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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Javascript japes

Ground Zero
Checking out an alert from a facebook friend Friday night I was led here:
Ground Zero: Google Maps and Nuclear Weapons
This mapplet shows the thermal damage caused by a nuclear explosion. Search for a place, pick a suitable weapon and press "Nuke It!"
How could this avid fan of Nuclear War resist?

Unfortunately, as ever this blogger template is cutting off the side of the active google maps, so I'm just posting a screenshot of a strike on my home town, Dundee. I found Ground Zero simultaneously fascinating and disturbing in that way which will doubtless be only too familiar to my readers. Most strange for me perhaps was the reaction of my inner GM, which was to wish that I'd had access to this device back in the early 80's.

I used to play Aftermath regularly back then with 'Uncle' Martin GM'ing. Seeking to run my own post-nuclear game set in Britain (Martin's was set in Canada), I decided to try to make the dimensions of the thermonuclear holocaust as authentic as possible. So I started searching for information on the subject of presumed Soviet strike plans and their projected consequences. In the end I gave up. This was back when the Reagan and Thatcher's 2nd Cold War against the Soviet 'Evil Empire' was in its first full-throated cry, and I just found too horrible to contemplate the future I was seeking to make into my roleplaying campaign.

So I felt strangely ambivalent when, toying with Ground Zero, I found myself thinking how useful it would've been back when I was trying to set up that post-nuclear Aftermath campaign. I mean, you could just pick all the locations, make the strikes, save the maps, and then you could no doubt save them all to a single map, perhaps even to Google Earth. Fascinating and a touch disturbing like I said, not least because of that taste of GM's glee.

On a lighter note
Poking around Carlos Labs, the creators of Ground Zero I also found their online Spyrograph toy (this one does paste nicely into RD/KA!, but check out the link for an explanation of how it works):

I had one of these when I was kid, so playing around with it again online was fun.

Afterthoughts
Carlos Labs are clearly big fans of Google:
"At the moment, Google represents one of the strongest forces in the creation and distribution of Open Source software, and we want to apply this knowledge and code to solve practical problems for our customers."
I really don't know how Google's activities are advancing the Open Source movement, but I do like a lot of their applications and gadgets. Picassa is a current favourite of mine. It's the best photo album software I've ever used. ;)
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