A geek is an explorer at heart. It could be the search for mysterious knowledge. It could be an expedition through the Internet. To quote St. Augustine — the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. Our collective heads may be buried in books or the computer, but what better way to set your bowlines free than to travel. And what could be better than going to some of the geekiest landmarks around the world?
You probably won’t make it to all the places on your bucket list. Don’t worry, there’s a lifetime ahead. For today there’s Google Street View and the many ways it allows us to take virtual tours from the comfort of our armchairs. So, why not use Google Street View to combine the best of travel and geek-dom. Pack your bags then for these ten geeky virtual trips.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research is the latest virtual tour on Google Street View. The Large Hadron Collider is the centerpiece of CERN and one of our modern day engineering marvels. It has been in the news recently (experimental discovery of the Higgs Boson particle) and you can be sure it will remain a focus as we try to decipher the very genesis of our universe. The virtual tour takes you up and close with the Large Hadron Collider buried deep 175 meters below the surface near the Franco-Swiss border, and some of the experiments that go on in the background. Click the little numbers on the left to go up and down the levels.
What’s interesting is that Google says it is a mapping project that will continue as more experiments get featured on the virtual tour. Another interesting fact? The World Wide Web was also born here.
I had bit of a problem navigating the Street View imagery, but finally I managed to land at the gates of The Mansion and then onwards to the Bletchley Park Public Memorial. This was the epicenter of one of the remarkable achievements of World War II – the breaking of the Enigma machine and German cipher systems. Bletchley Park was the home of the Codebreakers, a secretive group of eminent individuals who worked day and night to crack Nazi codes and ciphers. The honor role of Codebreakers includes Alan Turing.
If you want to know more about the man, this is the place you can go to in Manchester and pay homage. You can see the Father of Modern Computing sitting on a bench holding an apple. There’s an interesting though tragic story behind it. As Wikipedia mentions, the plaque reads — “Father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker, victim of prejudice”.
An entire Street View collection devoted to NASA, and definitely one of the largest launched by Google. How wonderful is that if you are interested in space sciences (who isn’t). The panoramic Street View is a nice option because entry is surely restricted in many places unless you are wearing an astronaut’s suit. Flip through nearly 6000 virtual views of the Kennedy Space Center at Florida. You can go near the space shuttles and peek inside the Apollo 14 command module. But the best view definitely has to be on top of one of the launch pads.
I am guessing you would just want to come here and stand at a single spot. More precisely, you would want to stand at exactly – 0 degree longitude. That’s the prime meridian and it is located on a hill in Greenwich Park, near the River Thames. The Greenwich Mean Time may have morphed into the Universal Time today, but the observatory’s role in navigation and astronomy is deep. The site remains historically important with the museum, and to explain it to someone you could say that it’s all about time.
A surprising fact: if Stanford University had been a country, it would have tied with Japan at the 11th spot in total number of Olympic medals won. It also could be the place from where the maximum number of “geeks” have graduated. That is, if you believe the term which frankly is bit of a misnomer when applied here (look up the Olympic medal count). Silicon Valley wouldn’t be the same without it. So, if I ask you what do William Hewlett, David Packard, Sergey Brin, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Steve Ballmer, Marissa Mayer have in common, then I guess you know the answer. And that’s scratching the surface of Stanford alumni.
Why should you visit a nondescript street address in America or on Google Street View? If you take a closer look at the board outside, the reason becomes clearer. The garage of the house is listed in the United States National Register of Historic Places. It is not only about Hewlett Packard, but also the story of Silicon Valley. The history goes back to 1939 when Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard probably started everything with a toss of a coin. The garage today is known simply as HP Garage.
Another house and another iconic address. The house belonged to Paul and Clara Jobs. Better known as the couple who adopted Steve Jobs. This was also the birthplace of Apple. The first Apple I computers were built in that garage. Maybe, this house is not as historically significant as the one above (yet)…but if you happen to actually make it to these parts, do drive by and take a snap with – an iPhone.
We shouldn’t stop dreaming, but the probability of going to Antarctica could be remote both literally and figuratively. Watching penguins in their natural habitat is definitely on my bucket list. If you are interested in the exploits of Antarctic heroes like Robert Scott, Roald Amundsen, and Ernest Shackleton (arguably the most daring exploit of the three), then these sets of virtual tours on Google Street View should be a delight. Also on view is the South Pole Telescope at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
Well, I couldn’t close this without mentioning the one place (or possibly, one of many) that makes the above nine geeky trips possible. It’s nothing remarkable, but it’s always interesting to see what the inside of a Google data center looks like. Now you can, thanks to this guided tour by Google. This data center is located at Lenoir, North Carolina. Did you spot the Imperial Stormtrooper in the picture above? Could that be a “hidden message”?
Did these ten virtual trips make you feel like Alice in Wonderland? It’s not fantastical as these places really exist. Some are steeped in history, and some are looking at the future. But I hope, these ten virtual tours made you dream. That’s the first step. The next could be actually making your real-world travel plans. Mission accomplished.
Which are the places that should have made it to the list? I know, there are more than ten – so give us your recommendations of the travel spots where a geek will feel at home. More importantly, have you made those trips yet?