Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A picture of Earth through time

A picture of Earth through time: Today, we're making it possible for you to go back in time and get a stunning historical perspective on the changes to the Earth’s surface over time. Working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), NASA and TIME, we're releasing more than a quarter-century of images of Earth taken from space, compiled for the first time into an interactive time-lapse experience. We believe this is the most comprehensive picture of our changing planet ever made available to the public.

Built from millions of satellite images and trillions of pixels, you can explore this global, zoomable time-lapse map as part of TIME's new Timelapse project. View stunning phenomena such as the sprouting of Dubai’s artificial Palm Islands, the retreat of Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon and urban growth in Las Vegas from 1984 to 2012:

Feel free to share these GIFs! More examples can be found on Google+.

The images were collected as part of an ongoing joint mission between the USGS and NASA called Landsat. Their satellites have been observing earth from space since the 1970s—with all of the images sent back to Earth and archived on USGS tape drives that look something like this example (courtesy of the USGS).

We started working with the USGS in 2009 to make this historic archive of earth imagery available online. Using Google Earth Engine technology, we sifted through 2,068,467 images—a total of 909 terabytes of data—to find the highest-quality pixels (e.g., those without clouds), for every year since 1984 and for every spot on Earth. We then compiled these into enormous planetary images, 1.78 terapixels each, one for each year.

As the final step, we worked with the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, recipients of a Google Focused Research Award, to convert these annual Earth images into a seamless, browsable HTML5 animation. Check it out on Google’s Timelapse website.

Much like the iconic image of Earth from the Apollo 17 mission—which had a profound effect on many of us—this time-lapse map is not only fascinating to explore, but we also hope it can inform the global community’s thinking about how we live on our planet and the policies that will guide us in the future. A special thanks to all our partners who helped us to make this happen.

Posted by Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google Earth Engine & Earth Outreach

Top Charts in Google Trends—The most searched people, places and things

Top Charts in Google Trends—The most searched people, places and things: Ever wonder what the world is searching for? With Google Trends, you can see what's hot right now, and also explore the history and geography of a topic as it evolves. Today you'll find new charts of the most-searched people, places and things in more than 40 categories, from movies to sports teams to tourist attractions. You'll also find a new colorful visualization of real-time Hot Searches.

Top Charts—a new monthly "spirit of the times"
Top Charts are lists of real-world people, places and things ranked by search interest. They show information similar to our Year-End Zeitgeist, but updated monthly and going back to 2004. To check them out, go to Google Trends and click "Top Charts" on the left-hand side. For example, you can see the 10 most-searched cities, movies and scientists in April:
Top Charts includes more than 40 top 10 lists and more than 140 time periods. Hover on a chart for links to embed the chart in your own page or share on social media.

Top Charts is built on the Knowledge Graph, so the data shows interest in real-world things, not just keywords. When you look at a chart of sports teams and you see the Golden State Warriors, those rankings are based on many different related searches, like [gs warriors], [golden state bball] and [warriors basketball]. That way you see which topics are most popular on Google Search, however people search for them. Top Charts provide our most accurate search volume rankings, but no algorithm is perfect, so on rare occasion you may find anomalies in the data. You can learn more about Top Charts in our Help Center.

Hot Searches, now in hot colors
In addition to Top Charts, now there's a vibrant new way to visualize trending searches as they happen. On the Trends homepage in the left-hand panel, you'll find a new link to "Visualize Hot Searches in full-screen." You’ll see the latest trending topics appear in a colorful display:

You can customize the layout by clicking the icon in the upper-left corner and expanding it to see as many as 25 searches at a time. You can also pick any region currently supported by Hot Searches. Use fullscreen mode in your browser for the biggest, purest eye candy.

...and a few design updates

We’re also continuing to spruce up our site. Among other things, now the homepage shows you more interesting stuff up front, and the search box is always available at the top:

The new Trends homepage shows a list of today's Hot Searches. Enter search terms at the top to see search interest over time and by geography.

We hope you enjoy bringing new stories to life with Google Trends. We love feedback, so please feel free to let us know what you think by posting online or by clicking "Send Feedback" at the bottom of any page in Google Trends.

Posted by Roni Rabin, Software Engineer

Capturing the beauty and wonder of the Galapagos on Google Maps

Capturing the beauty and wonder of the Galapagos on Google Maps: The Galapagos Islands are some of the most biologically unique ecosystems in the world. Explorers and scientists alike have long studied and marveled at these islands—made famous by Charles Darwin. The Ecuadorean Government, local conservation groups and scientists are working to protect the Galapagos from threats posed by invasive species, climate change and other human impacts.

It’s critical that we share images with the world of this place in order to continue to study and preserve the islands’ unique biodiversity. Today we’re honored to announce, in partnership with Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Galapagos National Parks Directorate (GNPD), that we’ve collected panoramic imagery of the islands with the Street View Trekker. These stunning images will be available on Google Maps later this year so people around the world can experience this remote archipelago.

Daniel Orellana of Charles Darwin Foundation crossing a field of ferns to reach Minas de Azufre (naturally-occurring sulfur mines) on the top of Sierra Negra, an active volcano on Isabela Island. The Google Maps team traveled for more than three hours, hiking and on horseback, to reach this remote location.

Images, like the one you see above, are also an important visual record that the CDF and GNPD will use to study and protect the islands by showing the world how these delicate environments have changed over time.

Daniel Orellana of the Charles Darwin Foundation climbs out of a lava tunnel where he was collecting imagery. The dramatic lava landscapes found on Isabela island tell the story of the formation of the Galapagos Islands.

Our 10-day adventure in the Galapagos was full of hiking, boating and diving around the islands (in hot and humid conditions) to capture 360-degree images of the unique wildlife and geological features of the islands with the Trekker. We captured imagery from 10 locations that were hand-selected by CDF and GNPD. We walked past giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies, navigated through steep trails and lava fields, and picked our way down the crater of an active volcano called Sierra Negra.

A Galapagos giant tortoise crawls along the path near Googler Karin Tuxen-Bettman while she collects imagery with the Street View Trekker in Galapaguera, a tortoise breeding center, which is managed by the Galapagos National Park Service.
Life underwater in the Galapagos is just as diverse as life on land. We knew our map of the islands wouldn’t be comprehensive without exploring the ocean that surrounds them. So for the second time we teamed up with the folks at the Catlin Seaview Survey to collect underwater panoramic imagery of areas being studied by CDF and GNPD. This imagery will be used by Catlin Seaview Survey to create a visual and scientific baseline record of the marine environment surrounding the islands, allowing for any future changes to be measured and evaluated by scientists around the world.

Christophe Bailhache navigates the SVII camera through a large group of Sea Lions at Champion Island in Galapagos. Image courtesy of the Catlin Seaview Survey.

We truly believe that in order to protect these Galapagos Islands, we must understand them. As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” We hope this Street View imagery not only advances the important scientific research, but also inspires you to learn more about this special place. Stay tuned for updates on this collection—the first time we’ve captured imagery from both land and sea! We can’t wait to share this amazing imagery with you later this year.

Posted by Raleigh Seamster, Project Lead, Google Maps

Sunday, May 12, 2013

HORRIBLE! Richard Branson shaves legs, dons fishnet stockings and stewardess uniform

HORRIBLE! Richard Branson shaves legs, dons fishnet stockings and stewardess uniform

MELBOURNE - Aviation billionaire Sir Richard Branson will touch down in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon wearing make-up, high heels and stockings to make good a bet he lost to AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes at the Grand Prix two years ago.
He left Perth this morning on a charity fundraising flight to Kuala Lumpur, on which he trotted down the aisles in drag.
The Australian Associated Press reported that Branson dropped his pants at a bar in the Perth CBD on Saturday night, allowing AirAsia stewardesses to shave his legs.
There are reasons why it has taken him so long to honour his bet — he broke his leg; flying in a high-altitude hot air balloon and watching the second prototype of Virgin Galactic’s space-bound vehicle break the sound barrier.
“Yeah, it’s true. We both had Grand Prix teams and I was absolutely certain that I was going to win,” Branson was quoted by AAP as saying.
“Something went wrong. Of course the drivers of that race are no longer with us. I went to extreme lengths to avoid being here (for the charity flight), but knew that one day I had to get it over with.”
Meanwhile, Fernandes has been dared into his own promise, announcing he would become one of Virgin Galactic’s first commercial space tourists, taking a usually very expensive flight for a few moments of weightlessness.
“What he (Branson) doesn’t realise is once I go into space, there’ll be a low-cost version - AirAsia Galactica, about 10 per cent of the price he’s charging,” he said.
Funds from the flight will go to the Starlight Foundation for ill children. – Bernama

More than 70 of the world’s languages in the blink of an eye

More than 70 of the world’s languages in the blink of an eye: If you took a quick snapshot of content available on the web, you might think that everyone around the world spoke English, Chinese, French or Spanish. But in fact, millions of people around the world speak an incredible array of languages that currently have a small presence across the web.

Google Translate helps bridge the divide between the content available online and people’s ability to access that information. Starting today, you can translate another five languages using Google, which combined are spoken by more than 183 million people around the globe:
  • Bosnian is an official language in Bosnia and Herzegovina that’s also spoken in regions of neighboring countries and by diaspora communities around the world.
  • Cebuano is one of the languages spoken in the Philippines, predominantly in the middle (Visayas) and southern (Mindanao) regions of the nation.
  • You can hear the Hmong language spoken in many countries across the world, including China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and throughout the United States.
  • Javanese is the second most-spoken language in Indonesia (behind Indonesian), with 83 million native speakers.
  • Marathi is spoken in India and has 73 million native speakers. Google Translate already supports several other Indian languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
With the exception of Bosnian, these new languages are “alpha,” meaning while the quality isn’t perfect, we will continue to test and improve them over time.

You can access Translate via the web at https://translate.google.com, on your Android or iOS device, or via Chrome and in Gmail. We're excited to reach the 70+ language milestone, and we look forward to continuing to add more languages.

Bosnian: Google Prevodilac sada podržava više od 70 jezika!

Cebuano: Google sa Translate misuporta na karon sa kapin sa 70 ka mga!

Hmong: Google Translate nim no txhawb nqa tshaj li 70 hom lus!

Javanese: Google Translate saiki ndhukung luwih saka 70 basa!

Marathi: Google भाषांतर आता 70 पेक्षा जास्त भाषांचे समर्थन करते!

Posted by Sveta Kelman, Program Manager, Google Translate

We’re going live from Google I/O

We’re going live from Google I/O: Developers today have the power to introduce powerful, breakthrough technologies to the world through their code. That’s why we look forward to bringing Google developers together year after year at Google I/O, our annual developer conference. In one week, we’ll welcome more than 6,000 developers to I/O through the doors of Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco, Calif.—and many more via our event’s live streams. If you’re looking for inspiration and want to learn more about the future of our products, we hope you’ll tune in to our live keynote and technical sessions.

Starting on May 15 at 9 a.m. PT (16:00 UTC), join us as Google Developers Live (GDL) powers multiple channels of live streamed content from Google I/O on developers.google.com/io. On this page, you can:

  • Stream the keynote on your computer, tablet or phone. Get in on the action, and listen to product and technology announcements straight from our teams. Live streaming will run on developers.google.com/io from 9 a.m. PT (16:00 UTC) to 7 p.m. PT (2:00 UTC) on May 15 and 16.
  • Watch exclusive interviews with the Googlers behind the latest product announcements. This year, GDL will broadcast one-on-one product deep dives, executive interviews and Developer Sandbox walkthroughs from our onsite stage.
  • Get the latest news in real time. We’ll post official announcements during I/O. You’ll be able to see the feed on the Google I/O homepage, in the I/O mobile app (coming soon), and on +Google Developers.
  • Never miss a session. The keynote and all sessions will be recorded and made rapidly available on GDL and the Google Developers YouTube channel.

Whether you’re joining us from the comfort of home for Google Developers Live at I/O or at an I/O Extended event, tune into developers.google.com/io at 9 a.m. PT (16:00 UTC) on May 15 for the latest from Google product teams. Add +Google Developers to your circles and follow #io13 to stay updated on official conference announcements and connect with the community.

Posted by Mike Winton, Director of Developer Relations

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

You and I, Together, we can build a Better Malaysia

A simple message but full of meaning. Let's lay the card on the table and call an ace of spade an ace of spade...a joker a joker. Where are we after all these years, where will our children be...

How we decide on the 5th of May 2013 will determine not only our future but that of our children and of our nation.

Young and old, the power to decide is in your hands...cast your vote and make it count!



Dr Ronald McCoy
President, Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility
Past-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)

Malaysia is at a critical crossroads, after fifty-six years of independence. Its historical struggle for freedom from British colonial rule has now morphed into a growing struggle to be free of the Barisan Nasional government, a neocolonial-like construct of racially structured political parties, cleverly dividing and ruling a nation.

Reeking with corruption, its abuse of power has gone on for too long. It has lost its way in a political jungle of its own creation by incessantly amending the Constitution; pushing through dubious laws to reinforce its power; crushing judicial independence; permitting arbitrary arrest and detention without trial; disregarding police brutality and custodial deaths; encouraging corrupt crony capitalism; allowing the flight of illicit money; ignoring the serious economic consequences of a ballooning national debt; and stifling dissent, freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, and other fundamental human rights. Yes, the country needs a change of government. It’s the only way to genuine reform, rule of law and democratic governance.  

It was not always so in the first twelve years of independence, when the then Alliance coalition government was made up of the “Merdeka generation” of  leaders who had a broad, inclusive nation-state view and a value system, so different from the current ethnocentric Barisan Nasional regime.  

Malaysia is predominantly Malay, but it has one of the most diverse societies in the world. This ethnic diversity has enriched its cultural and social fabric and strengthened its economic footing. And yet, its very diversity has generated serious ethnic tensions and divided the population, owing to unfair policies. The Barisan Nasional (BN) government has increasingly infused ethnicity into national politics, based on an elastic interpretation of the meaning and status of the inter-ethnic “social contract” which emerged in 1957 when Malaysia became independent.

Dominated by the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), the BN government continues to shore up its support among the Malay majority by implementing affirmative action for the Malays and insisting that the social contract and Ketuanan Melayu (Malay dominance) are immutable and literally carved in stone. In practice, this has translated into systemic corruption, nepotism and cronyism, which has enriched only the anointed few in UMNO.  

Such ethnocentric politics has polarised a multicultural society and subverted nation building. It has now reached a tipping point. The time has come to dismantle racial politics by voting out Barisan Nasional at the ballot box and eliminating outdated political pygmies, before the country is irreparably damaged politically, economically and environmentally.

The status quo must give way to twenty-first century political thinking and nation-building that will embrace a Malaysian Malaysia, free of ethnic bias, religious bigotry and impenetrable mindsets. Such an opportunity for nation-building will present itself on 5th May 2013 when the nation holds its thirteenth general elections, arguably the most anticipated and contentious elections ever.   

Nation-building requires a strong constitutional foundation which will support the many pillars of democracy: free and fair elections; judicial independence; the rule of just law; separation of powers; commitment to human rights, equity and social justice; honest, efficient, transparent and accountable governance; a free press; an ecologically sustainable economy; universal, equitable, quality health care; and a sound, progressive education system.   

Malaysia is a federation of fourteen states, with a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The Constitution was designed to embody the supreme power of the land and provide for the rule of law and a judiciary, separate from and independent of control by parliament and the executive. It aims to limit arbitrary, excessive use of power by the temporary holders of political office and wielders of power. But the BN government has for decades subverted the Constitution by repeatedly amending it at will to serve its own political ends, exploiting its two-thirds majority in parliament. 

The benefits of elections are not always assured. Elections can strengthen democracy or undermine it. Credibility and legitimacy in elections will depend on whether they are conducted in a clean and fair manner on a level playing field. Opposition parties must be free to organise and campaign without fear. Politicians, election officials, the bureaucracy and institutions must be held accountable to the voting public. Voters must feel safe from intimidation and be confident that the ballot is secret. Only then will they enjoy equal opportunity to participate in and influence the democratic process. Only then will the result of the elections be accepted without protest. But if protests are made, they must be peaceful.

There is no doubt that political donations, particularly from corporate entities, will undermine and corrupt the electoral process. And yet in the period building up to the elections, the BN government and the Prime Minister himself, in desperation, have blatantly resorted to handouts to various groups, on the incredibly flimsy excuse that this represents government aid for the poor and needy, not bribery. Poverty and need have suddenly become more visible to the government just before a general election! The prime ministerial bargain, “You help me … I help you,” deserves a place in our history books!

Bersih, a coalition of concerned civil society groups, has made legitimate demands of the Elections Commission to secure clean and fair elections. The response has not been very encouraging, confirming the general perception that the Commission is manipulative and pro-government. The national mood before the impending general elections is understandably sombre and anxious, reflecting fears and suspicions that the electoral process leading up to the polls has not been  clean or fair, following reliable reports of irregularities, such as gerrymandering and the illegal registration of unqualified voters, including foreign workers and other phantom voters.  

In almost every country, people distrust their governments and are eager for change. The 2012 Trust Barometer study by Edelman, one of the world’s largest independent public relations companies, has pointed to a severe breakdown in government trust globally. In Europe, less than 50% of citizens in Ireland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, Poland, Italy, France and Spain trust their governments. Only 52% of Malaysians trust the Barisan Nasional government.

The study also shows that there is a growing public conviction worldwide that elected representatives have grown too remote, too arrogant, too corrupt and too closely associated with corporate interests to serve the common good. It confirms that incestuous cronyism between government and private enterprise increasingly raises suspicions of corruption.

People in most countries are increasingly aware of corrupt practices involving private enterprise and state bureaucracies. In its 2012 assessment of 176 countries, based on a new upgraded methodology, where the new Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) scores range from 0 to 100 (0 being most corruption and 100 being corruption-free), Transparency International  indicated that Malaysia’s score was 49 with a country ranking of 54, together with Czech Republic, Latvia and Turkey. One very telling indicator of corruption was the result of a question asked of companies in Malaysia: “During the last 12 months, do you think that your company has failed to win a contract or gain new business because a competitor has paid a bribe?” Fifty per cent answered “Yes”, the highest score among the 30 countries surveyed.

Transparency International Malaysia expressed the view that a 50% response may indicate that corruption in the public sector is systemic and in some areas institutionalised. It also indicated the need to reform the political arena to reduce monetisation of politics, strengthen law enforcement institutions, uphold the rule of law, overhaul the Official Secrets Act, introduce a Freedom of Information Act, enforce transparency and accountability in public procurement, and improve whistleblower legislation.

The BN government has politicised education and penalised and handicapped generations of schoolchildren because of their poor grasp of the English language, now a global language. Meritocracy has been abandoned and mediocrity or worse floods the country. The ambitious and talented flee across the causeway and Singapore thrives on our brain drain.  

Medical education has been hijacked by the Ministry of Higher Education and farmed out to third rate medical schools in distant lands. Such medical graduates frequently fail to qualify for professional registration, but will swell the ranks of government medical services. The profession of medicine has been betrayed by the government’s policy of privatising health care. Medicine is a vocation. When government policy makes medicine a business, doctors will be forced to become businessmen.

There is widespread discontent across the country, deep concern for the future, and a strong desire for change. The political bottom line is that the people of Malaysia can no longer tolerate a government that first serves itself and its cronies and is incapable of mustering the necessary political will to reform itself.

The rakyat wants change. Business as usual and political accommodation are no longer acceptable options. A fat, corrupt and arrogant Barisan Nasional government is eminently replaceable. Let’s do it. 

Source: http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/228650