Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ideas for Physics Outreach and Maps

Google is offering grants for between 10 and 20 thousand dollars for outreach work utilizing geographic mapping web applications[1].  The deadline for proposals is April 18th[2].  So, here's the question.  As physicists, is there any kind of outreach that we could do utilizing any or all of the Google map frameworks[3]?

Could we work with the +American Physical Society and/or the +Society of Physics Students to map historical events in physics around the world?  Perhaps an app similar to AT&Ts Air Graffiti[4] that would automatically display events in physics history on your smartphone when you neared a location would be cool.  Maybe it would be useful to index all the papers in PROLA by university so when you visited a school, you would automatically be served a list of papers published there.  A searchable map of outreach activities as well as physics colloquiums, workshops, and meetings would be handy.

Geographically enabled citizen scientist crowdsourcing data collection apps might help to interest the public at large in science and gather data for interesting research work at the same time.  The transit of Venus last summer generated a little interest in this direction.  +Girlstart any ideas about how to interest students in map programming, physics, and geography at the same time?

I've played around with +Google Maps API in the past and had a great time with it.  Here are some of the applications I've built to give you an idea of the capabilities of the platfom:

Amateur Satellite Mapper[5]:
Maps the locations of amateur radio enabled sattelites so you can find out when the next satellite will happen by that can relay your messages.  The app pulls in Keplarian data on the amateur satellite fleet and displays it in Google Earth

Amateur Radio APRS tracker:
Amateur radio operators use a mode called APRS to transmit data packets from moving vehicles.  This app tracks the paths of ham radio operators planes and cars around the world.  It uses KML tours to show you a tour of where the car or plane has been on Google Earth.  Here's a recent plane flight near my school, Texas A&M[6].

or, check out this drive through the Norwegian fjords of amateur operator LA4QAA[7].  Did I mention that APRS data is submitted by individuals and isn't always exact?  You'll have to excuse driving through a few mountains.

Finally, as far as mapping crowdsourced data goes, the following Facebook app maps the locations of all your facebook frineds on Google Earth

There's way more that can be done than my few examples indicate, they're only intended to spur ideas.  What could we do to build public interest in physics and get Google to pay for it?

1.  Google LatLong Blog entry about the grants

2.  Proposal submission page

3.  Google mapping technologies

4.  AT&Ts Air Graffiti

5.  Amateur Satellite Mapper:

6.  Recent plane flight

7.  Norwegian fjord drive


Yurlungur said...

This is a really excellent idea, Hamilton! I think a historical events in physics app would be very cool!

Hamilton Carter said...

Thanks Yurlunger! Now I just have to sell the idea to APS or SPS, or another suitable nonprofit.