Google Earth: From Security Threat to International Asset
When Google unveiled its innovative, if voyeuristic, satellite photo tool to the computer-loving public, it was revolutionary, it was compelling, it was intriguing, it was… a major threat against national security. But now that the world has either forgotten or simply resigned itself to (depending on who you ask) the Google Earth security threat, the application has become a vital new tool around the world.
When people started exploring Google’s geographical software upon its release in 2005, it was primarily a novelty tool that allowed you to view satellite images of your favorite locales. But by 2007, major reservations were being voiced about how Google Earth could become a valuable asset to terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda. American intelligence admitted that Google Earth’s commercial imagery could be used to help combat troops. But word had also circulated about how the Islamic Army in Iraq had been teaching its followers how to target American military targets using Google Earth. According to other press reports, Google Earth was also used to plot an unsuccessful 2006 Yemeni oil facility bombing while Google Earth images have been found in Al Qaeda safe houses. When asked by Reuters about Google Earth as a security threat in 2007, U.S. Air Force intelligence head Lt. Gen. David Deptula said “It is huge. It was something that was a closely guarded secret not that long ago and now everybody’s got access to it.”
While the New York Times reported that the Pakistani military was using Google Earth to locate specific targets, civilians are finding new uses for Google Earth. In the past couple of years, Google Earth has launched a number of important extensions of the application. One allowed users to view a live hectare ticker indicating the rate of deforestation all over the planet. In another, Google Earth partnered with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to show in great detail the scope of the destruction in Darfur. The “Crisis in Darfur” layer even offers before and after images of roughly 200 locations that were ravaged by the war. While Google Earth has become a more important social tool, it’s also made surveillance more accessible to everyday people.
Last month, Google Earth helped retrieve a historic German bomber that had vanished after being shot down in 1941. Plagued by a major housing shortage in Bahrain, the local Shiite majority took to Google Earth to survey the immense palaces housing the Khalifa royal family, which is made up of the Sunni minority. The tool proved empowering for the underserved Shiite majority. Most recently, a couple of Google Earth users found a suspicious area (pictured) in Burma they believe could be a secret nuclear facility tucked away in the jungle. Whether the image is a key piece of surveillance or just another conspiracy theory remains to be seen, but it’s hard to deny that Google Earth has become a lot more than a simple security threat.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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