Scale Mount Everest from the comfort of your smartphone

Exploration

Now you can scale Mount Everest from the comfort of your smartphone

(W.W. Norton & Company) - “Weird Life: The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different From Our Own,” by David Toomey, looks at organisms that defy science.

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Google Maps

See the view from the top of Mount Everest. Peer into the depths of the ocean. View the wilds of the Amazon. Long the stuff of bucket lists, these goals are now attainable on demand through the comfort and relative low cost of your laptop or smartphone.

Google Maps, the GPS tool known for its “street-view” images of locales around the world, has made several exploration-themed additions to its Google Earth service. These include views of the ocean floor’s topography and the Amazon rain forest. The latest additions are panoramic i mages of the world’s highest peaks.

The 360-degree views allow users to virtually explore Aconcagua in the Andes, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Elbrus in Russia and Everest’s base camp.

“While there’s nothing quite like standing on the mountain, with Google Maps you can instantly transport yourself to the top of these peaks and enjoy the sights without all of the avalanches, rock slides, crevasses, and dangers from altitude and weather that mountaineers face,” wrote Dan Fredinburg, a member of the expedition team, on Google’s blog.

The images were collected with a digital camera with a fisheye lens and a lightweight tripod. They can be viewed on Google’s Street View Gallery as well as on iPhone and Android devices.

Extremophiles

Life, but not as we know it

“Weird Life” by David Toomey

Scientists, David Toomey writes, used to believe that life could exist only in certain conditions: not too hot and not too cold; not too much pressure or too much salt or too much acid. Like Goldilocks, creatures of all sorts needed their environment to be “just right.”

But in the 20th century, scientists began to discover bacteria, microbial algae, fungi and other life-forms that flourish in acid, thrive on nuclear radiation and feed on sulphur — conditions that would be a death sentence for most organisms.

Weird Life: The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different From Our Own” delves into this hidden universe of life that defies imagination. It examines the work of scientists who hunt for these “extremophiles,” which have been found in ice, under the ocean floor and even in the clouds.

The book also looks beyond our own planet, speculating about where else such “weird” life-forms could exist: on Mars, on the crust of a neutron star or on the edge of a black hole.

 
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