View Full Version : Google Earth as a philosophical tool

01-18-2006, 07:31 PM
Imagine distancing yourself from everything that is familiar and secure, but also uncertain and threatening. In other words, imagine distancing yourself from the world.

It takes some concentration, but you can do it. Especially now that we have Google Earth, a simulation tool with which you can zoom in and out from your own familiar surroundings. In a few seconds you can find yourself in outer space as it were. But you can also slow down and just enjoy the ride, watching the Earth grow smaller. A great visual and mental experience, if you allow it to be that.


Look at it this way. Regardless of what you are doing and how important you think you are, the Earth is there, as it has been for some time, with and without you. You may think of yourself as a remarkable spiritual being, but let´s face it: You are bound to the physical surroundings. Hardware and real estate count, as do all the people you are dealing with…physical beings every one of them. That is where you exist, that is what defines you, and that is what you know.

When you take the mental trip to outer space, everything changes. Little by little, you lose sight of the details, and you grow more and more detached. Incidentally, all mankind´s great spiritual traditions depict detachment as growth, and vice versa. With detachment, you grow in understanding.

What is this growth by detachment? It is growing to be smaller, until you become invisible to yourself. It is a mental journey which takes you from being somebody into being liberated from being anybody.

When the distance between you and planet Earth grows, you finally lose sight of it…you see the Earth as it once was, and as it will be again some day…as nonexistent! In the same way, when you lose sight of yourself, you return to the initial situation of non-existence, to the situation before birth.

You may gain a world view which you naturally, and without effort, can see as being true. After that, nobody can convince you of your importance, or of anybody else´s for that matter. Nobody can promise you anything that would be more valuable than what you have seen and understood.

Still, and without effort, you can allow others to have their truths. It won´t change anything. In fact, whatever you do, it will not change anything except some minor aspects of your or somebody else´s living conditions during a very short period of time. It is not without value, quite to the contrary, but it does neither increase nor decrease your importance in the big game.

See what the human mind can do with the aid of some modern technology?

Time to zoom in. You´re back in the bilge. But you can do it again: www.earth.google.com (http://www.earth.google.com)

jack grebe
01-18-2006, 07:33 PM
dude......get a life :rolleyes:

01-18-2006, 07:52 PM
That's highly philosophical, Jorma. You could, of course, go in the other direction, and zoom down, into the root systems of your local flora.

The outcome is the same. You find perspective in the comparison.

01-18-2006, 08:21 PM
Still, and without effort, you can allow others to have their truths. Quite good.

It won´t change anything. In fact, whatever you do, it will not change anything except some minor aspects of your or somebody else´s living conditions during a very short period of time. It is not without value, quite to the contrary, but it does neither increase nor decrease your importance in the big game. Even better to keep in mind.

L.W. Baxter
01-18-2006, 09:22 PM
Lovely perspective, Jorma. One doesn't need to Google Earth to get your meaning, either.

I'll try get it anyway, though I just found out it's gonna take me half an hour to download the free version, and as I've been having problems with my connection hanging up every fifteen minutes, it may take a while. Which begs the question...

Is Google Earth worthwhile on a dial-up connection?

01-18-2006, 09:26 PM
No :(

L.W. Baxter
01-18-2006, 09:29 PM
Okay, I figgered as much. Won't waste my time then, thanks.

Bruce Taylor
01-18-2006, 09:32 PM
I have dialup and use Google Earth all the time. It's no worse than loading a bunch of pictures.

Once the images are in the cache, you can zip all over the map. Works fine.

L.W. Baxter
01-18-2006, 09:35 PM
Oh alright, I'll have a go at it then! :D

01-18-2006, 09:56 PM
I have just uninstalled Google Earth. For some reason it made my computer reboot whenever I opened that program. I might reinstall later and see if it will be any better.

Bruce Taylor
01-18-2006, 09:58 PM
Lee, just read something in another window while the files are loading. It's worth the wait.

I use it to check bush roads for whitewater canoeing. The satellite pics are more recent than most of the topos.

[ 01-18-2006, 09:59 PM: Message edited by: Bruce Taylor ]

Phil Heffernan
01-18-2006, 10:12 PM
I'd heard of it, but never downloaded the software...I just did...

This simply blows my mind :eek:

The technology here is just freekin amazing. Question, though: Most areas are at extraordinaryly high resolution when you zoom in...My area, Cold Spring NY, is very soft, none of the tack sharp rez that I presume is from satellite photography...Why is that?

Thanks for the link to the free download :cool:

Phil H

PS: Nice philosophical viewpoint in the first post...Something like this really does get you thinking...

[ 01-18-2006, 10:14 PM: Message edited by: Phil Heffernan ]

01-18-2006, 10:29 PM
The pictures are a few years old. The tree that was taken out of my yard almost two years ago shows up.

Bruce Taylor
01-18-2006, 10:31 PM
Phil, the database is still a bit spotty. Settled areas are usually clearer than wilderness. I'm surprised the Hudson Valley isn't one of the clear spots.

My little village is sharp and focussed (I can count cars, and see rocks in the rapids), but just a few miles up the road the resolution deteriorates. Last time I checked, Toronto looked good, but Montreal was poorly resolved.

L.W. Baxter
01-18-2006, 11:20 PM
Well, it loaded while I et dinner, but now each time I try to run it I get "Google Earth has encountered a problem and has to close". I suppose the Goggle peeked at my pooter innards and didn't like what it saw.

Sigh. My pooter is all crapped up.

01-19-2006, 06:17 PM
The professional version has a much better resolution, at least for printing. I had a real estate project going where I needed prints, so I ordered the pro version for the free trial period of seven days and made all the prints I needed. I think the altitude was something like 1500 ft. I was also able to surprise some of my friends with prints from their living areas.

The philosophical aspect hit me initially when the pictures taken during the moon expedition were first published. Those pictures made a lasting impact. Ever since i have used this kind of visualizing when there has been a need to put earthly matters in perspective... ;)

cedar savage
01-19-2006, 06:39 PM
Yes, the image of Earth floating in space is, or it should be, a powerful reminder to us all, everyday.

Buckminster Fuller predicted, in the early 60's, that the first picture of Earth from space would change us and predicted the beginning of a new, global environmental movement.

"All the water on Earth is all the water there is."

"We are all passengers on spaceship Earth."

Your idea of using the zoom feature to soar up and away while reflecting on how truly small we all are in the grand scheme of things is something I've been thinking about all day. I'll give it a try the next time such distancing is personally necessary and get back to you.

01-19-2006, 07:38 PM
Cedar, it´s nice to know that I´m not all alone with this obsession. smile.gif

The real planet has no national borders on it. I remember when I tried to find a globe without borders but with no success. I then made a model of the Earth by covering a balloon with plaster, then painted the oceans and the continents as well as I could and gave it as a birth-day present to my dad. When I gave it to him I had the Antarctica looking upwards. He immediately turned it the other way, North Pole up. I said "are you sure that is the correct way?" which made him a little surprised. That´s how conditioned we are!

I really think the Blue Planet should be the mandala of choice in our present time. ;)

cedar savage
01-19-2006, 07:59 PM
I grew up in a family with a professor of geography, so globes and atlases were just there, always at hand, with and without political borders or even without towns and cities. The ones with just the browns and greens and whites, and, yes, the blues were always my favorite.

As a kid, I remember taking long, long trips by car and then, coming home, look up where we had gone on the globe and realizing, at a very early age, that the earth was vast and we were tiny. Some years later came the poster of the whole earth from space, and the realization that it was also finite.

It has taken me much longer to realize and internalize that the Earth is vast, finite, and so very fragile insofar as life is concerned. If the earth were the size of an apple, less than the thickness of the peel would be everything that life depends on - water, soil, air.

01-20-2006, 03:16 PM
Yes, the impression of fragility is striking. And I think those posters you mentioned may well have given a boost to the environmental movement.

At one time (many, many years ago) I was sure the borderless globe would be a great sales item for the globe manufacturers. It didn´t turn out that way. If they were available, I would buy one for all my friends. Perspective is everything...

01-20-2006, 03:39 PM
Well, Google Earth crashes and burns on my computer. That, after an hour and a half of downloading on dial-up... :mad:

But I know just what you mean, Jorma. I work a lot with satellite images - SPOT and Landsat stuff, ordered on CD-ROM, with very high-res. Indeed there are no borders, and you get a sense of both how insignificant and how termite-like we are. In particular, how the sum of the acts of a lot of termites can trash a natural landscape. Depressing. :(

And I had that Apollo 8 picture of the Earth rising behind the Moon as a wall poster throughout my teenage years...

Wild Wassa
01-20-2006, 03:47 PM
Originally posted by Katherine:
"The pictures are a few years old."

They are in the free version of Google Earth. If you buy the licenced version they are recent.


01-20-2006, 05:06 PM
George, Google Earth will probably not run properly (if at all) on a dial-up connection. They mention broadband transmission, with 128 Kbps as a minimum requirement. The dial-up is likely to be something like 50 Kbps. It did not occur to me when I posted that not everybody has access to broadband all the time. In Finland 80 per cent of the Internet connections are broadband with a minimum of 250 Kbps, but right now I am myself on a dial-up connection with my lap-top...46 Kbps :(

Luckily, for the purpose of the topic at hand, the real minimum requirement is a lively imagination! ;)

Karl A. Hilbert
01-21-2006, 08:22 AM
Great for finding fishing spots in the well surveyed areas.

01-21-2006, 11:57 AM
Originally posted by Jorma Salomaa:

At one time (many, many years ago) I was sure the borderless globe would be a great sales item for the globe manufacturers. It didn´t turn out that way. If they were available, I would buy one for all my friends. Perspective is everything...On Thursday I was at the Netherland National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. The curator gave me an exclusive look in their storage where they keep all the objects that they are not able to show in the exibitions. Great! Thousands of paintigs (one showed the first yacht harbour in Amsterdam around 1650), ship models, plans - and the world largest collections of old globes! It was fun to look at all these precious pieces from several centuries. And to see how the knowledge of the world changed in this time. I may add the fourth dimension to the discussion: time. Would be fun to have a Google Earth that is able to navigate in time, too. And to see all the cities/houses/countries how they are created and destroyed.

Rick Clark
01-21-2006, 09:57 PM
It's like taking a trip and never leaving the farm.
I use it everyday just to look around.

If you do let your mind wander you can see yourself in some other place on earth, gives you Ideas of new places to go sailing.

Yes most of the pics come from many different satellites to bad they want $400 bucks for the top of the line version.
Rick smile.gif