The Great Global Treasure Hunt


treasure-hunt.jpgThe “Great Global Treasure Hunt on Google Earth” is coming in September. They’re a few days early, but the game is now under way!

The treasure hunt is based on book that contains “a number of beautiful and complex illustrations containing textual and visual clues as to the whereabouts of the treasure”.

To enter, you need to purchase a copy of their book (it can be found on Amazon), then use the clues in the book to find the answers in Google Earth. Some of the clues are apparently very difficult, but someone is bound to figure them all out.

The content runs until March 31, 2012, so you’ve got some time to work on it. There is a €50,000 ($72,000) prize at stake. For more information, you can check out If you give it a shot, leave a comment and let us know how it goes.

Bing Maps: How to Overlay Weather and Traffic Conditions

How to overlay traffic and weather information on Bing Maps.


You can get weather information from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA expose a number of WMS layers showing, for example, cloud coverage, real-time radar data, wind speed and sea levels across the U.S. and territories. (Sadly, I’m not aware of an equivalent data source for the rest of the world). You can find information on the various layers available from

The data is exposed as WMS layers, so start by following my previous posts explaining how to access and overlay WMS layers on the AJAX v7 or Silverlight control. Replace the URLTemplate in these examples with the URL of the NOAA WMS service, as follows:

string urlTemplate = “

This example retrieves the RAS_RIDGE_NEXRAD layer, which is a RADAR mosaic for CONUS, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, and Guam. When overlaid on Bing Maps, it looks like this (illustrating the weather currently affecting the Mississippi river area):


If you want to add several different weather layers from the NOAA and control them separately you can make several separate requests to the WMS service, changing the URL template each time to request the appropriate layer. Otherwise, you can make a single request that merges several types of information in one layer, by passing a comma-separated list in the LAYERS parameter. E.g. to retrieve a single layer that displays both the land surface temperature (OBS_MET_TEMP) and the sea surface temperature point observations (OBS_MAR_SSTF) in a single layer, you can use the following URL template:

string urlTemplate = “{0}&SRS=EPSG:4326&width=256&height=256&transparent=true&Layers=OBS_MET_TEMP,OBS_MAR_SSTF”;


Bing Maps v6.x contained an inbuilt option to display traffic using the VEMap.LoadTraffic method. This method does not exist in v7 or in the Silverlight control, but you can still access the same tileset as used by the v6.x control. The URL at which these tiles are located is:{quadkey}.png

Note that, this time, these are tiles that have already been cut into the Bing Maps quadkey system, so you don’t need to add the intermediate WMS handler step as with the weather example above. Instead, you can directly add a tilesource pointing to the traffic tile data as follows:

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8">
<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
var map = null;
var tilelayer = null;
function GetMap()
// Initialize the map
map = new Microsoft.Maps.Map(document.getElementById("mapDiv"),{credentials:"Your Bing Maps Key",
center:new Microsoft.Maps.Location(47.9,-122), zoom:9, mapTypeId:"r"});

// Create the tile layer source
var tileSource = new Microsoft.Maps.TileSource({ uriConstructor: ‘{quadkey}.png’ });

// Construct the layer using the tile source
tilelayer= new Microsoft.Maps.TileLayer({ mercator: tileSource, opacity: 1.0 });

// Push the tile layer to the map
<body onload="GetMap();">
<div id=’mapDiv’ style="position:relative; width:640px; height:480px;"></div>



Sadly, once again, this data is for the US only. Also note that there are a few clauses in the Bing Maps Terms of Use specifically governing the use of traffic data.

Conrad Wolfram on Teaching Maths with Computers: Dangerously Wrong

So I just watched this TED talk about teaching kids maths using computers:
He makes some excellent points in it but IMHO his argument is deeply flawed.
So who rattled the bars of your cage?: It’s a fair point, I may know about teaching geography with computers but what do I know about teaching math? Well, in my past I spent time teaching maths to geologists undergrads with low academic achievement and I’ve also been on a team that built an online set of materials teaching maths to geologists (which has now disappeared from the web).
Maths by Hand: I agree with Conrad that hand calculation of maths problems is not good training for our school students, as he points out its a relatively small, uninteresting part of a bigger question. Getting students to define a real world problem in maths terms and then understand how the numerical answer is limited is more difficult and much more important.
So what’s wrong?: The techniques that he advocates – e.g. using real world examples or verifying the answers, are aspects of constructivism which is not necessarily about using computers and has been around for years. He goes on to advocate programming as necessarily giving students a good grounding in maths, again, this approach is nothing new, logo programming was put forward as a way to teach students math techniques in the 80s. As this review reveals, the technology has a lot of merit but testing results were far from conclusive. As an example, when discussing the use of logo programming to teach geometry it says:
“In summary, studies show that success [teaching geometry with logo] requires thoughtful sequences of Logo activities and much teacher intervention. That is, Logo’s potential to develop geometric ideas will be fulfilled if teachers help shape their students’ Logo experiences and help them to think about and make connections between Logo learning and other knowledge the student might have”
(emphasis mine) Doesn’t sound a lot like Conrad’s silver bullet does it?
History of Technology and Education: The phrase ‘computers as a silver bullet’ worries me because I researched the history of Technology in Education recently. What I found is that numerous times the technology of the day has been touted as offering a paradigm shift in improving education but every time the it is later found to have over hyped. Examples in the 20th century were radio, film, TV and computers (Penrose talk prezi slides 4 to 8) all of which failed to deliver because the students’ needs were lost in the application of a a silver bullet technology. To be fair Conrad does mention that computers can deliver poor teaching but he maintains that programming is the silver bullet for math teaching.
Conclusion: Students’s educational needs are complex to meet and require experienced teachers using whatever technology is appropriate to the task at hand be that computers or a big bit of paper with some felt tip pens. Teaching technologies touted as silver bullets have always been, and will always be, a dangerous distraction.