How bored are you right this second? Do you currently find yourself tossing pencils upward in an attempt to harpoon the office ceiling? Maybe you’re on the couch binging this year’s Yule Log on Netflix for the second time while scrambling to complete last minute online gift shopping. In the midst of these activities you may begin to wish you had the ability to time travel and control time and space at your will. I’m happy to announce that this holiday season the power described has now been granted to you…sort of.
Since 1984 there have been annual mosaics painstakingly stitched together from satellite imagery of our earth’s surface. The public now has full, interactive access to these maps thanks to the work of Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab and their Time Machine Library, along with the dedicated effort put forth by the team at Google. Together they have managed to painstakingly transform this immense, static archive of imagery into a user-friendly and navigable tool for exploring the face of our dynamic earth. The resulting images are visually striking and breathtaking in their intricate detail and scope.
It took the folks at Google to upgrade these choppy visual sequences from crude flip-book quality to true video footage. With the help of massive amounts of computer muscle, they have scrubbed away cloud cover, filled in missing pixels, digitally stitched puzzle-piece pictures together, until the growing, thriving, sometimes dying planet is revealed in all its dynamic churn. The images are striking not just because of their vast sweep of geography and time but also because of their staggering detail. Consider: a standard TV image uses about one-third of a million pixels per frame, while a high-definition image uses 2 million. The Landsat images, by contrast, weigh in at 1.8 trillion pixels per frame, the equivalent of 900,000 high-def TVs assembled into a single mosaic.
Along with the obvious novelty inherent in watching your hometown expand outwards over the course of three decades in less than three seconds, this tool also gifts us an opportunity to reflect on how we have and continue to impact our planet.
See anything cool recently? Have you figured out other ways to time travel? Send us a note using the form below: