As Above, So Below – Earth from Space.
Thursday, 2 July 2009
Mayn River, Siberia – Landsat7
Nasa’s Earthasart has a selection of stunning images of the Earth’s surface taken by the Landsat 7 & Terra ssatellites the later obtains pictures via its on-board ASTER remote sensor (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer).
Both satellites scan the entire earth’s surface via a heliosynchronous orbit, an orbit that is calculated to provide a consistent illumination angle. This property is required since the satellites take remote readings via a range of bands of the electromagnetic spectrum including thermal infra-red light. They require the sun to be in consistent positions relative to the earth while tracking its surface to take accurate readings.
Not surprisingly this collection of images reveals our favourite sets of archetypal process pattern formations, geological ‘computations’ that seem familiar at any scale – from microscopic to the macroscopic.
The pictures more than hint at a possibility of Universal Computation, (that the Universe is running a giant computer program), as advocated by the likes of Stephen Wolfram & Rudy Rucker. Cellular Automata and other generative-like structures make appearances in sand dune patterns, Diffusion Aggregations systems arise to create gigantic earthworks, dendritic figures arise from river deltas. At other moments these images appear to have been taken from a atlas of pathology. These connections and similarities have been mentioned many times at this blog before, as readers will know.
Sometimes more Euclidean formats take shape. The utilitarian aspects of farming & habitation creates subdivisioning patterns like this one in Northern Kazakhstan. Subdivisioning and recursive patterns created through the process of social organisationn and agriculture have been examined in detail by enthomathamatician Ron Eglash’s in his well-known book ‘African Fractals’. Here is a related TED page including a link to a video of Ron talking about his studies.