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Assignment: Impossible

Assignment: Impossible

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A Modest Proposal: Google Street View Time Machine redux

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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In the series “A Modest Proposal,” my colleagues and I will propose inventions and projects that I think are eminently doable and would love made real.

In a recent post, scientists in France suggested Google Street View, could act like a kind of time machine as well, offering views of places across time. Doing so could help scientists monitor changes in protected lands over time, such as damage from invasive species.

Now Google has revealed that Street View now offers vistas of national parks and historical sites across North America.

As Google notes:

Working with the U.S. National Park Service and Parks Canada, our Street View cars, trikes and Trekker mapped more than 44 locations with beautiful, 360 degree panoramas. Leave your gear behind and still get a chance to marvel at the Sequoias in California. Or perhaps you’re looking for more adventure? Lookout to Signal Mountain in Wyoming’s Grand Tetons, climb around California’s Joshua Tree National Park, or dip your toe into Moraine Lake in Banff, Canada. Getting tired? Take a break to watch the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the world. Or, let your inner history buff come out to explore monuments and fortresses across North America.

If Google Street View updated these views regularly and offered a way to compare old images with new ones, scientists could have a valuable tool to track how U.S. parks are changing for good or ill.

Charles Q. Choi About the Author: Charles Q. Choi is a frequent contributor to Scientific American. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Science, Nature, Wired, and LiveScience, among others. In his spare time, he has traveled to all seven continents. Follow on Twitter @cqchoi.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Neeroc 4:04 pm 12/2/2013

    Given Google Earth Engine, I’m sure streetview archives aren’t far behind.

    Link to this
  2. 2. SJCrum 7:01 pm 04/28/2014

    In the area of impossible inventions, there are a few that are TOTALLY doable, and which would be ultra-fantastic.
    One of those would be a simply great invention of a magnetic generator that wouldn’t need any electrical power to it at all, like electrical generators require, but would just use permanent magnets to then cause the generator to spin endlessly as it churned on.
    This then would power automobiles literally for decades and without any added fuel at all.
    So, that’s one.
    By the way, small ones like this would power every building in the world and including every home also. Everyone would simply have one of these, very inexpensive, generators in our basements, and even a second one for a backup. And all of the power grids, etc,., would be totally replaced, and much like how very small personal computers have replaced a whole lot of the mainframe types.
    Another is one that would let you take all garbage and then cause it to completely change back into the original energy that caused all of the atoms that exits to then have the energy released. This is cheap, and gets rid of all of the garbage, instead of landfills and hauling it way out into oceans by the barge-fulls.
    Oh yeah, time travel is also really cool, and that has been around since before even the dinosaurs were on earth.
    Another, ultra-cool one is how you can take anything that exists, like your grandmother’s favorite pair of pink bloomers and, after putting them in a beam of light aimed at Mars, just reverse the polarities in the beam, and poof, there her favorites zinged instantly to the opposite end on Mars. If you aimed correctly, of course. If not, she’s gonna’ be pissed.
    So, ultra-cool science, huh? And, don’t you DARE beam her out there.

    Link to this

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