Fridaygram: Loon balloons, black holes, browser games

JUN 21, 2013
Author Photo
By Scott Knaster, Google Developers Blog Editor

This week we announced Project Loon, a cool and kind of crazy project that launches Internet-connected balloons and shares their connection with people below on Earth. These are not your typical birthday balloons: they’re 15 meters wide, and they rise to an altitude of 20 km, where winds carry them around the world. Software computes where the balloons should go to provide the best network coverage, and the balloons are then steered and moved as necessary.

Sailing along in the stratosphere is an essential aspect of Project Loon. The stratosphere is far above general air traffic and weather, so Loon balloons don’t have to worry about that. On the other hand, the environment is not friendly, with thin atmosphere and -50°C temperatures. But because the balloons are designed for these conditions, they can survive happily.

Moving further away from Earth, all the way to deep space, astronomers have found 26 new black holes right here in the neighborhood, in the Andromeda galaxy next door. Scientists using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory detected the black holes by observing telltale bursts of X-rays as the black holes ingested the outer atmosphere of ordinary stars. And this is just the start: there are likely thousands more black holes in Andromeda. So if Internet balloons ever make to Andromeda, we now know some places to avoid.

Finally, if you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, you can spend time with a trio of nifty Chrome Experiment games released over the past couple of weeks: Roll It is a classic boardwalk game with the modern twist of using your mobile device as a controller, Racer builds a race track and soundtrack from several mobile devices put together, and Cube Slam lets you play an old-school arcade game over the Internet with friends (and if you have no friends, you can play against a virtual bear). Have fun!

From distant galaxies to ursine videogame opponents, Fridaygram rolls wide and deep. We cover fun stuff that isn’t always directly related to writing code, just in case you need an end-of-week break. If you’re having too much fun with our trio of games and you want to learn something instead, you can read about how we built each of them: Roll It, Racer, Cube Slam.