You simply have to see this video, which is truly and wonderfully astonishing. I can’t describe it adequately, but it shows how images can be linked together to create models of real structures, in this case the Notre Dame cathedral, using software called Photosynth. The images were all culled from Flickr, and stitched together intelligently via computer.
The power of this software is boggling. I can imagine it being used for astronomy… the National Virtual Observatory is a project that has been going on for some time, and it is trying to unite all observatories into one virtual one. The founders want to be able to normalize all images taken by all telescopes in such a way that you can query a database and come up with previously archived images that are useful for research. All observatories in the U.S. (and eventually the world) would have their data contributing to the project. Photosynth would be able to wrap around this idea and combine all this data naturally, nearly organically.
Fascinating. I wonder where this will all lead? Someplace, I suspect, that none of us could have dreamed even a few years ago.
Tip o’ the dew shield to Space Cynics.