To while away these days of travel and movement restrictions, here are six activities that students young and old, can explore on Google Earth:
Study 10,000 years of our volcanoes
If your little brother's a little too enamoured by fire, direct his interest towards lava—I assume your home isn't next to an active crater, so it's a tad out of reach. Courtesy of the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program, this neat addition lets you jaunt across the planet to sample Earth’s mightiest volcanoes and even peer into the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Check out Hemingway’s literary hangouts
His prose may have been brief, precise and unadorned, but his literary locales certainly weren’t. The writer frequented a number of locations from Paris to New Orleans that not only stirred many a drink, but also his writing. These were busy restaurants, bars, cafes and taverns, so we imagine he was inspired to push ahead despite the procrastinating tendencies that plague all writers. Café Iruña in Pamplona, Spain was Hemingway’s first obsession, and the place still has a bronze statue of the Nobel laureate.
Recover treasure with Carmen Sandiego
Those who enjoyed the animated escapades of this crimson-clad super thief have exciting things in store. Google Earth, as one of its many, many mods, allows users to enjoy a video game within the software. Players can now help Carmen track enemy organisation VILE across the globe to recover their loot in The Keys to the Kremlin Caper, or find clues and witnesses from Tokyo to London in The Crown Jewels Caper. The animation for static scenes is in a richly-coloured 8-bit format, for a charming hit of nostalgia.
Carmen’s having a definitive moment as a role model, as publishing companies plan to use the character to teach the social sciences.
Revisit 400 years of map-making
David Rumsey, the president of Cartography Associates, has collected maps for over 40 years to create one of the world’s largest private collections. Google Earth announced this April that users could explore overlays of these historical maps (from 1680–1930, hand-picked by Rumsey) on the desktop and tablet versions of their software. While the idea is simple, the applications of these high-resolution scans are endless when it comes to understanding urban planning and metropolitan expansion.
I, naturally, selected the 1858 map of my native Kolkata for a test viewing. According to Google’s data card beside the overlay (there’s one for every map), it depicts “private and public buildings, temples, aqueducts, and ground levels above the tide”.
Follow the Google Street View car
Curious about the team who drive day and night to make Street View the comprehensive wonder it is? You can now see their future travel locations on this page. India, unfortunately, is not on the list—our government didn’t indulge Google, seeing it as a potential privacy breach.
P.S. The heading isn’t literal. In the unlikely event you do catch up, the most you can probably do is say hello. Chances of being immortalised on a Street View panorama are slim, as the photographers spend considerable time choosing the best conditions (weather, people, traffic, lighting) for every frame.
Explore the interiors of the ISS
Even if space tourism became an everyday phenomenon, it’s unlikely that you’d receive ample time to leisurely explore every corner of the International Space Station.
...Or that might just happen, the rich have their ways.
Nevertheless, here’s an appetiser for what could be in store—a panoramic view inside the ISS, sans floating astronauts. Squircle-shaped windows surround a larger central view of the Earth in 2017, flanked by satellites and space debris. You can click on the corners of the starting screen to jump across to a different part of the station—including the relatively less-glamorous storage rooms.
For those wanting to explore the Earth at a larger, more scientific scale, I recommend the daily updates at NASA’s EOSDIS WorldView.