Visual of An MRI of planet Earth
Visual Essay

An MRI of planet Earth

Imagine if our planet, our beautiful home, were a patient lying in a hospital bed. What if it were up to us to diagnose its ailment?

Instead of an MRI scan ordered by a doctor, it's a designer who steps up to the plate. Refik Anadol, a Turkish-American new media artist and designer collaborated with Google Arts & Culture to perform an MRI for planet Earth.

MRI of the Earth aims to make the climate change crisis more relatable and visually striking to spark public reactions and attention. Just like a patient needing care, Earth's symptoms of disease need to be diagnosed with care. When would intervention be necessary if the planet were a human patient? What actions would we take?

Just like a patient needing care, Earth's symptoms of disease need to be diagnosed with care.

This is where AI comes into play. The first step, called DATA, required collecting data retrieved from a scan of the planet. With assistance from NASA, EU Copernicus, and the US Department of Energy, Anadol gathered crucial information detailing human impacts on the planet over the past half-century, focusing on temperature fluctuations, CO2 levels, sea level rise, and global population trends.

Once armed with data, it's time to REMEMBER. Over 200 million images were collected, serving as our collective memories of Earth's natural wonders. This helps us to remember our natural landscapes as we know and love them right now. These images were transformed into a 3D UMAP, a type of graph that can simplify complex data, allowing the viewer to explore the planet's landscapes, accompanied by beautiful soundscapes.

Do we strive to restore our present natural environment to its former glory, or do we embrace an artificial future?

As we look at these stunning images, we can't help ourselves but DREAM about the future. The images were interpreted by a machine learning GAN (generative adversarial network) to envision potential future changes in our landscapes. It challenges us to think about what the future holds for our planet and what we can do to change it. It's a pivotal moment, where we're faced with a choice: Do we strive to restore our present natural environment to its former glory, or do we embrace an artificial future?

Image credits: Refik Anadol / Google Arts & Culture
Experience the MRI of planet Earth here.