Posted tagged ‘Cool Software’

The Critical Question of the Campaign: Palin/Putin edition

October 13, 2008

A while back, in this post, I committed a reductio ad absurdum by asking just what of Russia Sarah Palin could see from just where in Alaska.

That post triggered a happy reaction in the mind of my old friend, Michael Kosowsky, who, among many other attributes, possesses a quality common in his adopted home state of Maine, in that he likes to build cool stuff himself.

In this case, Michael is the author and mastermind behind — a lovely software tool/website, now usable within Google Earth as well.  The idea for the site came to him whilst hiking near his home in the Camden area.  He was looking across at some hills, and, looking at one peak, wondered to himself, “hey — what’s that?”

The result is a website and set of tools that now allow the user to figure out what they can see from any point in the US (and in beta form for the rest of the world), to study paths through geography, maplets that model contours and implications of sea level rise, among other functions and so on.  Details here.

So, when I did a rough search through web resources to find out just what points in Alaska had Russia in their sights, Michael decided to take my simple-minded survey and turn it rigorous.  The result is this new tool, Hey What’s That Alaska, which takes actual geographical data and performs the calculations needed to determine from whence you can see what.

His results?  I got it a bit wrong.  There are a couple of places on the mainland of Alaska from which it is possible to glimpse Putin’s place — they are mountaintops in the back of the beyond, but they are, I guess, slightly more accessible than Little Diomede (though probably not St. Lawrence Island, which does have some kind of air service from Nome, meaning the amount of back country hiking needed to peer across the fog at some dim grey rock-bound shoreline would be slightly more under control).

So when Governor Palin returns home to continue her lonely watch, constantly vigilant against the looming threat from across the Bering Strait — she has a couple more places on which she also can serve, standing and waiting through the night.  Or something.

But check out Hey What’s That.  It’s a truly wonderful time sink, and an increasingly useful, multiplatform tool, put together by one of the true good guys.

Also — for those of you who like such things, below the jump you’ll find Michael’s technical explanation for what his Alaska/Russia applet is doing: