Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Powers of 10 Centered on Your House

Screen shot showing blue squares generated by the new service around Shackleton's hut in Antarctica

The Powers of 10 film has inspired a recent post here (Understanding of Scale) and an old experiment but today I can reveal I've finally achieved an idea I had 2.5 years ago.  The squares from Powers of 10 film centered wherever you want:  

Enter your Lat/Long or let it guess your location and it will generate a Google Earth file (KML) which produces the 1m, 10m, 100m...  ....100,00km blue squares from the film centered on your location.  

Warning:  we haven't got the tour working yet so you'll have to manually zoom out yourself.

It has been programmed by my friend Michael as an exercise in php and web programming.  He has done an excellent job working out the complexities of squares tangential to the earth's surface.  

What you can do with it:  Educationally I think this will be an interesting tool for a number of teaching situations:
  • Understanding Scale:  As I discussed the other week the film is excellent at getting school students to think about scale.  If they can see their own neighborhood at the lower scales I imagine it will be even more effective.
  • Curvature of the Earth:  The larger squares illustrate the curvature of the earth as you zoom out more.  This one takes some skill at navigating to use.
  • What's in my Backyard?:  Often in teaching we need students to understand what is close to a location we are discussing.  Shackleton's Hut in Antarctica (Lat:-77.552923°, Long: 166.168368°) is an example, a small hut surrounded by nothing for miles and miles and miles (choose 3D buildings from the layers panel to show).  To illustrate the space and give a sense of scale, generate the squares and comment on the emptiness as you zoom in or out.  For extra cleverness, generate squares for the hut and a student's house and have them both open in the places column at the same time.  You can then compare and contrast what is in the vicinity of the hut and a student's house in an urban area.  I've made an example tour taking you around: 

Download the file and double click the tour to play a flight between the hut and the street.  The idea is to pause the tour at various locations and explore the landscape at that scale before continuing.


Anonymous said...

A fun script, but unfortunately the math is wrong, e.g. the 2nd smallest square is 10m by 10m, it is marked as 10m^2, this of course depends on how you interpret this, a proper interpretation is: m^2 is a unit of surface hence it leads to the value of 10 square meters square, but in reality 10m by 10m is 100 m^2 which is of course (10m)^2

Unknown said...

hey man, great job, but there is an error in your calculation: 100km x 100km = 10 000 square km, NOT 100!!!

Unknown said...

hey man, great job, but there is an error in your calculation: 100km x 100km = 10 000 quare km, NOT 100!!!

Rich Treves said...

Oops, thanks. Corrected now. Actually, I wonder if the length is better and allow people to calculate the area...