This week, BusinessInsider.com has posted two articles that present extraordinary visualizations of all the known stars in our own celestial home – – no, not of Hollywood – – but rather, The Milky Way, while the other is of our own virtual world representing by all devices connected to the Web. I think that viewing them together makes for a very thought-provoking juxtaposition of the celestial and terrestrial/virtual worlds, and side-by-side comparison of their individual density. Moreover, they each display their striking vastness and beauty.
First, in an article entitled Incredible New Milky Way Map Is The Most Detailed Survey Of Our Stellar Home Ever Created, by Jessica Orwig, posted on September 16, 2014, we are presented with a “fish-eye mosaic” of the 219 million stars! in The Milky Way that have been cataloged to date. The report provides the technical on how a groups of scientists at University of Hertfordshire in the UK. The report characterizes this project as being an application of big data technology by the school’s astronomers. IMHO, the team members who worked on this are stars in their own right.
Second, is a report entitled This World Map Shows Every Device Connected To The Internet by Pamela Engel, posted on September 14, 2014. John Matherly at Shodan (which desscribes itself on its home page as ” Shodan is the World’s First Search Engine for Internet-Connected Devices”). The article provides the steps taken to generate this incredible visualization. What it very limns is the geographical inequality of available online access. For example, the US and Europe have far more dense levels of connectivity than some other countries and even entire continents. As well, there is an inconsistent relationship between certain areas’ population density and the cumulative numbers of web-connected devices.
I very highly recommend either opening these features and their accompanying graphics in two separate browser tabs and then toggling between them or alternatively opening two browsers and re-sizing them so both images can be seen simultaneously on the same screen. I believe both of these visualizations are testaments to the ever-increasing imagination of scientists who can construct plan and construct them.
I wonder though what, if any, are the possible commonalities of the structures, densities, patterns of change, and mapping processes of the Milky Way and the Net? Do the astronomers and the Net’s cartographers have anything procedurally and/or scientifically to learn from each other’s efforts?
Conflating the messages and information of both of these graphics further made me think that they might present an updated interpretation of the classic line spoken by the visiting alien to Gort, his servant robot, of “Klaatu barada nikto” in the original 1951 version of the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. According to this article on Wikipedia, the author of the screenplay, Edmund North, is quoted as saying this meant “There’s hope for earth, if the scientists can be reached”. As I see it, by providing this more grand perspective, the alien visitor was trying to teach the people of Earth that their planet is part of a much larger universe and they must be responsible for their actions and consequences affecting the larger spheres. Here too, by virtue of the, well, astronomical effort and originality that went into these new maps, perhaps the scientists responsible for them, at least to some degree, appreciate that message.