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I just spent a few minutes taking Google Mars for a spin – pretty unbelievable!
Working with JPL/NASA, Google has taken all the orbiter and lander pictures from various missions to Mars, and combined it all together into one big map of the planet, including links to pictures from the surface.

For those not famliar with Google Earth yet, you can surf around the surface of the planet, zooming in and out wherever you like, and in general visually exploring anywhere in the world.

With Google Mars, in a few minutes, I was able to have a look around Olympus Mons (the largest volcano in the Solar System), find a Viking landing spot, complete with overhead black and white images from the lander, and find the trail and path of one of the current MER robots, Opportunity. This last included bookmarks to images that, when clicked on, zooms you into a panoramic view of that location in full high-resolution color!
[To go into "Mars" mode from within the Google Earth application, click on the little planet icon at the top of the screen and select Mars]

After this little surfing experience I took a step back and looked at this: as a society we have managed to explore another planet (or at least make a tiny start on it) for the last few decades. Now however, all that data has been combined and filtered down into one overall, easily accessible, comprehensive “scouting” package, that has been electronically distributed to ever person in this group, so that they can have a look over there themselves.

Not a bad feat for mankind, not bad at all.



A friend of mine has a Stellanova floating globe that I got to play with. After fooling around with it a bit it became clear that they are using a little feedback system to control the electromagnetic force – some variant of a PID controller. Maybe they use some hall effect sensor for input to control their electromagnet?

It was pretty cool, I could grab the globe and pull it down a little bit and feel the pull get stronger instantly, and then go the other way and feel it let off a bit. The control is very tightly done with a small but very strong magnet (probably rare-earth) that is embedded at the top of the globe.

So basically you could pull the magnet out of the globe (or find an equivalent magnet) and embed it at the top of any object that weighs about the same as the globe, and you’d have yourself a floating [insert object name]!

Ideas anyone?

This is the start of Robert Hogg’s personal site, to help friends keep track of him. You’re at the beginning – it’s a good place to be. Where do you want to go from here?