Ants on highways

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  • Published 20080502
  • ISBN: 9780733322822
  • Extent: 288 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

GOOGLE AND MUNGO. I am sitting at my desk staring at Google Earth. My computer is short of memory and the program seems to take an eon to finish loading. When it does, I can see the lonely planet in cloudless clarity, surrounded by a thin, cobalt haze depicting the atmosphere. Yellow lines, contrasting with the cerulean oceans and seas, circumscribe landmasses. When I press the left mouse button I can grab and rotate the globe. This helps me navigate. The latitude and longitude of the cursor appear near a window that records my apparent height. I scroll, zoom in and out until I am at about three hundred kilometres above the Earth – about the altitude of the international space station. From this point, the planet looks serene, encased within its eggshell-thin atmosphere.

I type in ‘Paris’ and the globe rotates quickly. I zoom in until the French capital fills the screen and hover above its epicentre, Place de Grève, infamous as once being a place of brutal execution. Circular roads overlaid by an incoherent maze of alleys, lanes, streets and canals emanate from this central point. The River Seine wanders through the city on its way to the English Channel. I can see enough detail to make out cars, buses and trucks. A crowd of people, frozen in the very moment the satellite stole their image, waits to cross a pedestrian crossing on the Rue de Rivoli. The roads uniformity is pleasing; the route watched over by the statues of saints and despots.

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