From Buildings to Cities: Techniques for the Multi-Scale Analysis of Urban Form and Function

Duncan Smith here at CASA and Andrew Crooks, an assistant professor in the Department of Computational Social Science, at George Mason University have just finished a new working paper entitled ” From Buildings to Cities: Techniques for the Multi-Scale Analysis of Urban Form and Function .” Below is the abstract : The built environment is a significant factor in many urban processes, yet direct measures of built form are seldom used in geographical studies. Representation and analysis of urban form and function could provide new insights and improve the evidence base for research. So far progress has been slow due to limited data availability, computational demands, and a lack of methods to integrate built environment data with aggregate geographical analysis.

An excellent flight simulator for Google Earth

Back in 2006, Frank showed you how you could sort of use Google Earth as a flight simulator. It was crude, but effective. In late 2007, Google put a more realistic flight simulator into Google Earth, but kept it hidden as a secret mode.

More recently, this February we saw a demo of GEVision, which integrates Microsoft Flight Sim technology but uses Google Earth for the terrain and imagery.

Now we have our first look at Xavier Tassin’s Google Earth Flight Simulator, which might be the best one yet!


It uses the Google Earth Plug-in, and you can try it for yourself at If you need help with the controls, here are some instructions.

A few other notes about the project, from Xavier:

  • I have been playing around with Flight Sims since MS Flight Simulator 1.0 (I was 6 at that time :)
  • 6 years ago, I had a first try at making an Online Flight Simulator ( as a commercial for an Australian acquaintance of mine who is selling the Evektor Sportstar down under. This Sim was build with Shockwave and got more success than just being a commercial. Sadly, technical limitations and lack of time stopped my progress into making something better.
  • 6 month ago I tried “Ships” from PlanetAction, and realized that the GE plug-in would be a great platform for making my dream come true: make a worldwide scenery Flight Simulator.
  • The biggest challenge into making GE Flight Simulator was to work around the lack of a 3D physics engine in Javascript: it took me some time but I finally made my own. Also, as Google Earth is not really meant to be a game platform, it is difficult (and requires a lot of maths!) to animate complex objects. But all in all I was really surprised by the performances I could get out of the plug-in.
  • For the beta version, I tried to integrate as many of the features I though to be important to make it fun. It is not perfect yet but it gives a good idea of what can be achieve with a bit of Javascript and the GE plug-in. I am especially excited about the multi-player mode and I would like to get some feedback from users on that.
  • For the Future, I am planning to add more planes, improve the flight models, add an airport database and some aeronautical charting, improve the multi-player feature. I also would like (if enough interest is shown) to open an aircraft marketplace to everyone.

All in all, it’s a great flight sim. Try it for yourself, and tell us your thoughts in the comments below.