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March 4, 2008 3:52 PM

Forget Google, Microsoft taking on Galileo

Posted by Brier Dudley

In showing off its WorldWide Telecope at annual TechFest science fair today, Microsoft Research played a recording of Harvard astrophysicist Roy Gould saying the project will have "as profound an impact on the way we view the universe as Galileo's telescope."

The telescope is really cool and will make it easier and more fun for people around the world to explore the heavens from their desktops. It blends images gathered from telescopes around the world so you can explore the universe as if on a "magic carpet,'' Gould said.

You can be guided on your explorations by astronomers, or you can create and share your own tours, Gould explained on the recording, made at last week's TED conference (I've embedded his talk below).

When it becomes publicly available this spring, Microsoft's telescope will be a priceless learning tool. It's already working on a few lucky kids in Redmond, such as the children of Microsoft Research boss Rick Rashid.

The telescope may also be one of the best reasons yet to connect a PC to a big screen display, or maybe even a projector that you can point at the ceiling.

But didn't Galileo's telescope work help convince the world that the universe doesn't actually revolve around Earth?

I'd like to know what huge misunderstanding Microsoft's telescope will correct. Maybe Gould meant it will convince the world that the universe doesn't actually revolve around Google.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.