Today we’re talking about a project that uses photos of what’s going on around us – namely, the images from a very well known navigation system – to slow the spread of invasive species.

They call it “Google Weed View,” but no, it doesn’t mean that.

A team out of the University of California-Davis has been working on ways to stop the spread of johnsongrass, one of the top 10 invasive weeds in the world.

It grows sometimes up to 7 feet tall, which means it’s good at crowding out plants that are actually supposed to be in a particular spot.

Fortunately the team realized they could track the spread of this plant without having to send a single person out for surveys.

They opened up Google Street View, which not only has images of virtually every street and intersection in the US, it has images of what’s growing on the sides of those streets.

And they have multiple images taken at different points in time from the same locations.

So the researchers took a set of photos in the western US and fed them into an algorithm which they had taught all about johnsongrass.

After 300,000 images taken over 84,000 miles of road, they had pinpointed 2,000 places where johnsongrass was growing.

Not only was it fast and accurate, spending $2,000 on images and AI programming was a lot cheaper than the $40,000 or so it would have cost to send people out to cover all that ground in person.

The team is already talking about doing a survey of the entire country this way, so johnsongrass, if I were you, I’d think twice about spreading any further.

Happy National Horse Day.

Back in 1899 some people were still using horses and carriages to get around, while other people were using the newfangled automobiles.

Inventor Uriah Smith of Battle Creek, Michigan thought he’d found a way to keep horses from freaking out around cars: the Horsey Horseless!

By attaching a wooden horse head to the front of a car, Smith said, “The live horse would be thinking of another horse, and before he could discover his error and see that he had been fooled, the strange carriage would be passed.”

Google Weed View? Professor Trains Computer to Spot Invasive Weed (UC-Davis)

The 50 Worst Cars of All Time (TIME via 

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Photo by MUExtension417 via Flickr/Creative Commons