Sunday, December 24, 2006

More on Geology and Google Earth

Today, the San Jose Mercury News published a great article about Google Earth and exciting applications of its technology by third parties.

Specifically, the story focuses on scientists who use KML to describe and share geological data. I mentioned such applications in a blog entry on 12/19. Check out this section of the Mercury News story:

"(In Google Earth) you can track radiation levels at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine, follow the spread of malaria across the planet, see how the Earth's continents have rearranged themselves over millions of years.

The Jane Goodall Institute, known for its pioneering chimpanzee research, has been using Google Earth to illustrate blog entries that follow the daily dramas of the chimps.

The non-profit Amazon Conservation Team has been training Indians to use Google Earth to map and catalog their forest so they can monitor deforestation.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch program uses it to monitor sea surface temperatures and hot spots."

Read the whole story.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Santa Live

If you have not checked out the Google Earth Santa Tracker, you are missing out on a bunch of fun. You can find toys around the world by solving puzzles about our world. And starting on Christmas Eve, you can track Santa live as he navigates the globe delivering his tidings to well behaving little ones everywhere.

My kids love this feature and it fires them up even more for Christmas morning (as if they needed any help with this).

Learn more and download the Santa Tracker.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Geology in Google Earth

I recently attended the AGU conference in San Francisco. As you might imagine, there was much excitement there about Google Earth and KML. I heard from a large number of scientists who are using these tools to present geological information to the public at large.

The advantage of Google Earth is that it can show information that is otherwise dry and academic in ways that are visually fascinating. Large databases of geological data can be transformed into 3D presentations that capture the imaginations of the rest of us. Scientists are also drawn to these tools because Google Earth and Maps are used by many millions of people worldwide and thus provide a huge audience for the stories these scientists want to convey.

Compelling examples of such geological and environmental implementations include:

Layers - These show a number of interesting points of interest around the world, such as volcanoes, glaciers, mountain ranges, water bodies and more. These layers include Smithsonian, National Geographic, UNEP and Geographic Features, among others.

Logging in Northern California - Rebecca More of the Google Earth team created this KML file that describes planned logging near Los Altos and how it could affect nearby communities. Read more about this on Google Earth Blog.

Glaciers - I also learned about this via Google Earth Blog. A poster on the Google Earth Community BBS created this KML file that shows condition of glaciers around the world.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Setting a Home View

File this under "neat feature many users don't know about". You can set a home view in Google Earth. This works much like a home page does in your web browser; each time you open Google Earth, the 3D viewer displays the exact same location and perspective you set. To do this in Version 4:
  1. Create a new placemark or open an existing one.
  2. Navigate and tilt the 3D viewer to the exact perspective you want.
  3. Right-click (CTRL click on the Mac) the placemark and select Snapshot View from the pop-up menu.
  4. Rename the placemark "default".
Each time you restart Google Earth, the application zooms to this placemark and view. Note that if you are using the Santa Tracker, you need to uncheck this folder for your home view to work.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Editing Wikipedia Layer Content

As the Wikipedia layer in Google Earth has caused much excitement, I thought it would be useful to explain more how you can customize this content:

How do I get my Wikipedia article to show up in the Google Earth Geographic Web layer?

You must geotag the article. The simplest way to do this to use one of the "{{coor title d[ms]}}" or "{{coor at d[ms]}}" templates on Wikipedia. These templates can be used anywhere within the article text.

For example, if the article for San Francisco, California contained the following markup anywhere within the article text:

"{{coor title dm|37|46|N|122|26|W}}"

Google recognizes this location and includes the article the next time we publish the layer.

Additionally, Google supports references to the "{{coor d[ms]}}" or {{coor title d[ms]}} or {{coor at d[ms]}} templates within an Infobox template, so long as it is keyed by either "coordinates" or "coords" keywords. For an example of such a template, see the Infobox_CityIT template and an example of its use in the Sorrento, Italy article.

I just read an article in Wikipedia. It has geocoordinates in the text, but I do not see it in the Google Earth Geographic Web layer. Why not?

There are several reasons why this may be happening. For instance, this article may have been altered after Google processed the Wikipedia articles. Additionally, it could be that the coordinates are not posted in a way that Google Earth supports (see previous question).

How can I obtain coordinates for a location in Google Earth?

You can move the cursor over any location on the earth in the 3D viewer and see the coordinates for the location in the status bar at the bottom of the 3D viewer. Learn how to change the latitude/longitude display.

You can also create a placemark for a location and view the coordinates for the location in the New Placemark dialog box.

I will post more about Wikipedia and Google Earth soon. Several of us are working on a FAQ that we hope to share soon.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Wikipedia in Google Earth

Google just published a new collection of Geographic Web layers for Google Earth, which includes a Wikipedia layer. Those of you who are familiar with Wikipedia know what an amazing resource of information it can be.

Many (but certainly not all) Wikipedia entries are included in this layer. This means that when you check this layer, Wikipedia points of interest (POIs) display for locations around the world. Simply navigate to the area you are interested in and click any relevant Wikipedia POIs to view Wikipedia content that describes the area, city, landmark, etc.

To enable this layer in Google Earth, in the Layers panel, check the Geographic Web folder or open that folder and check Wikipedia. Learn more about layers here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Your Horizon

A friend recently asked me if Google Earth could help him determine which mountains he sees as he looks out of his window. He lives in Cool, California on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. As he looks east, he sees some prominent peaks on the crest of the Sierra near Lake Tahoe.

The traditional method of identifying these mountains would be to obtain a compass heading for the direction you are looking in and mark a map with a line from your vantage point heading in this same direction. But in Google Earth, I suggested a different technique for my friend.

First, I put a placemark at the location of his house. Next, I made sure that the terrain layer was on. Using the navigation controls, I rotated and tilted the view so that it was looking directly east (the direction of the peaks my friend sees from his house) from close to ground level. I found that the peaks were difficult to pick out, so I exaggerated the terrain to 2.0 so I could see the peaks more clearly.

Having picked out the peaks, I then navigated from my friend's house to the highest peak on the horizon. In the Layers panel, I checked both Alternative Place Names and Geographical Features. This last step displayed the name of the peaks, which answered my friend's original question (click the image in this blog post).

Using the Measuring tool, I was even able to determine the distance between my friend's house and these peaks.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Fancy Placemarks

If you have spent enough time in Google Earth, you have seen them. When you click on certain placemarks, balloons appear that feature stylized text, hyperlinks and even pictures. So how is this done?

Each placemark (or set of placemarks) is described in a KML file. Within the description of each placemark in the KML file, you can use HTML much in the same way you would if you were creating a web page. Background colors, tables, etc.

According to the KML tutorial:
The most important thing you need to know about authoring your own HTML in placemarks is the use of the tag. If you want to write standard HTML inside a tag, you really should put it inside a CDATA element. If you don't, the angle brackets will need to be written as entity references to prevent the Google Earth from parsing the HTML incorrectly. (This is a standard feature of XML applications and not unique to Google Earth.)
Read more about using descriptive HTML. Or you can see how others have done this by looking at the KML used in other placemarks (see my posting on 10/19). And of course, you can change the icon used by the placemark in the 3D viewer (learn more here).