[EDIT Aug-2006: After you read this article, go to categorized african animals you can see in Google Earth]
Google just yesterday made a major addition to their database layers with National Geographic Information about Africa. Look for the “National Geographic Magazine” layer in the Layers pane on the left in GE. It is currently found under the Gallery layer folder.
As you zoom over Africa you will see the yellow National Geographic logos appear over different regions. If you click on these symbols you will see a photo, title, brief description, and a link to a National Geographic excerpt or entire story. These marks are georeferenced to what the article was written about of course.
Google has just released a major database update for Google Earth which includes not only 47 new cities in higher resolution, and four cities in “very high” resolution (Jacksonville, FL 2004; Los Angeles, CA 2003; Oxnard, CA 2004;Tampa/St.Petersburg), but also a new data layer of National Geographics that indexes content from National Geographic on Africa. This is a big one folks!
I will provide more detail on this exciting new data after I have a chance to review it! You can check out the announcement here. Or just start viewing the content yourself by going into Google Earth.
Since Google Earth has been released as a free application numerous people have expressed concerns over the availability of such data for either individual privacy or the possibility of terrorists using the satellite photos. These concerns have been invalidated by the experts. But, Jonathan Crowe, at the Map Room, has posted an excellent summary and conclusions on these issues. He gives a lot of credit to Stefan Geens at Ogle Earth who has been following the news stories about various countries that have expressed initial concerns (until the concerns were invalidated).
Technology Review (a magazine by MIT) has a cover story called “Killer Maps” on new Internet mapping technologies highlighting Google Earth. This is an excellent story not only highlighting Google Earth, but also talking about the interfaces (APIs) Google and other mapping tools are creating allowing programmers to customize the maps. This is a long article with lots of examples of how these tools are being used. The first “page” is dedicated to an example of Google Earth being used to plan a trip to Chicago.
You can read the article here on their online magazine, or buy their magazine at the store. This is an excellent article!
As written at OgleEarth, Google Earth was used by an Italian systems analyst named Luca Mori to discover a Roman Villa. Apparently he noticed an anomaly near his village of Sorbola and called in some professional archeologists who took a look and discovered a previously undiscovered Roman villa. Read the story at OgleEarth here. Luca’s story was picked up in an Italian TV news story.
Google Earth use definitely goes beyond casual sightseeing and for finding directions. It’s a very versatile tool and I’m sure many other scientific discoveries will be made using it for visualization purposes.
UPDATE: It turns out that because I can’t read Italian very well that the true story is apparently he used Google Maps initially to make the discovery, but that he could view the site “particularly well with Google Earth”.