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Google Earth In 4D 147

Rockgod writes to tell us about Google Earth's latest expansion. From the article: "Google skipped right past the third dimension and landed directly in the fourth (time) by offering historical maps on Google Earth. Now you can travel back in time — for example, I am looking at the globe of 1790. Don't expect detailed high resolution photography from days gone by, but it's still interesting to see old maps overlaid on the satellite imagery of today." I suppose a link to Earth4 would have been good.
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Google Earth In 4D

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  • Pangea? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ingolfke ( 515826 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:08AM (#16822810) Journal
    Where's pangea? Come on Google... get with the program.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I already knew this because the next update lets you see the future. ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      That would be upsetting the Intelligent Designers. Haven't you heard? The Earth is only 6,000 years old.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ingolfke ( 515826 )
        Not all intelligent design people believe that that Earth is young. The basic premise of Intelligent Design is that the universe is too complex for it to just have happened... that doesn't speak to who or how it was created or how long it happened to take.

        Either way though... they should probably have a checkbox for users to select which theory they believe in (young earth or old) and then if they select "young" they can get a nice error message.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by superyooser ( 100462 )
        It's not upsetting at all. I took Google Earth back to 3760 BC and confirmed that dry land did not appear until Day 3.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jlf278 ( 1022347 )
      Totally lame, the Paleozoic Era was a geological snooze-fest. Call me when they get some decent Big Bang maps up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by archen ( 447353 )
        Actually that wouldn't be to hard. Get two of the brightest flashlights you can find, then stick them right up to your eye sockets. Wherever you look it should be the same blinding light.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Sax Maniac ( 88550 )
      Why bother? Pangaea is not a panacea.
  • by cheros ( 223479 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:08AM (#16822814)
    It's going to be interesting how the usual historical inaccuracies are dealt with, including moving river deltas and/or later removal of objects such as the British Echelon site, Menwith Hill :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tocs ( 866673 )
      I think it will be interesting to see how the usual historic inaccuracies will be dealt with.

      I recently spent several months looking over historic maps around Newark Bay in New Jersey. Most of what we looked at came from NOAA and while I have a great deal of confidence in the abilities of the mapmakers, there are still many issues having to do with datums and resolution that I never thought about before I started working with historic maps. When you deal with charts and maps you really have to start think

    • It's going to be interesting how the usual historical inaccuracies are dealt with...

      What's really unconscionable is the way they remove all the incriminating evidence from Area 51.

      *blink blink*

    • I would be very curious about what the planet looked like during the Ice Age 30,000 years ago. The water line was about 300 feet down, and there is some evidence that man made structures exist under our current low tide line. Also, there is one story that is common to all cultures, that of the great flood; Maybe there is more to this tale than meets the eye.
  • by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:12AM (#16822862) Homepage Journal
    It turns out we can't get to India that way. Whew, thank goodness we didn't waste an insanely long and difficult journey just to come back and look stupid in front of Queen Isabella.
    • It turns out we can't get to India that way. Whew, thank goodness we didn't waste an insanely long and difficult journey just to come back and look stupid in front of Queen Isabella.

      Signed, the Basque Fishing Consortium

  • well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by thejrwr ( 1024073 )
    wow, the dev team for google sure must be having fun, i mean come on, when you PAID to make new features when ever you want, no wonder working for google is a prized job (I'm only 10, if my grammer is bad, well oh well)
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:13AM (#16822880) Homepage Journal

    I was thinking the other day about this. As new photos become available on Google Earth, the old ones will be removed... or pushed back in time, just like a CVS repository. A hundred years from now, you'd be able to walk the repository backwards and watch the suburbs shrink, the global waters recede, the forests regrow and the ice shelves stitch themselves together. (No guarantees expressed or implied.) Of course, Google would be one of those stodgy old companies that you wonder why they didn't implode in the nanostock scandals of 2065, but I digress.

    • by IflyRC ( 956454 )
      You can get that now if you play a video of Al Gore backwards. There's also a freaky backware message. "Believe (2 second pause) in global warming. We must put earth (2 second pause) in a lock (5 second pause) box."
    • by maxume ( 22995 )
      If there is a nanotechnological battle in the future, it won't take place on an abstract market, it will be for the sun itself.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:14AM (#16822892)
  • by onyx00 ( 145532 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:19AM (#16822952) Homepage
    I would have been more impressed if Google had been able to achieve the 4th spacial dimension.

    Come on Google, I thought you guys were "innovators"
  • by sharkey ( 16670 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:22AM (#16822972)
    I am SO looking forward to Google Tesseract Beta!
  • Giant sea monsters populate places where no one visited?


  • I can't wait to see what London really looked like in Medieval times, the satellite imagery back then must have been... wait a second, there's not going to be any satellite imagery for back then would there? Computers hadn't been invented so what would they store the pictures on?

    Silly me.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They flung the more unpopular scribes and cartographers into the air with "Ye Olde Upsee-Daisy Catapulte" and told them to relate what they saw. Apparently, much like in today's office space, these critical documents were plagued by output errors.
    • Glass plates mostly.

      I'm sure dagguerotypes would handle space just fine if they could have figured out the logistics of getting them up there.
    • by oldave ( 160729 )
    • by mikael ( 484 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @11:34AM (#16823816)
      They may not have had satellite imagery, but many artists and painters were hired to draw maps and paintings of the city to precise scale in perspective view.

      Here is a supersized scan of a medieval map [] of London from the 1600's. Using some projective texture mapping/morphing, it should be possible to place this map on top of the Google maps [] of London.
      • 1600 isn't medieval.
        • by mikael ( 484 )
          Tell that to the University of Pittsburgh - not me - their web page link classifies this document as "medieval".

          I agree with you though, according to the most dictionaries, in a historical context "medieval" is equivalent to saying "The Dark Ages" (up to 1500 at the latest). This map was written in 1593.
          • I don't know what people at Pittsburgh would know about the medieval period, considering that town wasn't founded until centuries after.
  • Hah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:31AM (#16823056) Journal
    I tried to go back to 7000 BC, and didn't see anything. You scientist types can try to explain this one away, but we all know what it REALLY means.
  • They are taking over the world ...... :-O
  • In the near future we will be using Web services for all human knowledge and culture.
    History, Geography, Government, Music, Literature, Research, Art, Education...

    We will all routinely wear earpieces and wrist displays and the words telephone, television, media, network will disappear just as the words {carriage} footman, {switchboard} operator and typist. George Orwell got so many, many things right in _1984_ especially Newspeak.

    A Brave New World, NOT! Just a r
    • Umm... How does good and plentiful access to human knowledge and culture relate to an Orwellian vision? :-S
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Simple, when all this human knowledge and culture come from one central location and this central location determines what you can and cannot get access to. I wonder how many people will get the red stapler reference if all copies of the movie Office Space are deleted and you wait a generation or two. Imagine removing all the references to the word stapler and red and only allow people to communicate with each other using words which are sanctioned in the central database. Good and plentiful access to only
  • by perrin ( 891 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @10:49AM (#16823294)
    I wish Google Earth would add the ability to go really far back in time, and see what the Earth (probably) looked like in prehistoric times. Always wanted to watch the movement of the tectonic plates in fast forward on my own PC...
  • Indiana Jones can now look for lost cities from the comfort of his computer.
  • 4D debate (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Yes, but the surface of the Earth is a 2D manifold, a function of radius parameterized by two angles. So, this is only 3D.

    I hate that I know that.
    • I hate that I know that.
      If you hate knowing geeky things, you shouldn't read slashdot!

      If it makes you feel any better, though, I think you're wrong to reduce it to a 2D manifold. Google maps includes elevation data and 3-D building models.

  • Don't expect detailed high resolution photography from days gone by...
    They are working on it... by using a unparalleled level of space-telescope technology and the ability to propel the vehicle way beyond the speed of light, the Google-scope will eventually outrace the 1000's of year old visible light from earth, turn tail and start receiving this historic visual information. And before you say "it will take light years to get the information back", two words my friend... "gravity waves".
    • by bcmm ( 768152 )
      Er, in relativity gravity waves are assumed to propagate at the speed of light.

      So I'm afraid your idea obviously won't work.
  • I think this is a neat application of Google Mapping. Its nice seeing the API being used, as I'm a mapping fan on sites like and others. []
  • Historical fun. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @11:25AM (#16823714)
    This would be a fun way for history teachers to teach. Imagine Google "Points of Interest":

    Jack The Ripper victoms in olde London.
    Ghangis Khan/Alexander the Great conquest & warpath
    Marco Polo route to the East
    Or my personal favorite; combine this data with the Geneology Project to map out the paths that early humans took out of Africa.

  • by Jekler ( 626699 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @11:30AM (#16823782)

    The idea of time as a 4th dimension has been propagated erroneously. People who have no concept of the significance of a 4th dimension have grabbed hold of this concept and ride it into the ground.

    Under the definition that time is a 4th dimension, Guild Wars, Quake, Morrowind, World of Warcraft, Everquest 2... they would all have the appearance of being a 4D games. Heck, checkers would actually be a 4D game.

    Furthermore, spatial dimensions are interchangeable. Width/Height/Depth are all the same thing and only have meaning in relation to the others. Time is not interchangeable with the 3 known spatial dimensions. You can't have an object composed of x, y, t and still have the same dimensions as an x, y, z object. (3ft x 3ft x 3s) doesn't mean the same thing as (3ft x 3ft x 3ft)

    Things do not sound inherently cooler by calling them 4D. Web 2.0 has brought with it many things, but a 4th dimension is not one of them. I'd rant some more but my 4D microwave has finished cooking my 4D hotpocket, and I need to grab that sucker before the 4th dimension causes it to be misshapen with lost heat!

    • Heck, checkers would actually be a 4D game.

      I think you mean that Checkers would be a 3D game (as there is no Z axis used in the game.)

      • by EnderGT ( 916132 )
        Didn't see this post before I made mine. Glad to see I'm not the only one who thought this way.
    • by EnderGT ( 916132 )
      Actually checkers would only be 3D - there's no vertical dimension in play, really.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The idea of time as a 4th dimension has been propagated erroneously.

      Minkowski would like a word with you. You seem to have missed the point of relativity.

      Time is not interchangeable with the 3 known spatial dimensions.

      In relativity, space and time are unified into one 4-dimensional spacetime. You can always tell the difference between a spacelike interval and a timelike interval, but diffferent observers disagree on what specifically "the time dimension" is: a purely temporal separation according to one
    • by Anonymous Coward
      All a dimension is is a coordinant for defining an object/event. Time, the fourth dimension, is called the temporal dimension, and is not spatial. Therefore it isn't swappable now is it?

      x,y,z,t all define a specific "place" in space-time based on an arbitrary origin. t has no origin, except one you arbitrate, just like x,y, and z. Big Bang, birth of Jesus? Whatever you want.

      You can even have more than three spacial dimensions if you want to be redundant in 3-space.

      You can add a totally fictional dimen
    • by Spluge ( 888605 )
      Of course 3s isn't interchangeable with 3ft when measuring a 4 dimensional object.
      Everyone knows that 3s is the same as 3m not 3ft. You've got to use si units for these things to work out neatly.
    • by chrisb33 ( 964639 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @01:44PM (#16825626) Homepage
      While I agree that 4D is being used more as a buzzword than anything else, time is in fact considered as a fourth dimension in physics. You can look at special relativity [] if you want to understand how time and the spatial dimensions can be "interchanged":
      In the geometry of special relativity, a fourth dimension, time, is added, with units of c, so that the equation for the differential of distance becomes:
      ds^2 = dx_1^2 + dx_2^2 + dx_3^2 - c^2 dt^2
      If we wished to make the time coordinate look like the space coordinates, we could treat time as imaginary: x4 = ict . In this case the above equation becomes symmetric:
      ds^2 = dx_1^2 + dx_2^2 + dx_3^2 + dx_4^2
      Special relativity goes on to say that you can exchange time and spatial coordinates using the Lorentz transform, which preserves the length of the 4D position vector.

      If the special relativity example seems too bizarre, just think in terms of locating an event. If I wanted you to come to my party, I would tell you 4 pieces of info - the x,y,z, and t coordinates of the party. Each of these degrees of freedom is a dimension.

      What's much more annoying to me are the "4D" shows that are 3D plus some user interaction (getting water shot at you or something like this). That is a misuse of "4D".
      • Special relativity goes on to say that you can exchange time and spatial coordinates using the Lorentz transform, which preserves the length of the 4D position vector.

        But on the other hand, the Lorentz transform has very different properties compared to for example a rotation in 3 dimensions, just because of that minus sign for time in the equations. A pair of points in xyzt space that are outside each other's light cone can never be transformed such that they end up inside each other's light cone. Also, a

  • Google skipped right past the third dimension and landed directly in the fourth
    Google already had 3-D models of some major cities as an option you could turn on in Google Earth. This included models of most of the sky scrapers that would really pop out on a format like the streaming GIS system that Google Earth is.
  • by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Monday November 13, 2006 @12:11PM (#16824316)
    For the "Earth is Flat" Version. Oh, wait.
  • [] ... Too obscure?
  • Wonder what they will call this feature?

    When I first read the sub. title, I thought they had superimposed some kind of 4th spacial dimension on google earth, and was thinking, why the hell would you do that?

    Interesting concept they have here, and going forward it will be much cooler now that we have satellites actually photographing the earth instead of reliance on a single explorer's math skills.

    Ok, the scene is ripe - bring on the nukes! We can do before and after pictures now!
  • I'm underwhelmed by the actual article, since it's just a bunch of overlays of historical data. Google Earth has had these (at least for San Francisco) since the early betas of Google Earth 4.

    More interesting, and more 4D (in that it gives you an actual slider you can play with) is Google Earth 4 Beta's timeline [] feature. I was hoping the article would've been something along those lines (since I've been having lots of fun displaying aircraft tracking data in Google Earth with their timeline slider activ

  • That'll fit nicely with or the spacetimebrowser

    Stephan :)
  • Now that would be amazing :)
  • A shameless copy of a previous story:
    Time for Time in GIS
    Christian Spanring links [] to a FOSS4G2006 open document presentation [] named It's About Time for Time []. From the abstract: ""The weakness of current cartography is its poor representation of time. The surface of the earth is treated as a static thing." (Anselm Hook) [...] There are numerous experiments, but little solid support in tools or data structures for representing the 4th dimension (when we're still getting used to the 3rd dimension i

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears