Titan in Infrared

NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Nantes/University of Arizona

Because of its thick and opaque atmosphere, Titan had to be mapped in radar and infrared during a series of close flybys by the Cassini spacecraft. One artifact of this process: the resolution, lighting and atmospheric conditions were not consistent, so mosaic images and maps of Titan’s surface showed visible seams. That’s been corrected in these infrared images of Titan’s surface, released last week. The false-colour images remap infrared wavelengths to the visible spectrum, using a band-ratio technique that minimizes seams. “With the seams now gone, this new collection of images is by far the best representation of how the globe of Titan might appear to the casual observer if it weren’t for the moon’s hazy atmosphere, and it likely will not be superseded for some time to come.”

Previously: Mapping Titan with VIMS.

An Osprey Named Julie

It began with an osprey named Julie, who in 2015 migrated from the Detroit River in Michigan all the way to Maracaibo, Venezuela, stopping at wetlands and wildlife refuges along the way. Julie wore a GPS tracker. John Nelson took Julie’s data and created a series of maps of her journey that represent a brilliant use of negative space: aerial and satellite imagery is shown only along the paths she took; everything else is blanked out. It’s a linear map of a bird’s entire world. The Story Map goes into more detail; the accompanying text is frankly beautifully written. John explains how he made the maps here.

A Mobile Mapping Roundup

Rerouting. Lifehacker talks about how to prevent mapping apps from rerouting you on the fly, and lists some options. [R. E. Sieber]

Traffic. Traffic congestion is a key feature of mobile mapping, and predicting it involves looking at historical data. CityLab reports on a recent study suggests that time-of-day electricity usage patterns can be used to predict traffic congestion patterns. A household that starts using power earlier in the morning gets up earlier and presumably will go to work earlier.) It’s another variable that can be put to use in traffic modelling.

Trail difficulty. OpenStreetMap doesn’t differentiate between “walk-in-the-park” trails and mountaineering routes, and that may have had something to do with hikers needing to be rescued from the side of a British Columbia mountain recently. The hikers apparently used OSM on a mobile phone app, and in OSM trail difficulty is an optional tag. The wisdom of using OSM in safety-critical environments notwithstanding, this is something that OSM editors need to get on. [Ian Dees]

Name a Country, Any Country

Last week, Jimmy Kimmel Live had a skit where they asked passersby to name a country, any country, on a map of the world. The results were predictable—doofs who couldn’t name any country at all, or who thought Africa was a country—and so has been the general reaction. Americans not knowing their geography is a cliché that’s decades old at least. Thing is, the half-dozen or so people being shown aren’t a representative sample: the aim here isn’t a scientific survey, it’s good television. And laughing at idiots counts as good TV in America. In that vein, the kid going all Yakko’s World at the end is an absolutely necessary punchline. [Cartophilia]

Winnie-the-Pooh Map Sells for £430,000 at Auction

Sotheby’s

E. H. Shepard’s original illustrated map of Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood has sold at auction for £430,000, about three times the amount it was expected to fetch: BBC NewsThe Guardian. It’s the highest amount any book illustration has ever sold for at auction; this particular map has been auctioned twice before, most recently in 1970, when it sold for £1,700.

Previously: Original Winnie-the-Pooh Map Being Auctioned Next Month.

How to Lie with Maps, Third Edition

Mark Monmonier’s How to Lie with Maps has always been about how to read maps, not how to make them. The map-using public is inclined not only to believe what’s on the map, but to trust it: why would so many people willingly drive their cars into ditches, if they didn’t trust their cars’ navigation systems more than their own eyes? Monmonier prescribes “a healthy skepticism” about maps, and this book is a tool to that end: “I want to make readers aware that maps, like speeches and paintings, are authored collections of information and are also subject to distortions arising from ignorance, greed, ideological blindness, or malice.”1 The book is essentially a cheat sheet, showing all the ways that maps can be made to shade, or at the very least, select the truth. At the minimum, mapmakers must decide what to include or exclude, and those decisions may not necessarily be honest or fair.

The first edition of How to Lie with Maps came out in 1991, the second in 1996. (See my review of the second edition here.) Since then the cartographic landscape is much changed: the map a person may use most frequently may come via their phone rather than paper. But the advice found in this book is still valid. What goes for a paper map is still relevant to the map you call up on your iPhone. And so now, 22 years later, we have a third edition of How to Lie with Maps, which came out from the University of Chicago Press last April. For the most part it’s familiar territory. Other than a nip and tuck here and there and a few new chapters at the end, it’s largely the same book it was in 1996. How does it measure up in the present moment?

Mostly well, with some caveats. The core message of How to Lie with Maps will not become obsolete until maps do, which is to say never; but the examples and emphases are starting to become a bit dated. The reader might have to do a little more work in some cases to see the applicability of a chapter—to translate it into familiar terms—but that effort will be rewarded. For example, I think that everyone working with web-based maps should become quite familiar with chapter 3, “Map Generalization,” for its insights on what to include and exclude at different scales. The chapter on data maps, discussing the use of choropleths, cartograms and other data visualizations, is absolutely essential: so many of the maps being circulated as memes are data maps of some kind, and anything that improves the critical eye with regard to such maps is going to help.

But that chapter on data maps does get a bit lost in the weeds, especially for the general reader. And I’d have liked to have seen something on heat maps akin to this xkcd cartoon:

Bad internet maps have been described as a “social media plague”: they’re popular, they’re insidious, and they’re often not even wrong. But they’re not specifically dealt with in How to Lie with Maps, and that’s a blind spot: in the era of fake news, hoaxes and state-sponsored mendacity, maps that go viral are the ones most in need of a vaccination campaign.

Instead, the new chapters focus on image maps (satellite and aerial imagery), prohibitive cartography (which seems out of place here, and seems more a summary of Monmonier’s other work) and “fast maps,” which is more about web-based mapping than the stuff that gets shared on social media. The new chapters are noticeably more concise than the old. The net effect is a book that is still important, still relevant and still badly needed, but whose updates don’t quite bring it up to the present.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Amazon | iBooks

Maps of London and Beyond

Adam Dant’s Maps of London and Beyond (Batsford, 7 June) is a collection of the artist’s “beautiful, witty and subversive” maps. From the publisher: “Traversed by a plethora of colourful characters including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Mary Wollstonecraft and Barbara Windsor, Adam Dant’s maps extend from the shipwrecks on the bed of the Thames to the stars in the sky over Soho. Along the way, he captures all the rich traditions in the capital, from brawls and buried treasure to gin and gentlemen’s clubs.”

Dant’s maps have been appearing on the Spitalfields Life blog for several years: start with this post and follow the links. They’re also the subject of at least two exhibitions in London right now: one at The Map House, which runs until the 14th; and one at Town House, which runs until the 22nd.

A second book by Dant, Living Maps: An Atlas of Cities Personified, comes out in October from Chronicle. [Mapping London]

Polar Flow User Data Can Be Used to Identify Military and Intelligence Personnel

Remember how in January the mobile fitness app Strava was found to reveal the training routes and user data of military and security personnel? It wasn’t just Strava. A joint investigation by Bellingcat and De Correspondent found that the data for users of the Polar Flow app is even more exposed: even the names and home addresses of military and intelligence personnel working at embassies, bases, intelligence agencies and other sensitive locations could be figured out from the user data. De Correspondent shows how.

Polar, the Finnish company behind the app and service, announced that they were suspending the Explore feature that made the data accessible. They also note, and it’s worth remembering, that Polar data is private by default. If you’re military or intelligence and using a fitness app, what the hell are you doing exposing your location data—especially if you’re in a sensitive location?

The report also contains one hell of a buried lede. They tested other apps, namely Strava, Endomondo and Runkeeper, and, well: “Though it’s harder to identify people and find their home addresses than it is through Polar, we were ultimately able to do so using these apps. In contrast to Polar’s app, there is no indication that people whose profiles are set to private can also be identified in these apps. We informed them of our findings last week.” In other words, this is an industry-wide problem, not just a problem with one or two services. [The Verge]

The Consolation of Maps

The Consolation of Maps (riverrun, June), the first novel from Irish writer Thomas Bourke, is set in the world of map exhibitions and map dealers.  From the publisher’s book description: “Kenji Tanabe finds maps easier to read than people. At the elite Tokyo gallery where he works, he sells antique maps by selling the stories that he sees within their traces: their contribution to progress, their dramatic illustrations, their exquisite compasses. But no compass or cartography can guide him through the events that will follow the sudden and unexpected offer of a job in America.” The description and reviews (see GeoLounge and the Irish Times) portray this as more a literary novel than a mystery or thriller; I’ll have to check it out for myself. It’s only published in the U.K. but is available elsewhere through third-party dealers; Amazon UK will likely deliver regardless of the address. Kindle and iBooks versions will be geographically restricted, of course.

50 States, One Continuous View

This is a map of the United States without insets. Published in 1975 by the U.S. Geological Survey, it shows Alaska, Hawaii and the lower 48 states in the same, continuous view—though Hawaii’s Leeward Islands are cut off (as are the various territories). Can’t have everything, I guess. It’s available from the USGS as a free downloadable PDF; the paper version costs $9. [MapPorn]

Previously: Alaska’s Cartographic Revenge.

An Exhibition of Maps Smuggled Out of Napoleonic France

Gentleman, Soldier, Scholar and Spy: The Napoleonic-Era Maps of Robert Clifford, an exhibition running at the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton, Ontario through 1 September 2018, showcases an unusual collection of maps held by the McMaster University Library: a cache of maps smuggled out of France in the early 1800s by British spy and cartographer Robert Clifford.

Clifford’s maps reveal a world on the cusp of an evolutionary shift in cartography brought about by the Napoleonic wars. Hand-coloured, manuscript maps depicting the precise and exacting geometry of Vauban-designed fortified cities give way to maps printed from engraved plates, incorporating new techniques and symbology to satisfy the shifting focus onto the surrounding landscape of unordered nature. Maps used primarily for the siege of cities in previous generations are re-placed by maps of vast expanses of territory for a new style of open warfare.

How the maps ended up at McMaster is a story in itself; see the Hamilton Spectator’s coverage. [Tony Campbell]

The Illustrated Football Atlas

Created by designer Michael Raisch to coincide with the 2018 FIFA World Cup, The Illustrated Football Atlas combines vintage maps with drawings of the respective countries’ players. For more about this project, there’s an interview with Raisch at both The Guardian and These Football Times. [Mark Safran]

Apple Maps Data Being Completely Rebuilt for iOS 12

TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino reported last week on major changes coming to Apple Maps in iOS 12. The underlying data, which has come in for criticism since the service launched, is being redone. Rather than relying on “a patchwork of data partners,” Apple is growing its own map data.

It’s doing this by using first-party data gathered by iPhones with a privacy-first methodology and its own fleet of cars packed with sensors and cameras. The new product will launch in San Francisco and the Bay Area with the next iOS 12 beta and will cover Northern California by fall.

Every version of iOS will get the updated maps eventually, and they will be more responsive to changes in roadways and construction, more visually rich depending on the specific context they’re viewed in and feature more detailed ground cover, foliage, pools, pedestrian pathways and more.

This is nothing less than a full re-set of Maps and it’s been four years in the making, which is when Apple began to develop its new data-gathering systems. Eventually, Apple will no longer rely on third-party data to provide the basis for its maps, which has been one of its major pitfalls from the beginning.

Well worth a read if you’re interested in mobile maps: Panzarino’s article digs down into how Apple will collect and process its mapping data. how it plans to dramatically speed up changes and updates to the map, and how (it says) it’s taking privacy seriously at every step of the process.

New Details Emerging in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts

Some developments in the case of the rare books and maps stolen from the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, which came to light last April. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last week that a former library archivist and a bookseller are the focus of the investigation.

The former archivist of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s rare book collection told investigators he conspired with the owner of an Oakland bookseller since the 1990s to steal and resell items taken from there.

Gregory Priore, who was terminated from the library on June 28, 2017, and John Schulman, who co-owns Caliban Book Shop, are under investigation for theft, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief, according to hundreds of pages of documents unsealed Thursday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Charges have not yet been laid. A search warrant was executed at the Caliban Book Shop’s warehouse last August and several of the items reported stolen from the library were apparently recovered.

Note the timeline: we first heard about this in April 2018, but the searches had already been executed the previous August. The thefts had apparently been going on for decades but were only discovered in April 2017. We’re not finding things out in real time. [WMS]

Previously: 314 Rare Books and Maps Stolen from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.