Elizabethan London

Elizabethan London
Tyburn was an infamous execution spot west of London, used since medieval times. The Tyburn "tree" - a unique, multi-person gallows - erected in 1571 became a popular public spectacle, drawing crowds of thousands.Tyburn Tree blog is less blood-thirsty but hopefully topical, interesting and informative, if slightly bent to my personal topics of interest - books, writing, history, technology, with a smattering of politics and dash of pop culture, science and the downright strange. So "take a ride to Tyburn" and see what happens...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wonders in a Box...

Google turned 14 years old the other week.  It is now a problematic teenager insisting on staying out late and asserting their independence...oh wait, that's my kid.

I wanted to share a few Google things that are to me, frankly, pretty astonishing, considering that none of them existed in anything other than someone's imagination until recently.  These are technologies that make me genuinely feel as though I am living in the future (still waiting for rocket boots).

Google Earth - Google Earth was purportedly conceptualized out of sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash, published in 1992 (and a fantastic read, if you are so inclined).  He posited a pan-optic  satellite-based, real-time software that allowed the viewer to zoom in and track in real-time to any specific geographic location.  The interface was a 3D, zoom-able model of the Earth, that the user could manipulate at will.

Sound familiar?

If you've ever had the opportunity to mess around with Google Earth, you are probably familiar with the ability to zoom in on specific locations, pivot, re-position etc.  If you have the 3D modelling enabled, it will map land-forms and altitude, canyons, mountains and oceans.  And cities. 

You can zoom about a virtual New York or Venice, populated with hundreds of 3D rendered models, often developed by independent designers.  For students and wanna-be travelers  it is a tremendous planning tool for tracking hotel locations, travel routes and generally getting an idea of where you are in relation to everything else.   And the ability to virtually visit almost any historical and building of note is terrific for any student of history.

As an added bonus You can take control of a basic flight simulator and fly the Grand Canyon or any other location that you've thought an interesting spot to visit.  The 3D terrain is fairly decent, probably not up to Microsoft Flight Simulator standards but considering you aren't paying, it's very neat.

 As a learning tool for anyone who's ever unfolded a map and asked what lay in the blank spots, Google Earth is phenomenal!

Google Doodles - Everyone is familiar with Google Doodles but did you know that Google does specialized Doodles for countries, celebrations, special events cultures, artists, cultural and historical figures of note around the world that most people in North America never see.  Click on through and have a look, it is highly educational.

Google Art Project - Google Art Project is, in essence, a variation of Streetview for museums.  It is a collaborative project spanning more than 40 countries and 151 partners that brings Google's technological know-how into the world's best museums.  With its partners, Google has captured more than 30,000 works of art from around the world and brought them into reach for anyone with access to a computer.

The resolution of some of the images is extreme.  On selected works, you can literally zoom down to view the brushstrokes.  Here's a close up of Hans Holbien's portrait of Sir Thomas More ("A Man for All Seasons", currently hanging in New York's Frick Museum.

Google Streetview - The name says it all but Streetview, a spin-off from Google Maps, has in recent months, gone "off-road", adding pedestrian walks, hikes, new locations and some extreme locales including Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon, and Google's WorldWonder's Project, which can virtually take you through such locations as Pompeii, Yellowstone, and the Palace of Versailles.

I'm not going to go into the myriad online tools such as Google Translate, Google Docs, or Google Books, suffice to say that Google's mission of putting information within reach seems to be proceeding at a exceptional pace.

So why does it matter?  I think, and its only my opinion, that Google's efforts to put the world's cultural heritage, people, cities and information in a reachable format readily available for public access, is a tool and a project that captures the scale and immense possibility in the world.  It reminds me of all the potential you sense when you walk into a library - endless stacks of books, knowledge and thought on every subject you care to know, content, stories and voices that stretch back across time and space.

Google puts that into my living room.  And I appreciate that effort.

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