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New York City has a long and sprawling history, but looking at the city today, it’s hard to tell what it looked like in the past. Luckily, an enterprising coder has solved that problem by creating a Google Street View map for New York City for the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Developer Dan Vanderkam collaborated with the New York Public Library to plot all the old photos from the Photographic Views of New York City, 1870s-1970s collection on an interactive map.

The project, called OldNYC, lets you browse 19th-century New York as easily as you would click around on Google Maps. The collection contains over 80,000 original photographs.

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If you’re in Buffalo NY today; smile because you’re on Google Camera today.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Make sure you’re on your best behavior today. The Google Street View team is in town, and they’re not in the Buffalo Niagara region to take pictures of your street.

Google is using the same technology they use to take images of streets and bringing it inside local businesses and establishments. Businesses and establishments that participate will be included in Google’s new Virtual Business and Area Guide.

Multiple packages were offered being offered, starting at $199.

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In the early days of the space race of the 1960s, NASA used satellites to map the geography of the moon. A better understanding of its geology, however, came when men actually walked on the moon, culminating with Astronaut and Geologist Harrison Schmitt exploring the moon’s surface during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Image credit: Scientific American
Image credit: Scientific American

In the modern era, Dr. Gregory Hickock is one neuroscientist who believes the field of neuroscience is pursuing comparable advances. While scientists have historically developed a geographic map of the brain’s functional systems, Hickock says computational neuroanatomy is digging deeper into the geology of the brain to help provide an understanding of how the different regions interact computationally to give rise to complex behaviors.

“Computational neuroanatomy is kind of working towards that level of description from the brain map perspective. The typical function maps you see in textbooks are cartoon-like. We’re trying to take those mountain areas and, instead of relating them to labels for functions like language, we’re trying to map them on — and relate them to — stuff that the computational neuroscientists are doing.”

Hickok pointed to a number of advances that have already been made through computational neuroanatomy: mapping visual systems to determine how the visual cortex can code information and perform computations, as well as mapping neurally realistic approximations of circuits that actually mimic motor control, among others. In addition, researchers are building spiking network models, which simulate individual neurons. Scientists use thousands of these neurons in simulations to operate robots in a manner comparable to how the brain might perform the job.

That research is driving more innovation in artificial intelligence, says Gregory. For example, brain-inspired models are being used to develop better AI systems for stores of information or retrieval of information, as well as in automated speech recognition systems. In addition, this sort of work can be used to develop better cochlear implants or other sorts of neural-prostheses, which are just starting to be explored.

“In terms of neural-prostheses that can take advantage of this stuff, if you look at patterns and activity in neurons or regions in cortex, you can decode information from those patterns of activity, (such as) motor plans or acoustic representation,” Hickok said. “So it’s possible now to implant an electrode array in the motor cortex of an individual who is locked in, so to speak, and they can control a robotic arm.”

More specifically, Hickok is interested in applying computational neuroanatomy to speech and language functions. In some cases where patients have lost the ability to produce fluid speech, he states that the cause is the disconnection of still-intact brain areas that are no longer “talking to each other”. Once we understand how these circuits are organized and what they’re doing computationally, Gregory believes we might one day be able to insert electrode arrays and reconnect those brain areas as a form of rehabilitation.

As he looks at the future applications in artificial intelligence, Hickok says he expects continued development in neural-prostheses, such as cochlear implants, artificial retinas, and artificial motor control circuits. The fact that scientists are still trying to simulate how the brain does its computations is one hurdle; the “squishy” nature of brain matter seems to operate differently than the precision developed in digital computers.

Though multiple global brain projects are underway and progress is being made (Wired’s Katie Palmer gives a succinct overview), Gregory emphasizes that we’re still nowhere close to actually re-creating the human mind. “Presumably, this is what evolution has done over millions of years to configure systems that allow us to do lots of different things and that is going to (sic) take a really long time to figure out,” he said. “The number of neurons involved, 80 billion in the current estimate, trillions of connections, lots and lots of moving parts, different strategies for coding different kinds of computations… it’s just ridiculously complex and I don’t see that as something that’s easily going to give up its secrets within the next couple of generations.”


“[H]alf the people in the world cram into just 1 percent of the Earth’s surface (in yellow), and the other half sprawl across the remaining 99 percent (in black).”

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Hosted by the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, the International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium 2015 (IGARSS 2015) will be held from Sunday July 26th through Friday July 31th, 2015 at the Convention Center in Milan, Italy. This is the same town of the EXPO 2015 exhibition, whose topic is “Feeding the planet: energy for life”.

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“Last week, Mapbox, a map development company based in Washington, D.C., announced that it has raised some $52.55 million in Series B funding, a sum CEO Eric Gunderson called the biggest ever for a mapping company. Mapbox doesn’t exactly make maps, though. It builds towers of software that organize sets of geo-spatial data for other kinds of businesses—real estate, transportation, agriculture, government, smartphone apps.” Read more


Google, as a search engine, had built a fine business by “indexing” all of these documents and making them searchable. The company was built on a principle of centralization: If you take the chaotic Web and bestow order upon it, merge it into a single consolidated index, make it make sense, you can make users very, very happy. And upon that index, and that shared happiness, and the willingness of some users to click on targeted advertising, Google could construct a tremendous enterprise. An empire, if you will. Except empires are not traditionally constructed from indexing documents. But maps are.

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