Thursday, June 03, 2010

Picturing the BP blob at a town near you

A clever bit of programming has provided a visual aid to illustrate the unfathomable damage being caused by the 880-fathom-deep gusher pumping untold gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

This visual aid is a customizable Google Map at a website called IfItWasMyHome.Com, which makes it possible to superimpose the latest known contours of the BP oil spill over any location in the world.

As you can see from the screenshot below, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration currently shows the goo to be covering an area equivalent to the space bounded by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York State.

The map was put together in an evening by Andy Linter, a software developer in Royal Oak, MI, who welcomes anyone to go to his site, move the spill over the geography of your choosing and then publish a screenshot of the result.

“The idea for the app really came from my wife, Kristen,” said Linter in an email. “She saw a picture of the oil spill overlaid on New York in the paper, and commented to me that this still didn't put things into perspective for her. That night, I created a quick image of the spill centered on our hometown. Both of us were shocked at the result, and Kristen suggested I show the picture to more people.”

It wasn’t long before the map started making its way around the Internet.

Would that BP had someone as clever as Andy Linter to cap its runaway well.


Blogger Linda said...

I'm in New Orleans. Not finding anything clever here. You want perspective? Picture your life and your family's and future generations' lives destroyed. Imagine your pet dying from being smothered in oil. Every moment you are playing on your map, pelicans and all living things, entire eco-systems are being murdered by BP. Sportsman's Paradise is lost. Turn on Anderson Cooper - CNN. Get a look at the birds. Tears in your eyes should get you perspective. Personally, the whole thing stinks, including your playful map.         

9:16 PM  
Blogger Racoon said...

Not all that clever. Several years back, before Google Maps was around, I did the same, 'dropping' onto other other well-known U.S. metro regions the outline of a major lake shaping the Seattle area (and posing significant challenge to the region's transportation network) to open eyes to what kind of obstruction the lake would pose to those other metro areas -- and to illustrate the daunting economics (fool-hardiness, in fact) of the Seattle area's transportation investment policy that essentially pretends it's not there.

Now, as to a blob covering VT, NH, CT, MA, NY, etc. -- I'd say the lingering effects of the pols who have long had a stranglehold on the legislatures of those states and their federal representatives in D.C. constitute a more grave threat than the BP oil spill.

Saunders, Spitzer, Blumethal, Kennedy, Schumer, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Would that they were all floating off to sea, along with their party's leader...

5:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Linda: The point is to demonstrate the extent of the spill, with a visual reference. It's called "communication of information." Direct your rage at the MMS, at the bureaucrats and lobbyists who gutted drilling regulation .... oh, wait, you're blaming the messenger. Sorry for the inconvenience.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Hallandale Beach/Hollywood Blog said...

Thanks for the informative post, Alan.

I guess this sort of handy technology may finally kill the handy and longtime MSM metaphor for an incident that is both very large, but also very small -things being compared to the size of the State of Rhode Island: Icebergs, volcano ash clouds, et al.

When I lived in the Washington, D.C. area, after growing up in South Florida -going to college in Indiana and living on Chicago's North Shore- I once had a great housemate who was from Rhode Island, and she taught me a valuable lesson about size and geography.

She used to tell me that for people like her who'd grown-up and gone to college in RI, she found the MSM use of the Rhode Island as a descriptor the dumbest one around.
According to her, by its very smallness of size and population, it not only made it hard for someone from Montana, Texas or California to conceive of, much less, appreciate the smallness, it also made it hard for someone who'd always lived in Rhode Island to conceive of how long it takes to drive across the State of Texas.

Now as to the frequent problem that the cablenets, esp. CNN, have in providing useful context for viewers thru maps for incidents, consider waking-up on the East Coast on a Saturday morning and hearing on CNN about a mid-size earthquake in some small CA town in the desert, that's a whole 'nother column.

More often than not, CNN, absurdly, uses a map of the entire West Coast, including Washington State, with a dot for the town we've never heard of, and then tells us that it's HUNDREDS of miles away from Las Vegas.
So we still don't know where it is!
C'est la vie.

11:06 PM  

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