Our technology is now such that we can collect massive quantities of data and process it into visualizations of what’s happening over the entire earth.
The visualization above shows ocean surface currents around the world as a time-lapse animation over the period from June 2005 through December 2007. The light and dark patterns under the ocean represent ocean depth. Both the ocean depth and land topography are exaggerated in order to make them visible.
Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, a pair of creative experts in data visualization, have made a nearly real-time animation of wind currents in the United States. You can zoom in to get a closer look at local areas.
And of course there’s the (now almost venerable) Google Earth that lets you fly over the world at high altitude and dive down anywhere you like to see detailed images of roads and buildings in cities.
I love these things because they help to move our minds beyond the very limited view we have of our immediate surroundings and think about the planet as a whole.
I wonder how long it will be before our smart phones will be able to project the 3-d, real-time visualization of our planet imagined by William Gibson in his 1984 cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer.