Posts Tagged ‘Earth’

Scientists try to determine whether life on Earth is quickly heading toward extinction

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Life on Earth is hurtling toward extinction levels comparable with those after the dinosaur-deleting asteroid impact of 65 million years ago, propelled forward by human activities, according to scientists from UC Berkeley.

This week, scientists announced that if current extinction rates continue unabated, and vulnerable species disappear, Earth could lose three-quarters of its species as soon as three centuries from now.

“That’s a geological eyeblink,” said Nicholas Matzke, a graduate student at UC Berkeley and author of a paper describing the doom-and-gloom scenario. “Once you lose species, you don’t get them back. It takes millions of years to rebound from a mass extinction event.”

This means that not too far in the future, backyards might not be buzzing with bees, bombarded by seagulls or shaded by redwood trees. And while that might seem far off, species already are disappearing on a global scale. In recent history, we’ve lost the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon, the Javan tiger and the Japanese sea lion, and now, maybe the eastern cougar — declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday. Amphibians, mammals, plants, fish — none are immune to going the way of the dinosaurs, courtesy of the human impact on fragile ecosystems.

Such enormous losses have only occurred five times in the past half-billion years, during events known as “mass extinctions.” The best-known of these events occurred 65 million years ago — a “really bad day,” according to paleontologists — when an asteroid collided with Earth, sending fiery dust into the atmosphere and rapidly cooling the planet. These “Big Five” events set the extinction bar high: to reach mass-wipeout status, 75 percent of all species need to disappear within a geologically short time frame, meaning that Earth is currently on the brink of the sixth mass extinction. (more…)

Google Earth 6 Mixing In 3D Elements adds integrated Street View, 3D trees

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Google Earth version 6 was released Monday giving new meaning to up close and personal. The upgrade adds integrated Street Views into Google Earth along with a new emphasis on trees. More than 50 species of trees have been added to Google Earth’s 3D models of places.

Also with this latest version of Earth, Google has added a new character to the software’s repertoire, Pegman. Similar to the way Google Maps works, when looking at an aerial view of a location, areas with Street Views available are outlined in blue on the map. You can drag Pegman to any blue area and you’ll be immediately taken to a street level view of that location. Better yet, you can “walk” down streets by using the scroll wheel on a mouse or the cursor keys on a keyboard.

While in Street View, you can toggle to 3D view, which gives you a ground level view with 3D graphics buildings and now, 3D trees, too. “In Google Earth, while we and our users have been busy populating the globe with many thousands of 3D building models, trees have been rather hard to come by,” Google Product Manager Peter Birch explained today in the company’s Lat Long Blog. “All that is changing with Google Earth 6, which includes beautifully detailed, 3D models for dozens of species of trees, from the Japanese Maple to the East African Cordia to my personal favorite, the cacao tree.”

With 3D trees you can see tree species in places like parks, neighborhoods and forests. Some 80 million trees have been “planted” so far by Google Earth in places like San Francisco, Tokyo, Athens and Chicago, as well as the Surui Forest in South America and Kahigaini, Kenya.

Google has also added a time machine of sorts to the new version of Earth. If you view an area where historical imagery of it is available, the date of the oldest imagery will appear in the status bar at the bottom of the screen. Click on that date and you’ll be transported back in time to see imagery about that place at that time.

Whether you’re using the desktop version of Google Earth or its browser plug-in, the new features add a personal dimension to viewing places both familiar and far away that’s the next best thing to being there. (more…)