world wind works


There is something new: A globe about the size of a grapefruit, a perfectly detailed rendition of Planet Earth, hanging in space at arm’s length in front of his eyes. Hiro has heard about this but never seen it It is a piece of CIC software called, simply, Earth. It is the user interface that CIC uses to keep track of every bit of spatial information that it owns-all the maps, weather data, architectural plans, and satellite surveillance stuff.
Hiro has been thinking that in a few years, if he does really well in the intel biz, maybe he will make enough money to subscribe to Earth and get this thing in his office. Now it is suddenly here, free of charge. (Stephenson 1992:100)

Tso MorariYes, it is here, free of charge: NASA World Wind 1.3. All you need is a computer that has no problems with high-end computergames and a fast Internet connection, as the amount of data is far too big to be stored on your machine. Map-data wise World Wind fetches from the net what it needs piecemeal. You start with the globe, spin it around with your mouse as you wish, zoom in and out with the mousewheel. Spin, pan, and zoom to a point of interest. Dig the beauty of the direct-above satellite view. And now—hold your breath—comes the best part. Move the Mouse while pressing the right mouse button. Earth will tilt and gives you stunning 3D-views.

But that is not all. Not by far. Are you interested in the temperature -dispersion around the whole globe? I mean the temperature-dispersion NOW! World Wind shows it to you. Longitude-latitude grid, atmosphere, place-names, animated earth, and, and, and … Well, by now you got it: I simply am amazed, enthusiastic, zesty. Those guys have every right to be proud. “… as only NASA can.”

Tso MorariThe pictures show Lake Tso-Morari (4553m) in Ladakh, northern India, which I have visited a long, long time ago. I had to choose a spot as remote like that to test NASA’s claim about World Wind including the whole globe. And there it is: mysterious Tso-Morari. On the gravel bedding at the south end of the lake was my tent. Zooming in I can see the very exact spot. Through the gravel the river flows into the lake—and sometimes out. It’s true. The 3D-picture is a view along the lake almost directly to South. Close to the horizon you can see the Himalayas. Enough talking, I got to go back … Initializing Earth

Hiro turns his attention to Earth.
    The level of detail is fantastic. The resolution, the clarity, just the look of it, tells Him, or anyone else who knows computers, that this piece of software is some heavy shit. It’s not just continents and oceans. It looks exactly like the earth would look from a point in geosynchronous orbit […] (Stephenson 1992:103)