What’s your perspective?

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)


All images in this story are screen grabs from Google Earth, a free program that displays satellite data.

Perspective matters.

This is easy to recognize with visual images, but it’s also true with research questions.

Back to images, though.

Take these, for example. Have you ever looked at a map or satellite image of North America where north is not “up”? Our cultural convention is to put north at the top of images, especially for continental-scale images, and this is what you see over and over.

However, as with may things, if you change perspective, you may have insights.

Here’re screen grabs from Google Earth with west “up” (above), and east “up” (below). By studying these images, what do you realize about the continent and its context that you hadn’t noticed before?

NAm_E_upDoes looking at North America at a different angle entirely (that is, not with a cardinal direction “up”) allow your eye to recognize any patterns you haven’t noticed before? The angle below sets the general trajectory of the east coast of the continent on a horizontal alignment.


Indeed, in this image, with the modern political boundaries removed, is nearly unrecognizable when you’re used to north being “up.” Indeed, it almost looks like a hypothetical landform!

What have you learned from studying the images here?