By now, you've probably spent hours monkeying around with Google Earth (and if you haven't, what are you waiting for?). In many ways, it's both an educational and humbling experience to zoom out from your house and fly across the globe to cities in China you've never heard of -- but have populations 10 times the size of Milwaukee.
It's great for directions, for time-wasting and for convincing yourself you need a faster computer. My favorite use, in the dead of the winter, is to zoom in on the berm at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, turn the orientation facing west, and imagine lying in the right center field watching Brewers Spring Training.
But I digress. Google just blew me away again, with two newer products I just discovered: Google Moon and Google Mars.
Granted, to the non-scientists of the world like myself (I got a C+ in Chemistry but a B+ in Physics, if memory serves), there's very little practical value to these sites. However, I'm sure there are some rocket scientists out there who find these projects very stunning, indeed.
But to me, seeing detailed, scalable and navigational maps of our own moon -- and our neighboring planet -- is yet another reason I feel completely humbled by technology and what it shows us.
In a less dramatic way, it's how I felt when I moved back to Milwaukee from Washington, D.C. in 1996. One of the first things I remember noticing were the stars in the sky. You could never see them in the District, and even though you knew they were up there, four years without stars takes something out of you. Now I drive up north sometimes and am struck by how much more clearly they look past Green Bay.
I won't get all "Area 51" on you, but to know that I can zoom into Google Mars so closely that I can almost see the Spirit Rover … well, it's a little awe-inspiring.
And those geeks at Google still do have a sense of humor, too, which sort of brings it all back home. Go to the Moon app and zoom in too closely, and enjoy their little joke.
Did I mention that I need a faster computer?
Andy is the founder and co-owner of OnMilwaukee.com. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.