I’ve been slightly holding off on saying anything because I’m enjoying watching all of the comments coming in from the SearchResearch literati. Excellent job!
First, my answers:
1. What is the color of the roof at Beatrixstraat 5, Noordwijk, Netherlands?
The obvious approach here is just to use Google Maps and look at the roof. BUT, as you can see, this part of Noordwijk is obscured by a funny tiled pattern.
Oddly enough, you can still get Google Streetview for this part of the city, just not the aerial view.
So NOW what?
Here’s the twist: There are other satellite imaging systems beyond Google. This is a genuinely deep and interesting point…
don’t get too locked into a single information provider.
For anything. If you can’t find it one way, try another source.
In this case, there are multiple other ways to see the rooftop at 5 Beatrixstraat.
Here’s Yahoo’s map:
And here’s Bing’s map, with a nice clear view of the roof:
I can go on in this vein.
So clearly, Google received a “please obscure this aerial view” request from someone (or some entity) in this area. But also, just as clearly, it’s either out of date, or the requester isn’t especially savvy about this kind of thing.
If you’re interested, the Wikipedia article on Noodwijk has a wonderful link to GeoHack (the Wikimedia Tools) that lists all (currently) known maps and satellite imagery for the Noodwijk area.
|The Wikimedia Tools "GeoHack" that shows all imagery for a given location.|
This tool generalizes as well. If you have a lat/long it will tell you what imagery resources are available. Here, for instance, is the GeoHack listing all image resources for the GooglePlex.
To do this, I got the lat/long for the Googleplex, plugged it into GeoHack and found a long list of resources. (Including this fantastic image from Blue Marble.)
More generally, the GeoHack tool will list all of the known imagery sites for ANY location.
And even more generally… try to use multiple information resources to confirm or triangulate on your questions.
And so.. the roof color is… dark grey or black. (And since it’s a flat roof, it’s not visible from the street.)
2. Why is this part of Nordwijk obscured?
What’s up with the strange obscuration on Google Earth (and Google Maps)?
Most people found one of two possibilities. A good starting search is something like:
[Nordwijk obscured google maps]
This quickly leads you to the hypothesis that the reason for hiding is the presence of ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre).
ON THE OTHER HAND... people who searched on the address (Beatrixstraat 5) found that it might be the presence of the Defense Pipeline Organization (DPO) in the neighborhood. If you then follow up this question…
[Defense Pipeline Organisation Noordwijk ]
you get to the Gizmodo page about obscured Google Maps with the comment
"The blurring in Noordwijk marks the site of the former headquarters of the Defense Pipeline Organisation, overseeing the Dutch part of Central European Pipeline System (CEPS). However, the DPO headquarters have been relocated to the Hague years ago."
And there's a link to the Wikipedia page with a list of "Satellite map images with missing or unclear data".
But with an additional search, you can find that the DPO’s former address is at Hoogwakersbosstraat 12. This is odd, because it’s OUTSIDE of the obscured area. (It’s to the SE of the tiles.)
And likewise, ESTEC is at Keplerlaan 1, a few km south of the blurred area… that’s also an unlikely rationale.
You can check out ESTEC's website at: http://www.esa.int/About_Us/ESTEC Since they have video tours of their site, it seems unlikely that this would be the reason for the blurring.
So.. thus far, we don’t have a definitive reason! Yes, I could go to the next building at the Googleplex and ask, but that would be cheating! We’re trying to figure this out from the open web.
Bottomline: sometimes you just can’t come up with a definitive answer. Rats. Keep searching.
1. Don't become overly reliant on one source. Remember there are multiple providers for most data. Seek them out and see what THEY say. Stay flexible.
2. Triangulate. Look not just at the given reasons, but double check to see if what they say (e.g., "It's the DPO!") makes sense. In this case, the DPO both moved away a while ago AND their previous location wasn't in the obscured area anyway...
3. Think of other ways to approach the problem. As Ramón pointed out, you can also use Google Earth to go back in time. Also a good trick to remember if you want to see roughly when the obscuring started. (There might be an event around that time you can search for that might give a hint about who wanted what to be hidden.)
4. Take note of resources you find along the way. I hadn't know about the Wikipedia satellite image tools until I stumbled across it while doing this search. You never know when that kind of thing will come in very handy. Take a note! (And in so doing, become a illuminatus of Search!)