August 27th, 2008 | Published in Google Earth
Looks like it's time to replace that rickety compass with a few hundred of your favorite cattle. Ok, not that you would - but according to a team of German zoologists and the research they did using Google Earth, apparently you could. Using Google Earth's satellite imagery, these zoologists observed the grazing tendencies of thousands of cattle from hundreds of different herds around the world and concluded that the vast majority of these animals position themselves according to our planet's magnetic poles, facing almost due north or south. The zoologists were looking for a way to study magnetisim in large animals, so they turned to Google Earth to, well, steer them in the right direction. You can take a look for yourself and see what you think -- Frank Taylor at the Google Earth Blog was intrigued by this study, so he put together a KML of cow herds.
We've heard some great stories of Google Earth being used for scientific research, but some scientists have also made some accidental discoveries while working with Google Earth. An Australian geologist now has a crater named in his honor after stumbling upon an odd formation in Google Earth -- take a look at Hickman Crater. Similarly, another Australian scientist was doing some research using Google Earth when he noticed an extremely rare coral reef formation. Over in Parma, Italy, our imagery allowed one user to learn that he lived on the site of an ancient Roman ruin!
So, to everyone exploring our world on Google Earth - well done! And to compass makers around the world - looks like you might have some Grade-A competition.