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Labs from space

Over at Google Sightseeing, where the sights include the world's largest mud-brick building, an overturned truck, and the Mount Everest base camp, fans have posted satellite photos of many of the world's particle physics labs.

Here you'll find the second longest-building on the planet, at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center; the giant figure 8 that is the Fermilab Tevatron; and a number of others, including Argonne, Brookhaven, and CERN, the European particle physics lab on the Swiss-French border.

The images come courtesy of Google Earth, which combines satellite imagery with maps and photos. When viewed from above, CERN, it turns out, is problematic. Although it's home to the next big thing in particle physics, the Large Hadron Collider, and although the LHC is a giant circle 27 miles around, it's buried and invisible to the satellite eye. So commenters have helpfully provided maps and diagrams that can be superimposed to show what is what.

You may recall that some of the images from Google Earth's sibling, Google Maps Street View, which are produced by vans driving down streets and taking a continual series of 360-degree photos, have been controversial. One woman objected to a photo showing her cat sitting in her window, feeling it was an invasion of privacy. Other shots include a homeless man who had died about a month before his photo was posted and a guy climbing over a locked gate; was he breaking in, or had he simply lost his key? But Google images have also been a tool for scientific discovery. Check out Thursday's post of a meteor crater discovered by Arthur Hickman, a geologist with the Geological Survey of Western Australia, while scanning Google Earth in search of iron ore deposits. Not to mention these stunning images of what appear to be migrating gray whales. However, a giant squid posting was immediately shot down by commenters who said nope, it's a boat.

Google Earth's limitations are apparent in this image that, to the submitter at least, looked like a couple sunbathing in the nude. Says the moderator:

A man and a woman, right? Which one’s which though? And the most important question of all… are they really naked?