January 2009

Waldseemüller Symposium at LOC in May

Waldseemüller “Exploring Waldseemüller’s World” is a two-day symposium to be held at the Library of Congress on May 14 and 15, 2009. According to the press release, it will “examine Martin Waldseemüller’s cartographic vision and address the complex historical and philosophical questions raised by the publication of the 1507 map.” Open to the public, but registration is required. Via MapHist.

Meanwhile, Salman Rushdie had something interesting to say about Waldseemüller in this Barnes and Noble Review interview; he apparently refers to the map in his latest novel. Also via MapHist.

Previously: The Washington Post on Waldseemüller.

Mapping the Moon

National Geographic: The Earth's Moon (thumbnail) The story of how National Geographic’s iconic 1969 map of the Moon — the first complete map of the Moon — was made is recounted, with considerable digression, by retired cartographer Richard Furno, who worked on the project, on Kelso’s Corner: part one, part two. The real challenge was the far side: the work involved in taking photographs from lunar orbiters, plotting them on a globe, and then creating a hemispheric map cannot be underestimated. Via Kottke.

A Brief Book Roundup

GIS for A-Level Geography (thumbnail) Briefly noted:

iPhoto, Geotagging, GPS and the Mac: A Post-Macworld Roundup

For our purposes, the big news from Macworld earlier this month was iPhoto ’09’s built-in geotagging. iPhoto is not the first application to support geotagging, but it’s the first to provide a compelling answer to the question of what geotagging is good for. That, plus its near-ubiquity on the Mac platform, will do a lot to spread support for location data in photos.

iPhoto '09 screenshot (Apple) iPhoto uses location data as a searching and sorting tool, which is far more involved, and useful, than simply plotting a photo on a map. In a nice touch, it also can create travel maps for its printed photo book service based on the photos’ geotags. It supports both manual geotagging — dropping a pin, entering an address — and GPS-enabled digital cameras like the Nikon Coolpix P6000 (previously), smartphones with built-in cameras and GPS, or digital SLRs with attached GPS units like the Nikon GP-1 (previously). GPS loggers — external geotagging solutions that sync GPS tracklogs with photo timestamps — are not, I think directly supported; you have to run through that process to embed the coordinates into the EXIF data before importing the photos into iPhoto.

More coverage of iPhoto ’09: Macworld, Richard’s Tech Reviews, Ed Parsons, CNet.

I now have a Nikon GP-1, but I won’t likely be testing it with the new iPhoto: I switched from iPhoto to Aperture earlier this month (which was untimely, considering, but I got it for Christmas). For those of us who use Aperture or Lightroom, Stefan provides a roundup of new or updated geotagging plugins. I just installed Maperture today, so I may have something to report at some point; note that Aperture does have support for lat/long information in image EXIF data and can generate a map if you poke around in the features (which I’m still learning about — 700-page manual).

Other news this month involving GPS on the Mac: Macworld — the magazine, not the conference — has reviews of Garmin’s RoadTrip 2.0 trip planning software as well as MacGPSPro 8.3 (previous versions of which have been mentioned here before, most recently here). Two Ask MetaFilter questions about using GPS on the Mac: one about using .gpx files, one about using an old Garmin GPS. And, for those who like to futz with the command line, Seth describes how he got the GPSd daemon working under OS X (via Make: Blog).

Wired on GPS-Enabled Smartphones

Two articles from the February 2009 issue of Wired look at location-aware applications for smartphones with built-in GPS (or other means of determining location). Inside the GPS Revolution: 10 Applications That Make the Most of Location is a list of applications — for several platforms, including the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android — ranging from speed traps to astronomy. I Am Here: One Man’s Experiment With the Location-Aware Lifestyle looks at the implications — especially the privacy implications — of living with a GPS-enabled mobile device:

To test whether I was being paranoid, I ran a little experiment. On a sunny Saturday, I spotted a woman in Golden Gate Park taking a photo with a 3G iPhone. Because iPhones embed geodata into photos that users upload to Flickr or Picasa, iPhone shots can be automatically placed on a map. At home I searched the Flickr map, and score — a shot from today. I clicked through to the user’s photostream and determined it was the woman I had seen earlier. After adjusting the settings so that only her shots appeared on the map, I saw a cluster of images in one location. Clicking on them revealed photos of an apartment interior — a bedroom, a kitchen, a filthy living room. Now I know where she lives.

Via Richard’s Tech Reviews.

‘Data for Decision’: GIS on Punchcards

“Data for Decision” is a 1967 National Film Board of Canada film that explains the work of the Canada Geographic Information System — one of the earliest GISes in history, if not the earliest — in analysing the huge volumes of data from the Canada Land Inventory. It’s been uploaded to YouTube in three parts: part one is above; here are links to parts two and three. A dry documentary (today it would have been a PowerPoint presentation at a high-level bureaucratic meeting), but now it’s a fascinating look at GIS in the punchcard era.

For more on the Canada Land Inventory data featured in this film, see Peter Schut’s page on how CLI data was rescued and converted into modern data formats; it’s now available on GeoGratis.

Via Free Geography Tools.

Previously: Roger Tomlinson: The Father of GIS.

Czech President Blasts ‘Entropa’

The controversy over David Cerny’s “Entropa” exhibit continues. AFP: “Czech President Václav Klaus has asked the government in a letter to ‘publicly disavow’ a controversial EU art exhibit displayed in Brussels that depicts stereotypes of member countries.” I think we can call the piece successful, now. Via GeoCarta.

Previously: David Cerny Defends ‘Entropa’; European Stereotypes in EU Installation Piece.

Lauren Simone

Farm Utopia by Lauren Simone An exhibition of Lauren Simone’s art has been going on this month in Portland, Maine. Simone, a local artist, “creates maps from her imagination with ink, tea, and watercolors, marking her boundaries with thread. Her maps discover places you carry inside of you, such as the lungs and sacrum, or places you were unaware of, such as imaginary islands or continents.” Examples of her work can be seen on her blog and her Etsy store. Jamie Ribisi-Braley is a fan. At right, “Farm Utopia.”

Earth Envi Reviewed

iPhone Central’s review of the $1 satellite photo application for the iPhone, Earth Envi, suggests that a small mobile device may not be the best location to appreciate satellite imagery. “Truth is, many of pictures you see on Earth Envi need to been viewed in a larger format to be appreciated fully. That astronaut’s snapshot of Southern California is truly astonishing — and best savored on nothing smaller than a 20-inch monitor.”

Getting Lost with a GPS

Charles Cooper on his experience getting lost with an in-car GPS: “Garmin sells a simple and reliable device. Unfortunately, it doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility for using your brain. A certain somebody (no names, here) had programmed the device to calculate the route based on the shortest route. As I was about to discover, the shortest route did not come close to approximating the shortest time.”

The Mapmakers’ Art: Exhibition in Myrtle Beach

The Mapmakers’ Art: The Bishop Collection of Antique Maps, 1608-1863 is an exhibition running at the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, until March 20. “The collection of 15 maps, donated to the museum in 1999, reflects a centuries-ago golden age of cartography, when cities such as Amsterdam, Florence, London, Paris and Venice were mapmaking hotbeds,” The Sun News reports. “The collection, complemented by prints from that era, includes ‘An Accurate Map of North and South Carolina’ by Henry Mouzon, in a copperplate engraving of four joined sheets from 1775.” See also Artdaily.org.

Obama’s Inauguration from Orbit

GeoEye inauguration image

As usual, I’m just about the last person to mention GeoEye’s high-resolution satellite image of the crowds attending President Obama’s inauguration, less than an hour before he was sworn in. It’s available as a KML layer for Google Earth; Stefan has some notes on the resolution of various available versions, from GeoEye’s downloadable version and the KML file to CNN’s click-and-drag version. Via too many sources to mention. (Satellite image courtesy of Geoeye.)

Mapping the Inauguration: A Roundup

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel J. Calderon

Last month, the Armed Services Inauguration Committee revealed to the public a 40×40-foot map used to plan the inauguration (via Vector One); another view is here (thumbnail above; via MapHist).

New Google Earth imagery for Washington, D.C. finally de-pixellates the U.S. Naval Observatory; censored aerial imagery is being replaced by satellite imagery, Stefan notes: “I suspect that the aerial imagery was indeed censored by U.S. authorities before being released to the public (as is done by the Netherlands, among others), but that Google then pasted in uncensored satellite imagery (even if older and/or grainier) in those places where otherwise we’d have seen ugly pixels and then accusations of Google cowing to government censorship demands.”

Google LatLong and Google Maps Mania have roundups of inauguration day mashups; LatLong also has a collection of helpful maps for the inauguration.

3d inauguration A 3D model of the inauguration site has also been created; see LatLong and Google Earth Blog. Complete with virtual Obama taking the oath, which makes me nervous for some reason.

USA Today has an interesting-looking interactive inauguration map (via Infonaut). Scott Lee has put together a georeferenced parade map (PDF) at AcrobatUsers.com’s geospatial and mapping gallery (via AnyGeo and GeoPDF).

David Cerny Defends ‘Entropa’

At the beginning of this video, artist David Cerny explains his controversial installation piece, “Entropa,” which just debuted, to no considerable uproar, in the European Council building in Brussels. The video is also an opportunity to get a good look at the piece, how various countries are depicted (what the hell is going on with Lithuania?), and all the moving parts.

Cerny also had the following to say on his website in defence of his work:

The original intention was indeed to ask 27 European artists for participation. But it became apparent that this plan cannot be realised, due to time, production, and financial constraints. The team therefore, without the knowledge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, decided to create fictitious artists who would represent various European national and artistic stereotypes. We apologise to Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and their departments that we did not inform them of the true state of affairs and thus misguided them. We did not want them to bear the responsibility for this kind of politically incorrect satire. We knew the truth would come out. But before that we wanted to find out if Europe is able to laugh at itself.
At the beginning stood the question: What do we really know about Europe? We have information about some states, we only know various tourist clichés about others. We know basically nothing about several of them. The art works, by artificially constructed artists from the 27 EU countries, show how difficult and fragmented Europe as a whole can seem from the perspective of the Czech Republic. We do not want to insult anybody, just point at the difficulty of communication without having the ability of being ironic.
Grotesque hyperbole and mystification belongs among the trademarks of Czech culture and creating false identities is one of the strategies of contemporary art. The images of individual parts of Entropa use artistic techniques often characterised by provocation. The piece thus also lampoons the socially activist art that balances on the verge between would-be controversial attacks on national character and undisturbing decoration of an official space. We believe that the environment of Brussels is capable of ironic self-reflection, we believe in the sense of humour of European nations and their representatives.

Via Boing Boing.

Previously: European Stereotypes in EU Installation Piece.

On High: Cartography of Topography

At the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum in Golden, Colorado from January 23 to May 31, an exhibition called On High: Cartography of Topography:

The exhibition will explore the ways in which topography has been viewed and mapped throughout history. Though not a comprehensive history of mountain cartography, On High offers a fascinating glimpse at the ways in which cartographers from different periods and places have chosen to depict places of terrain.
This exhibition will include some of the more important maps in the history of world cartography, as well as maps from the exploration of the western United States. Highlights of the exhibit include a map from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, world maps from the 15th-18th centuries, Zebulon Pike’s map of the exploration of the Southwest, and many more. The exhibition will draw from the collection of Wesley A. Brown, a prominent map collector from Denver, and from the Henry S. Hall, Jr. American Alpine Club Library and Colorado Mountain Club Collection.

More here.

Great Circles

About.com’s Amanda Briney has a primer on great circles. A great circle is the shortest distance between two points on a sphere; sailors and aviators use great circles to get the fastest and most efficient route from point A to point B (though air and ocean currents change the route in practice). On a gnomonic projection, a great circle is a straight line; on a rectangular projection like the Mercator, a great circles appears as a curve. Now you know why trans-Atlantic flights always seem to veer north and pass over Greenland: it’s shorter. Via About.com Geography.

Previously: Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection.

The Map: Navigating the Present

Flesh Map (2007) by Ibarra I don’t imagine many of my readers are able to make it to the rather northerly Swedish city of Umeå in the next month or so, but in the event that you are, Umeå University’s Bildmuseet (art museum) has an exhibition running until February 8: The Map: Navigating the Present “features artists, who are especially interested in maps, and cartographers, geographers, linguists, photographers, philosophers and activists. The works and projects of close to 40 Swedish and international participants vividly portray numerous burning issues of our times. A wide variety of topics are presented with cartographic practice or an idea of mapping as the common denominator.” Press release, sample images. At right, “Flesh Map” (2007) by Karlo-Andrei Ibarra (look! cartacacoethes!).

Thomas Harriot: First to Map the Moon?

Englishman Thomas Harriot may have beaten Galileo to the punch. According to an article in February’s Astronomy and Geophysics, Harriot may have been the first known person to observe the Moon through a telescope — and, more importantly for us — the first to draw maps of what he saw. One such map is dated July 1609; Galileo’s observations were in December. See coverage from BBC News and the Guardian; see also Bad Astronomy and Space.com. Copies of Harriot’s maps are available through most of these links; go and see. Unlike Galileo, Harriot apparently kept his head down and stayed out of trouble; we remember Galileo not necessarily because he was first to observe, but because he was first to speak about his observations. Sorry, folks: Harriot’s maps are interesting, but he’s still only a footnote.

New Year’s Globe Stays Up

A globe used in the New Year’s festivities in Northampton, Massachusetts will be kept up for another six months and may well be a permanent fixture (and tourist attraction), The Republican reports. The six-foot, 300-pound globe has 350 computer-controlled LED lights; the Planning Board is letting it stay up on a trial basis despite a local light pollution ordinance. (Thanks to Andy Anderson for the link.)

Google Maps Transit Layer

Google Maps transit layer, Paris (screenshot)

Google has announced a transit layer for Google Maps. Stations have been visible before; this layer adds the lines. It’s available for a total of 58 cities so far; I imagine Londoners used to the Beck diagram will have their heads explode when confronted with a geographically correct Tube map.

Notes for a People’s Atlas of Chicago

An exhibition of maps from the Notes for a People’s Atlas of Chicago project, which solicits contributions from participants who sketch out their personal map of Chicago on a blank outline map, will take place tomorrow between 5:00 and 8:00 PM at the Wicker Park Field House in Chicago, Chicagoist reports. (After that, the release party for a related book, Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism.)

If you can’t make it to the event, the maps are also available on this Flickr set. There are similar projects for other places, including central New York state and Zagreb.

European Stereotypes in EU Installation Piece

To commemorate the Czech Republic’s six-month turn at the EU presidency, an art installation piece portraying maps of European countries by their stereotypes has been installed in the European Council building. “France’s map is emblazoned with the word GREVE! (French for strike) in red, a reference to its frequent industrial disputes. Romania is a Dracula theme park, Sweden is a do-it-yourself furniture flatpack and Britain does not appear at all,” Reuters reports. “‘Entropa’ is the joint work of artists representing each EU member country and the brainchild of 41-year-old Czech artist David Cerny, famed at home for re-painting a Soviet tank pink.” Photos via the link. Via GeoCarta.

Update, 1/14: Roger passes on news that the piece has run into trouble: Cerny misled the Czech government; it’s not the joint work of artists from each EU country, but the work of Cerny and a couple of friends. Also, the Bulgarians are pissed.


Britain in clouds (via Strange Maps) “Cartocacoethes” is, apparently, the uncontrollable urge to see maps everywhere, in everything. It’s a flavour of apophenia, which is the experience of seeing patterns in meaningless or random data (e.g., canals on Mars). A well-known version of apophenia is pareidolia, which is when people see significant things in random patterns (e.g., apparitions of the Virgin Mary).

Anyway, John Krygier uses the term to describe a putative map of Çatalhöyük dating from 6200 BC, citing a recent study that casts doubt on its claim as one of the oldest maps in existence. Strange Maps takes it from there, providing a veritable cornucopia of things that look like continents or countries (which, strictly speaking, isn’t exactly the same thing as looking like a map, but what the hell), from clouds to food items to a puddle.

Rebecca Riley

Composite Map 1 (Rebecca Riley), thumbnail Rebecca Riley writes to let us know that a show of her recent map paintings is taking place at the Cheryl McGinnis Gallery in New York. 75 Mile Radius runs from January 13 to March 2.

The subject of her paintings are the familiar cities that comprise the megalopolis that extends from Boston to Washington D.C. Riley works on top of actual maps and fills them with patterned images of dividing cells.The artist looks at maps as a structure upon which to build a pattern. These patterns reveal the evolution of development in a country or a city. They are a part of a system of growth that can be envisioned into the future. Riley utilizes the inherent organization within a map to create a surface that blurs the line between map and abstract work of art. The paintings are at once large unified surfaces of color and pattern as well as a microscopic peering-into-minute detail of each city.

At right, Riley’s Composite Map 1, acrylic on paper, 62×50 inches.

AA Survey Reveals How Britons Use GPS on the Road

A survey of its members by the British Automobile Association (AA) revealed some interesting attitudes towards car-based GPS navigation devices (which in the U.K. are referred to as “satnav”). Some highlights:

  • 61 percent agreed that their GPS had prevented them from getting lost; only 10 percent disagreed.
  • While only four percent were worried that it might take them in the wrong direction, 30 percent said that it already had.
  • Three-quarters of GPS users still carried a road atlas (which the AA recommends).

All of which suggests a more positive experience than might be inferred from the rash of news stories of people driving into ditches because their GPS told them to. The bit about the road atlas is a hopeful sign, too.

The article also has the AA’s top ten tips for using a satnav, all of which can be boiled down to the following: You’re in charge, not the device. Pay attention to what you’re doing.

Via GeoCarta.

British Students Fined for Collecting GPS Data in Xinjiang

In October, a group of British graduate students was fined by the Chinese authorities for illegal map-making activity, the Daily Telegraph reports. (See also AFP coverage: Google, Yahoo; AFP reports three students, the Telegraph only two.) The students were researching earthquake activity in the tense Xinjiang region; they had received permission from China’s central earthquake administration, but not from local authorities. Via GeoCarta.

Milky Way Tube Map

Milky Way transit map Samuel Arbesman has done a map of the Milky Way in the style of Harry Beck’s London Underground map. “I have attempted to actually make this map as accurate as possible, where each line corresponds to an arm of our galaxy, and the stations are actual places in their proper locations. However, I am not an astronomer or astrophysicist, so there are certainly inaccuracies, gaps, and room for improvement.” Quite possibly the most out-there take on the Tube map I’ve yet seen, if you’ll pardon the expression. Via Kottke.

Mapping Snow Cover

NOHRSC Northern Hemisphere map (thumbnail) On a day like today, with a whole pile of snow waiting outside for me to shovel, Leszek’s link to the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center, which at this time of year provides all kinds of snow-related information, seems timely. The NOHRSC site includes interactive snow information maps and national snow analyses (plus Google Earth versions), which aren’t much help to me in Canada, but the maps showing northern hemisphere snow cover certainly apply.

Mapping the Gaza Conflict

The Atlas of True Names Interview

Catholicgauze has a (very brief) interview with the (unnamed) cartographer behind the Atlas of True Names, which I told you about last month. Of particular interest is the following statement on future products: “We continue quite soon with the French, Spanish and Italian version. Single fold up versions for the British Isles and the U.S. are in preparation. Popular publishers in Germany and the U.S. asked us to produce a real atlas in book form.”

Previously: The Atlas of True Names.

The Divided States of America

WSJ's Divided States map

Those pissed off by the redrawn map of the Middle East may appreciate the implicit payback in the following. A Russian academic is ardently predicting that the U.S. will break apart from internal pressures in 2010, with six pieces falling under different spheres of influence, the Wall Street Journal reports, and Russian state media — no friend of the U.S. — is eating it up, giving Igor Panarin, who’s been making this prediction for a decade, lots and lots of screen time. Personally, I think the idea is risible, if not outright bonkers — even if the U.S. were to break apart in the near future, I don’t think it’d do it like this — but it’s interesting in a “how others see us” kind of way. Via all sorts of places, such as BLDGBLOG, Cartophilia, Gadling and io9.

The Rise of User-Generated Mapping

“The public often saw the end product of the map creation process, but was largely limited to scribbling on paper when it came to creating maps of its own. Beginning in 2005, this paradigm turned upside down.” Sean Gorman’s article is a great summary of all the happenings in user-generated maps, mashups, and related trends over the past few years. It all ties together, you see. Via AnyGeo.