Links: Mapping astronomy papers; Virtual Earth for iPhone how-to, Wasilla “censorship” debunked

I’m going to try to stay awake for the US presidential debates, which go live here in Cairo at 3am, so in the meantime here is another round of interesting links with commentary:

  • Auto-mapping astronomy paper references: the Daily ACK’s Alasdair Allen comes up with yet another ingenious KML hack for astronomers: All papers in the Astrophysics Data System (ADS) database that contain reference links to astronomical objects in the massive SIMBAD database can now be mapped via his script to a KML file that is viewable in Google Sky. At the moment it’s a perl script that you’d have to implement yourself, but here’s hoping that this becomes a web service real soon, linked to automatically from ADS queries. Alasdair also muses as to further possible data mining possibilities:
    If you had a large enough group of astronomers, and therefore a large enough number of papers, you could produce heat maps of the sky instead of using simple push pins. You could cross-correlate your own publications with that of a group or institute where you’re thinking of applying for a job, or the publication output of a survey team with the footprint of their survey…

  • Stellarium updated: Talking of astronomy, really excellent open source desktop planetarium Stellarium just got a major update. It’s even prettier than before.
  • Virtual Earth on iPhone how-to: So that I can get a bird’s eye view application on my iPhone faster, Chris Pendelton has written up a how-to for you, developer. If anybody knows of any apps out in the wild, or even Virtual Earth web maps that are mobile-savvy and accessible via a URL, please let me know.
  • Debunking censorship myths in Wasilla & Boston: Xconomy’s Wade Roush debunks the latest censorship urban myth:
    One rumor making its way around the Web right now is that Google blurred out images of Wasilla, AK, after Alaska governor and former Wasilla mayor Sarah Palin was named John McCain’s running mate.

    As Wade points out, the reality is that a DigitalGlobe high resolution tile happens to cover half of Wasilla, while the other half is at 15m meter resolution, like most of Alaska (it being a big state). No conspiracy here.

    But Wade also fact-checks that now-infamous IT Security article Blurred Out: 51 Things You Aren’t Allowed to See on Google Maps for all the places it says are censored near Boston. Surprise surprise, none of them are. He has a good theory as to why that article was so off-base — it was uncritically cribbed from a Wikipedia article that is itself not reliably sourced.

  • Afrigadget: Only tangentially related to GIS, but a new favorite blog of mine is Erik Hersman’s Afrigadget, via Ethan Zuckerman, who drives home the fact that “Africa’s an amazing lab for innovation, because if it works in Africa, it will work anywhere.”
  • Thematic Mapping Engine: Better mentioned late than never on this blog, the Thematic Mapping Engine is an impressively polished global statistics visualizer for such indicators as mortality rates, CO2 emissions, internet usage and much more, mapped across the world’s countries as KML — even as a time series, where the data is available.