Why Google Earth (and now Sky) Matter

August 27th, 2007 | By Brenda Cooper | Posted in Science & Tech | 1 Comment

I’ve been managing geographic information systems (GIS) professionals for a long time, I’ve listened to Jack Dangermond, who owns the biggest GIS company – Environmental Systems Research Institute talk passionately about mapping as a way to save the world. Look in our archives for an article I wrote in 2000.
ESRI has always been a true innovator, and essentially created the GIS industry. They created maps that could help make sense of the world. Animal migrations. People migrations. Global warming. Legal boundaries of houses, towns, and countries. War. Hurricane Katrina response…I could go on and on.
And then Google Earth, and eventually Microsoft Virtual Earth, made this power accessible to everyone. We can use it to find common places and specific addresses. We can all look up aerial photography of our homes, or the house our family member just bought 3 states away. We can map out the route for upcoming triathlons. We can see Iraq, and Darfur. In a virtual way, they’ve given us the view of astronauts.
And now they’ve given us Google Sky: a view of all we know about the heavens. This should do four things:
1. Astonish us at how much we know about things that are truly very, very far away
2. Remind us how small and insignificant we are
3. Convince us to take care of our little planet, since the rest of the Universe is so far away
4. Keep us yearning for the stars (we are, after all, adventurers)
Best of all, Google Earth, and now Sky, are compellingly easy and fun to use.

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