<p></p> <p>Recently, Google officially added biking directions to Google Maps. The new feature allows bicyclists to find the way to their destinations in the same way that drivers, walkers and those taking public transit can.</p> <p>In an example of the practical value that has catapulted Google Maps to success, bikers can select the bike trails and lanes that avoid busy street intersections as well as quadriceps-burning hills.</p> <p>Over the years, Google Maps has inspired tons of similarly helpful, though unofficial "mashups." Mashups combine information from another source with Google Maps' versatile mapping technology.</p> <p>These mashups cranked out by Google Maps fans span the practical, the nerdy and even the apocalyptic.</p> <p>Here are 15 Google Maps mashups that stand out from the crowd for their practical usefulness, entertaining battiness or a combination of both.</p> <p></p>

<strong>Street biking</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Though not technically a mashup because it came right from Google, the new biking directions feature on Google Maps took its cues from many bike trail mashups out there.</p> <p>Here is a course from TechNewsDaily's Manhattan offices to the Bronx – an hour-long ride through the city that's not for the faint of heart – as plotted on Google's bona fide version.</p> <p>Image Credit: Google Maps</p> <p></p>

<strong>Nuke it</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>For those with a morbid curiosity of how much damage a nuclear blast might cause, there is the Ground Zero mashup from <a href="">CarlosLabs</a>. The mashup lets you select a place and a nuclear weapon to destroy it with.</p> <p>After pressing the "Nuke It!" button, a circle of destruction radiates outward from the detonation site. In the thermal view, shown above, the dark, innermost circle represents the area of total fiery destruction and death.</p> <p>By the time one reaches the outermost yellow ring, people would just have first-degree burns akin to a sunburn – that is, if the farther-reaching pressure wave did not level their dwelling. The Ground Zero sequel also includes pressure waves and fallout based on user-selected prevailing wind directions.</p> <p>In both versions, users can select from a host of bombs and warheads deployed over the years, including Little Boy and Fat Man, the weapons that devastated Japan at the close of World War II.</p> <p>Other nukes include the B61, the mainstay of the U.S. thermonuclear arsenal during the Cold War (shown taking out downtown Manhattan and more above), as well as the Soviet Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear explosion ever.</p> <p>Image Credit: Carlos Labs/Google Maps</p> <p></p>

<strong>Where and when true disaster strikes</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>All Cold War craziness aside, real disasters happen all too often, and Google Maps has many mashups to legitimately help and keep people informed of them.</p> <p>Thinking of that Caribbean vacation but want to avoid the perils of a hurricane? <a href="">StormAdvisory</a> provides a Hurricane Tracking mashup that shows the paths of past hurricanes and where the latest may be headed.</p> <p>As a service for monitoring major seismic events worldwide, the United States Geological Service (USGS) offers its Real-time Earthquakes mashup. A recent visit to the <a href=";pid=mpl&amp;moduleurl=">Web site</a> showed the powerful aftershocks rattling Chile more than a month after a big quake struck the South American nation.</p> <p>Image Credit: StormAdvisory/Google Maps</p> <p></p>

<strong>Through the Earth</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>So you've plugged in a point of origin and a destination on Google Maps and are trying to decide whether to drive, walk, bike or take the bus. So far, so good.</p> <p>But what if you started digging a hole right beneath your feet – where might you end up?</p> <p>The "China" answer that little kids in North America typically get is wrong, as <a href="">this mashup</a> reveals: From the continental United States, if you could shovel straight through the planet, you'd end up at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.</p> <p>Other so-called antipodes – places diametrically opposed to each other – are surprising: From the northernmost reaches of Alaska, an intrepid (and invincible) burrower would just make it ashore in somewhere in the south of Africa, not too far from Antarctica.</p> <p>Image Credit: Maps</p> <p></p>

<strong>. . . and around the Earth</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>You could also try walking in a straight line. The Tall Eye mashup lets you do just that. (The world being a sphere, however, a straight line ends up turning into a sinuous sine wave, as shown by this jaunt from the east coast to the west coast of the U.S.)</p> <p>Two versions, "<a href="">Choose where to pass</a>" and "<a href="">Choose your direction</a>," let you set a line as the crow flies either between two points – which then wraps all the way around the planet – or just setting off in a selected direction from a point on the map.</p> <p>The mashup makers are looking to integrate Wikipedia and Flickr data to the map so hypothetical travelers could "see" what they would encounter on their globetrotting voyage.</p> <p>Image Credit: Tall Eye/Google Maps</p> <p></p>

<strong>See, sleep and grub</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Many Google Maps mashups are geared towards sightseers, and let you know what to see, where to stay and what to eat.</p> <p>In a sign of the power of Google Maps mashups, the government of New York City has embraced them on its <a href=""></a> Web site. In a guest entry on Google's official blog last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this Big Apple navigation guide for looking up entertainment, restaurants and hotels.</p> <p>Some cool examples out there include the <a href="">Wines and Times mashup</a> lets people plan their own winery tours throughout the U.S., with over 3,200 vineyards and wineries clickable on <a href="">the map</a>.</p> <p>Another neat one is <a href="">Gruvr</a>, a mashup lets music fans type in a band name and see where on the map upcoming shows will be.</p> <p><a href="">Perfect Escapes</a> lets you find hotels worldwide by clicking on a Google Map paired with hotel locations and Web pages.</p> <p>As for the food, oodles of other custom-built Google Maps mashups list restaurants for many cities and neighborhoods to get the word out on where the good eats can be found. Now on TechNewsDaily's staff's <a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;oe=UTF8&amp;msa=0&amp;msid=109480049266799816042.00047e59bec3ee1ee769c">list of lunch items</a> to check out: the grasshopper tacos and goat brain found on Bizarre Food in New York City.</p> <p>Image Credit: Google Maps</p> <p></p>

<strong>Avoiding the tourist traps</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>The <a href="">Geography of Seinfeld</a> mashup that pinpoints the location and addresses mentioned in the seminal 90s television show.</p> <p>And for those taking a bit more of an oddball approach to sightseeing, the <a href="">UFO Maps mashup</a> links dozens of sightings reports in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to where the lights in the sky appeared.</p> <p>Another item well under the radar of most tourists is meteor craters worldwide, where rocks from space have blasted out great gouges in the Earth's surface. <a href=""></a> provides 50 of them on its Google Maps mashup.</p> <p>Finally, for those wanderers on a budget – or who simply cannot resist Taco Bell's latest burrito creation – there is a <a href="">fast food mashup</a>. Shown above is the impressive concentration of chain burger joints such as McDonald's and Burger King and other fast food familiars in the city of Los Angeles.</p> <p>Image Credit: Maps</p> <p></p>

<strong>When will it be sunny?</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Knowing the time and season, coupled with a look out a window, is usually enough to fathom whether it's daytime or not and when the sun will be setting.</p> <p>But actually seeing where the sun's rays are falling on the Earth, courtesy of the <a href="">DaylightMap mashup</a>, is a handy way of directly visualizing this diurnal cycle, and not a bad way to get a sense of the days and nights in foreign places on the planet.</p> <p>Near the spring and autumn equinoxes – the two times per year that the Earth is not tilted on its axis in relation to the sun, and when days and nights are both 12 hours exactly – the line dividing day and night is straight, rather than wavy.</p> <p>Image Credit: DaylightMap/Google Maps</p> <p></p>

<strong>Darkest (daytime) hour</strong>

<p></p> <p></p> <p>Another mashup pegged to sunlight is less practical, however, unless you're really worried about losing out on tanning time at the beach due to a solar eclipse.</p> <p>These infrequent events occur when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun and the moon casts a path of shadow upon our planet. In a total eclipse, the sun is blocked out almost perfectly by the moon over a narrow geographic stretch, whereas in annular eclipses, a chuck of the sun goes dark as the moon orbits across its line of sight.</p> <p>The Solar Eclipses Interactive Google Maps <a href="">mashup</a> traces all the paths taken by total solar eclipses that have happened since 1961 all the way out to 2039. You can see where annular eclipses will take place as well.</p> <p>The United States isn't due for a total solar eclipse until 2017 (the one shown here) that will cut a swath from the Pacific Northwest down through the southeastern portion of the country. Clicking on the path and outside of it provides data about the time and extent of obscuration as seen by observers – or unlucky sunbathers – on the ground.</p> <p>Image Credit: Solar Eclipses Interactive Google Maps/Google Maps</p> <p> </p> <p> </p>

Cool Google Maps Mashups, From the Practical to the Bizarre