensive, yet still fascinating and even educational! Yesterday I invented a little game in which I'd click on a completely random spot in the U.S., center the map there and then zoom in as far as I could to see what I'd clicked on. I wound up in a forest in central Michigan, so far outside of the nearest city that the streets weren't even labelled (they key thing about Google Maps that makes this work is that you can click back and forth between map and satellite at the same scale, and I had to zoom waaaay back out to see anything labelled on the map at all).

That was such a successful experiment that today I started doing it again. I roamed around northern Mexico and southern Texas for a while looking at perfect circles of green god-knows-what. I investigated a dark red blob of unknown (and unlabelled) nature growing out of the side of one of these perfectly circular fields. Somewhere around Lubbock I started wondering how close I was to the Mexican border, so I zipped back to the map and zoomed in on it only to find it pretty boring. I tried the border crossing south of San Diego (which was much more interesting with its million lanes of highway and big official-looking checkpoint), followed a nearby railroad line for a while, and found myself at a tiny airport just over the line in Mexico. I could see planes on the runways! I tried Burbank Airport, and then JFK, and when I got to SFO I actually found a plane that had been photographed while taking off. It was so close to the ground that I could see its shadow on the runway.

I'm planning on looking at satellite photos of the Pentagon next, just so the government can stop wondering if all this border-and-airport searching means I'm up to something. I am undoubtedly up to something, and if you figure out what it is, please let me know.

Posted by dianna at April 19, 2005 04:24 PM

Those perfect circles of green god knows what are crops. They're perfect circles because the irrigation system is a center-pivot irrigation system. This is what Dianna is talking about. Here's how it works.

Here's a site that details all kinds of unnatural changes we make to the earth visible from space.

Google has more photos of center-pivot irrigation

Posted by: gene at April 20, 2005 09:44 AM

Dude, you're a wealth of information. You are a portal to the combined knowledge of the human race via the internet. Forget AskJeeves, we need AskGene!

So I get what the red things are in the infrared images, namely, they're not physically red, the color is just a measure of their temperature and vegetation density. But what about giant patches of dark red in the regular satellite images? I'm looking for examples of what I'm talking about right now; as soon as I find one I'll upload a picture. Until then, please speculate wildly. Thanks.

Posted by: Dianna at April 20, 2005 10:47 AM

May I also suggest The Las Vegas Strip, That Arch thing in St Louis, or Where I work ?

Posted by: Erik at April 20, 2005 06:16 PM

Aaaand, one of my favorites, the suburbs in three colors: red roofs, green lawns, blue pools.

I'm just going to keep posting this stuff until I find something better to do, and you can all blame Gene and Erik for encouraging me.

Posted by: Dianna at April 21, 2005 09:46 AM