Assignment: Impossible

Assignment: Impossible

Exploring the area between the unknown and the impossible.

A Modest Proposal: Google Street View Time Machine redux


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.

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

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