Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Google Earth Scientific Applications

Day one of the Scientific Applications with Google Earth Conference was interesting in that I have never looked at the features of Google Earth in any depth. The first speaker Tim Killeen from NSF explained that less than 10% of all data they had was ever viewed and a system is needed for people to view this data in a simple environment. The two highlights to take away is that "data to knowledge" is key and "big uncertainties remain" wrt climate and understanding. So nothing new. He did however touch on new projects such as the NSF Ocean Observatories Inititiave , the final design of which is due in December.

The next speaker Dan Atkins from the University of Michigan and NSF spoke on the "Role of Data in the National Science Foundation Cyberinfrastructure for 21st Century Discovery". He touched on data stewardship, curation, federation, openness(over the long-haul). He stated that providing information a geographical-based entry to data is natural and compelling as we all have an inherent geographical frame of reference. I learnt a new word: nomenclature. Not sure I will ever use it though. Three project he reviewed were interesting:
TeraGrid: an integrating infrastructure
Blue Waters - look into tech specs

The third speaker and possibly the most compelling was Michael Weiss-Malik from Google. He is a KML Product Manager and explained the design of Google Earth and the need for it. To use the analogy "to most users, the interface is the computer" he pointed out that with any paper we read the figure is the thing one remembers most and so the philosophy "to most viewers the presentation is the data". Something definitely worth remembering. KML is a standardised format derived from XML that encodes the Google Earth files.

The last two speakers, Sean Askay and Trey Smith, are both users of Google Earth to represent scientific data and presented a series of KMLs already developed that emphasized this point. The topics ranged from Appalachian Mountaintop mining to Geothermal resources, the global climate temperatures to Google Moon. The coolest thing I learnt about was actually GigaPan. Definitely worth viewing.

After lunch we split into Working Groups, mine was Climate Change and we heard from Lisa Ballagh (NSIDC) and John Bailey (University of Alaska) about climate KMLs and Virtual Globes. The group talked about various research endeavours that would be favourable for Google Earth apps and I realised I could present my seasonal forecast stuff in GE eventually. After reviewing current KMLs we found various things we wished were possible in Google Earth such as being able to switch off labels on load or preferential loading of data and user notices to know what to do. The last thing we discussed was who owned data and what happens when you pubish papers with GE images and supply online KMLs. Google have written a guideline specifically for this and is available at:

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