April 12, 2012, 1:25 PM — Travel apps have been among the most popular on smartphones since the beginning, which only makes sense.
There's nothing better than a well-designed smartphone app to reduce the weight of the Batman utility belt that pulls down your pants by holding up a herd of separate devices to provide functions we've forgotten or prefer not to do the old-fashioned way.
Without Internet connections to maps and GPS directions, many geeks would get lost in physical space; without to-do lists, calendars and contact info many disappear into work Limbo every time they walked away from the laptops on their desks.
Without text, chat, games social networking and news the rest would lose touch with the clans, pods and tribes that make up their social circles and eventually die of boredom hours-long airport layovers, long-delayed meetings or red lights that seem to go on forever.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's idea of what information a traveler needs may be a little different than most road warriors.
The maps it distributes tend not to include a lot of land area, for example.
And when it put out its first smartphone app, the ad hoc alerts and points of interest it included had nothing to do with finding fast food, getting gas or filling up the fuel tank.
NOAA's first smartphone app, Whale Alert, keeps track of right whales swimming off the coast of Massachusetts, where most right-whale strikes occur.
Right whales are a species of huge, unattractive baleen whale that range up and down the U.S. Atlantic coast, moving south to the coast of Georgia and Florida to calve, but return in summer to the rich off the coast of New England to fatten themselves up and play the whale version of Frogger amid the busy shipping lanes.
Right whale, wrong sense of whether ship or whale should be intimidated by impending collisions
Right whales are either oblivious to or unable to care about the approach of giant ships as they swim slowly just far enough below the surface to be invisible, but not deep enough to stay out of danger.
There are only about 400 right whales still living in the Atlantic, which makes them the most endangered whale on earth.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration