Orbital View: Google Earth on Acid

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

That’s one way to look at this colorfully distorted image of NATO’s Joint Force headquarters in Brunssum, Netherlands:

Speaking of trippy views, 73 years ago today, the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann took LSD for the first time on purpose, having discovered its psychedelic properties by accident three days earlier. (For some Atlantic reading on the subject, check out John N. Bleibtreu’s “LSD and the Third Eye” in our September 1966 issue.)

But Anthony Quigley explains what’s really going on in this satellite view:

When Google Maps and Google Earth came onto the scene, some countries and institutions wanted to block Google from displaying certain places. (These were possibly the same people who thought [the Internet] was a fad!). There are various places around the world that tried this. One such place was The Netherlands, who asked Google to “blur” the images. Today’s photo—taken a few years ago—is a great example of this idiocy at play.

There’s even a whole Wikipedia page for “Satellite map images with missing or unclear data,” as is wont.

Owen—a reader and former follower of The Dish and its View From Your Window Contest—circles back to an Orbital View we posted last week, the location of which was unknown. Owen dusts off his Dish skills and makes a great guess:

I think we are looking west over Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan with the UNESCO Alakol Biosphere Reserve in the foreground. The peninsula jutting into the lake form the northern shore is here on Google Maps. Attached is a collage comparing Tim Peake’s picture from the International Space Station to overhead pictures of Lake Balkhash:

It was great to try one of these again.  Not as fun as the Dish’s window view contest, but pretty enjoyable.  

RIP, VFYWC; long live OV.

(See all Orbital Views here)