Category Archives: geography

Gigabytes per second

Those with geospatial and visualization interests will nod their heads right off as they read Peter Brantley’s summary of “The Sensing Earth”, via O’Reilly Radar. Some bits:

Everywhere I look in the natural sciences, there is a sudden, significant maturing of large-scale distributed science projects that involve active real-time sensing of one of more aspects of the physical planet and its environs…

The insight that my friend Brian brought back from the ISDE conference [5th International Symposium on Digital Earth] is that there is an increasingly visible “bright line of digital information” that — like a great river — cuts between two wholly different ranges of data. On one side, there is already extant (either actively digitized, or digitally prepared) data gathered, harvested, and presented for discovery and use. This is the land of Google and other search engines, grabbing the world’s available online data, indexing it, mining it, integrating it with other data sources, and provide compelling windows into a comparatively static and viscous digitized world. That’s where a good measure of CS/EE and IR attention rests now.

The other side of the Bright Line are the data lying latent upon the earth, sky, and space, sleeping quietly until they are woken with sensing, and now flooding real-time like a sea, imminently bursting forth across our international network of high speed science grids.

There are tremendous opportunities here, new ways of thinking about data, about how to develop usable interfaces on a wide range of devices. GEOSS [Global Earth Observation System of Systems] requires us to rethink systems design from the ground up. Scales are refactored: hundreds of large-scale distributed systems, with thousands of sensors linked in community networks, each producing gigabytes or more per second, continuously delivered, and susceptible to combination.

GEOSS projects are seeking radically new forms of systems architectures for data management, on the very edge of science. All of these projects are a click away.

Let’s engage.

Long Zoom at Long Now

If you have a long drive or other 1.5 hour block of time to listen to a really worthwhile MP3, I suggest Steven Johnson’s Long Zoom talk at Long Now Foundation (the link is to Stewart Brand’s precis, which offers this aperçu: “The value of a long zoom is in identifying and employing every scale between the very large and very small, noticing how they change each other when held in the mind at the same time”). Johnson’s recent book The Ghost Map explores the well-known story of Dr. John Snow’s epidemiological detective work (the Broad Street pump, etc.), but from the perspective of why it took so long to overcome the conventional wisdom that cholera was caused by “miasma”. The whole MP3 is here for your right-click download, and here are three bits to tempt you:

the Long Zoom perspective [0:29] and its quotidian manifestation [0:19]

[in re: complex questions] “you can’t answer [the question] convincingly unless you look at all those different levels”: on consilience [1:30]

Of Icebergs, and their submerged bits, as the Globe Warms

In the continuing hunt for the self-justificatory, Jerome Dobson’s article in the latest ESRI ArcNews (Bring Back Geography!) has lots to munch upon, but I’m particularly taken with Jay Merryweather’s graphic representation of the discipline:

All that underwater stuff is what I spent about 40 years agitating about, to mostly deaf ears, in anthropological and library settings. “Told you so” is sort of beside the point, but be it Recorded that I DID.