Editor's Note: Explorers
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the fictional Indiana Jones faced death, dismemberment, and a pit of snakes to uncover the grid of the lost Egyptian city of Tanis. Space archeologist Sarah Parcak discovered the real grid of the city using satellite imagery and a computer. Parcak, who won the $1 million TED prize in 2016, uses sensing tools that process satellite images using near-infrared and short-wave radiation, revealing details that are otherwise invisible.
For example, vegetation growing on top of buried buildings is less healthy, resulting in different pigmentation. "These differences in vigor are seldom apparent in visible light… To humans, plants tend to look evenly green. But certain satellites record the infrared wavelengths reflected by the plant's chlorophyll," writes Abigail Tucker in a profile of Parcak in Smithsonian magazine. Using software, Parcak then differentiates the healthy plants from the stunted ones. The result is an image revealing a bright, straight line.
Parcak and her team dug along such a line in Scotland's Shetland Islands. They found a Viking wall, bowls, and beads—all indicators of a previously unknown settlement. In Egypt, Parcak has uncovered thousands of sites, including settlements, tombs, and pyramids.
But Parcak is quick to point out that the technique is not magic and it's not easy. "Any discovery in remote sensing rests on hundreds of hours of deep, deep study. Before looking at satellite imagery of a cemetery or a pyramid field, you have to already understand why something should be there," Parcak told Tucker. Ancient maps, along with historical accounts, weather and landscape data, and architectural records all provide direction for using new technology effectively.
Attendees at Global Security Exchange (GSX) in Las Vegas this month will discover a similar approach. On the exhibit hall floor, hundreds of companies will launch products, preview innovations, and deliver solutions—mixing tried-and-true technologies with the truly groundbreaking. As they explore the event's offerings, including more than 500 exhibitors, Impact Learning Theaters, live demos, and the Innovative Product Awards, attendees will learn how to apply the best in new and emerging technologies.
For those seeking the latest in education, GSX has a full curriculum of quality content across nearly two dozen tracks. Designed for interactive and collaborative learning, these sessions provide valuable, actionable takeaways to help shape security strategy—today and in the future.
Though Parcak is the innovator behind a groundbreaking approach, she knows that she can't do it alone. In partnership with National Geographic she has launched a community of partners called GlobalXplorers to examine images and discover the next big find. Attendees at GSX will find a community of partners as well. They will join thousands of security Xplorers from more than 100 countries, all seeking knowledge and discovery.