Google Earth is fast becoming a tool of choice for looking at big problems like genocide in Darfur. The latest innovative use of the 3-D mapping software? Tracking bird flu.
Researchers led by Daniel Janies, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Ohio State University, used Google Earth to create a color-coded "evolutionary tree" of the avian flu virus (H5N1) over a 10-year time period. They published their findings in the latest issue of Systemic Biology, a bimonthly journal. By showing the data in new ways, the mapping tool could help other researchers and public health officials develop better strategies to fight the virus. (If you've seen the latest episodes of the television show Heroes, it looks somewhat like Hiro Nakamura's map of the past. But in this case, the map's colors refer to different types of hosts for the H5N1 virus.)