World Wide Stargazing!

So it turned out to be a long busy weekend and I missed the blog awards and a bunch of other stuff – including as it turns out, one of the things I was waiting for for the last few weeks…

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a conference that brings together some of the great minds in all three of those fields and runs talks, showcases and demos. I’d love to go someday! Until that day, over on www.ted.com they put up some of the highlights for free viewing and that will have to do me! When you’re finished here pop over there and have a look at the biggest item on the front page right now… I can’t believe I nearly missed this; thankfully Claire Dillon pointed it out on her blog and I got the heads up on the thing that “made Robert Scoble cry“.

Microsoft are launching a new toy for the hardcore geeks, the casual nerds, the sky lovers, the star gazers, the astro dabblers, the average Joe Soap, the “big kid inside”, the teachers, the alien seekers, the physicists and above all the children! The “WorldWideTelescope” (clever naming too) is a digital representation of the night sky that you can scan and pan around, zoom in on, zoom deep into (no really, really deep – like think “Space Porn“). I don’t know how far the zoom goes or to what resolution but Ray Gould mentioned, “the worlds best telescopes (on Earth and in space)”, in his talk at TED so I would assume they are pretty much the best you can get without your own observatory. (See the talk here.)

I have been a sky watcher since I was a very small kid and while I never learned all the constellations, I did regularly fall asleep at the window while gazing out at the stars wishing I had a telescope. Later I used to sneak out at night to lie on the lawn (or the sand dunes or a handy golf course) and watch the stars. Now, while I wouldn’t have replaced that with booting up an application and panning across the sky (warmer but far less fun) I would most definitely have given the tooth fairy all my teeth (and those of my friends and neighbours) to have been able to zoom in and look deep into the nebulae and star clusters or to have been able to pull up fascinating facts right there and then without hitting the books and trying to reconcile that wonderful, beautiful, deep vista of space with the boringly flat and comparatively unfulfilling pictures and diagrams.

All in all this is fantastic news and I’m pretty excited to see how it actually flies! Forget Google Earth (one of my favourite apps of the past few years) I’m waiting eagerly to get going “where no man has gone before”!

Edit (01:40 04/03/2008): Robert Scoble has just commented on Claire’s post that there is a “better” video of the World Wide Telescope on http://www.fastcompany.tv – unfortunately I can’t confirm that because all I get is a “Sorry” page. (Scoble did say today that they are having “some technical difficulties — our engineers have been up all night optimizing databases and getting things turned on”)

Further Edit (01:50 04/03/2008): Scoble’s video seems to be up and running now and looks pretty good

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