What Happens When Google Earth Goes Wrong
by Alex Carter
Google Earth is a virtual globe that lets its users "fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean." To achieve that goal, the service must regularly stitch together individual photos from its library of satellite images in order to create a wider view. In two dimensions, that’s not so hard. But trying to convert that to three dimensions—especially in places where the visuals can get tricky, like where roads overlap—is where the algorithm can break down, and the resulting topologies can resemble what looks like an M.C. Escher painting viewed through beer goggles.