Flight from Gan to Hulhule in Google Earth

I took the flight operated by Maldivian on the way back to Male' from a little holiday to Fuvahmulah and Addu atolls last month and logged the flight path using the GPS on my phone. I finally had a moment today to pass the track log to Google Earth and look at it inside the program's great 3D visualization of the globe. And it looks atleast as cool as I had hoped!

The journey was logged from boarding to landing, from the Gan International Airport in Addu Atoll to Hulhule International Airport in Male' Atoll. To log the flight path, I used the free and very capable OruxMaps application for Android on my Google Nexus One phone (which was put in flight mode throughout). The track log was exported from OruxMaps as a GPX format file which can be read easily by Google Earth. The free application TourMaker helped convert the GPX data to KML code for a nice Google Earth "tour" of the path, which then I tweaked by hand a little bit to fit my liking.

Anyway, check out the video of the tour I made below. I am putting up for download, the raw GPX data (which contains latitude/longitude, timestamp, altitude, bearing and speed information) and the Google Earth KMZ files I made (one showing the flight path with altitude and the other a tour).

- Gan to Hulhule flight: GPX GPS log (Zip, 54KB)
- Gan to Hulhule flight: Google Earth tour (Kmz, 40KB)
- Gan to Hulhule flight: Google Earth track (Kmz, 37KB)

GOCE satellite: Maldives 100 meters below

Being a Maldivian, the thing that jumps out the most on the just recently released gravity model produced from the high resolution measurements of gravitational pull across the Earth, gathered by the European Space Agency's GOCE satellite, is that Maldives is located within a curious blob of colour - the only blob of that colour in the map. The colour blob, it turns out, signifies areas where the difference between the geoid (a hypothetical global mean sea level undisturbed by weather and currents) and the perfect ellipsoid shape that Earth approximates overall, sinks to its lowest of -100m!

Apart from that, this reaffirms that the gravitational pull experienced in the Maldives is lower than most places on Earth...

GOCE Model
Credits: GOCE High Level Processing Facility

Domain names in Thaana?

The Internationalized Domain Names for Applications (IDNA) standard which allows non-Latin alphabet to be used as domain names has been around for a few years and many of the top domain registries do support IDN registration now. ICANN, the corporation responsible for the management of the domain name system, also recently approved the creation of country-code top level domains in non-Latin alphabet. Hence, countries can now use top-level domains in their own language. Egypt, for example, now has adopted "‏مصر" as an option in addition to the usual Latin-based top level domain "eg".

The IDNA standard, along with the recent ICANN approval, means that there is now a framework allowing domain names to be written entirely written in Thaana. Before one gets too excited, there are a few issues to be aware of though. First, unfortunately the use of fili (diacritics) in the name seems to be not supported by IDNA (I've yet to read up to see whether this is an issue with the current implementations of IDN or something inherent in the IDNA standards). So, any domain name will be just a jumble of Thaana letters for now. I had to choose the address "ޖ.com" instead of "ޖާ.com" because the latter is unsupported. Second, for us to be able to have fully Thaana domain names, the government has to first adopt a suitable top-level domain (perhaps "ދވހރއޖ" or "ރއޖ"?), get ICANN approval and then wait for licensed Maldivian domain registrars (only Dhiraagu as far as I am aware) to start accepting registrations under the new top-level domain. This might seem quite pointless but given the increasing number of Thaana-based websites, I think we are soon going to see an explosion in the number of websites with domain names in Thaana.

Let's see how it all goes... :-)

Charles Anderson on dragonfly migration to the Maldives

Here's a TED Talk that should be of interest to all curious Maldivians. Charles Anderson, a British marine biologist working and living in the Maldives for 26 years, reports on how him noticing the sudden emergence of dragonflies in the Maldives at certain times of the year led him to discover the world's longest migratory journey taken by any insect. It is a truly riveting story of curiosity and scientific discovery.

I now have an answer to a question I used to wonder about when I was a kid: Where do the dragonflies came from?

Where did the Maldives people come from?

Anthropologist Clarence Maloney's monograph "People of the Maldive Islands" is a heavily cited and recommended source when it comes to the topic of early Maldivian history. Sadly, the book was originally published in 1980 and has long been out of print. I had tried getting hold of it several years ago without success and I've still yet to locate a copy. Anyway, I got reminded of the book last night after stumbling across an article from the same author that I had read back then. The article addresses a very important question that all Maldivians should ask: "Where Did the Maldives People Come From?". Have a read, it really is a fascinating few minutes of reading...

"What was not known previous to my research in the early 1970s, is that there is a strong underlying layer of Tamil population and culture. So far, most Divehis have not shown themselves interested in accepting this finding, as it does not suit their sense of their prestigious origins." - Clarence Maloney

Maldivian Science Society screening Carl Sagan's Cosmos

I got news today from Ajmal that the Maldives Science Society had finally received permission from Druyan-Sagan Associates to go ahead with its planned screening of Carl Sagan's award-winning science documentary series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. MSS has been, far as I know, planning this event for well over a month now and was to be their very first event before the lecture on astronomy event slotted in. I think it is admirable that they went about obtaining permission before screening it, especially since it's all too common a practice in Maldives to hold no regard whatsoever for intellectual property rights.

Cosmos is truly a brilliant series; a bit aged (first broadcast in 1980!) yet still very relevant and informative. It tells the story of the universe and us humans through a wide range of scientific topics. It's content is not at all technical and is extremely accessible to everyone, which, I think, makes it a very suitable choice to jump-start conversations in the science-cafe'ish type of informal event MSS is after. MSS is only screening episode 1 out of the 13 episodes that make up Cosmos. The event is scheduled for 8:30pm, 12th Feb at Bankai Coffee Shop (see the MSS announcement).

Carl Sagan was and still is perhaps one of the best science popularizers the world has seen. The famous "Pale Blue Dot" image of Earth snapped by NASA, at the suggestion of Dr. Sagan, using the Voyager 1 spacecraft when it was a mind-boggling 6.4 billion kilometers away from Earth is one of the most moving and humbling things I have ever seen. It really does give a sense of our place in the universe, as a planet, as a species and as a person. At that distance, so far away from Earth, the Earth is seen as nothing more than a mere insignificant speck of dust, occupying less than 0.12 pixels, set against the darkness of the rest of the universe. The fact that a man-made object made it that far, snapped a picture and sent it back to its home (taking on a journey almost 6 hours travelling at the speed of light!) makes me shudder with excitement. Even more exciting is the fact that the Voyager 1 spacecraft is still operating, currently located around twice the distance Pluto is from the Sun, and ready to exit our solar system into the interstellar space! I can't imagine a more fitting choice of words than Sagan's to describe the picture...

Geo-mapped visualization of political party member distribution in Male'

Here is a quick mashup I cooked up today, displaying the geographic distribution of political party membership on the map of Male' on Google Maps. To view the distribution for a party, open the link for the visualization, select the name of the political party from the drop-down menu at the top right. The addresses of members of that party will then be flagged with a little red marker. You will be able to zoom in-out, pan and do all those other things typically seen in Google Maps. Click a red marker to see more details about that address, like the number of people belonging to the selected party that are registered under that address.

The party membership information used for this is a snapshot of the data (taken 7 February 2009) published on the Members of Political Parties web portal by the Elections Commission. There were a total of 4,447 people belonging to 2,711 addresses in Male' listed in the Elections Commission data. Each party had membership numbers (given in brackets) in Male' as follows: Adhaalathu Party (175), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (261), Dhivehi Rahjeyn Fageerukan Nahthaalumah Masahkaikuraa Party (650), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (243), Gaumee Ih'thihaadh (592), Islamic Democratic Party (89), Jumhooree Party (246), Maldivian Democratic Party (507), Maldivian National Congress (386), Maldivian Social Democratic Party (25), Peoples Party (476), Peoples' Alliance (422) and Social Liberal Party (375). The maximum number of persons listed on a single address for a party was 12 and the average was 1 person per address (per party).

The geo-location information for the addresses was derived from the excellent services at Male-map.com and EAtolls.com. A total of 1,928 addresses were successfully mapped using these services, leaving a difference of 783 addresses which were then discarded. It is worth noting that of these addresses left out, 478 were just Dhaftharu numbers.

Please note that I neither claim nor guarantee the correctness or the completeness of any of the information used. That said, I did my best to ensure data integrity throughout the whole process of generating the visualizations.

- Click here to view the visualization

Adhaalathu Party
Snapshot: Adhaalathu Party

Dhivehi Qaumee Party
Snapshot: Dhivehi Qaumee Party

Dhivehi Rahjeyn Fageerukan Nahthaalumah Masahkaikuraa Party
Snapshot: Dhivehi Rahjeyn Fageerukan
Nahthaalumah Masahkaikuraa Party

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party
Snapshot: Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party

Gaumee Ih'thihaadh
Snapshot: Gaumee Ih'thihaadh

Islamic Democratic Party
Snapshot: Islamic Democratic Party

Jumhooree Party
Snapshot: Jumhooree Party

Maldivian Democratic Party
Snapshot: Maldivian Democratic Party

Maldivian National Congress
Snapshot: Maldivian National Congress

Maldivian Social Democratic Party
Snapshot: Maldivian Social Democratic Party

Peoples' Alliance
Snapshot: Peoples' Alliance

Peoples Party
Snapshot: Peoples Party

Social Liberal Party
Snapshot: Social Liberal Party