A Vanderbilt University study is looking at whether playing video games improves map-reading and navigational skills. Of interest: 10 hours of first-person-shooter-style video games appears to make up the gender differences in navigational skills. Via @OrdnanceSurvey.
Oh, so that’s what hit us. This image of the “weather bomb” that surprised the U.S. Midwest and much of central and western Canada — it knocked out our power a couple of times earlier this week — was taken on October 26, 2010, by NASA’s GOES 13 satellite, I believe.
Update: Earth Observatory has animation showing the development of this extratropical cyclone.
From Here to There: A Curious Collection from the Hand Drawn Map Association
by Kris Harzinski
Princeton Architectural Press, 2010. Paperback, 224 pp. ISBN 978-1-56898-882-5
The Hand Drawn Map Association has come a long way since I first encountered it in February 2008. Back then I observed that they hadn’t received many map submissions so far; now there are 265 of them. Not only that, thanks to a call for submissions in early 2009, there’s now this book, out this month from Princeton University Press and written by the HDMA’s founder, Kris Harzinski. From Here to There is a diverse collection of more than hand-drawn maps, ranging from scribbles on scrap paper — the kind of map done quickly to give directions to a friend — to impressive works of art.
From Here to There is divided into six sections:
- “Direction Maps” (those quick, scribbled maps of directions);
- “Found Maps” (literally: these are discarded maps people found);
- “Fictional Maps” (maps of made-up places, incidentally one of my favourite things ever);
- “Artful Maps” (maps that are, as Harzinski says, “more elaborate than other maps in the archive, or works that use cartography as a point of reference” — these wouldn’t be out of place in a Katherine Harmon collection);
- “Maps of Unusual Places” (a small collection of “non-geographic” maps, such as Marilyn Murphy’s “Humira Injections,” a map of injection sites on the artist’s body); and
- “Explanatory Maps” (that explain concepts rather than give directions).
In each case, the real interest is often the story behind the map (each one is captioned) rather than the map’s intrisic cartographic or artistic virtues — though several maps show real achievements in art or surprisingly good cartography. In its caption, we learn that Lola Pellegrino’s “I Heard You Broke Up with Your Boyfriend” caused all kinds of trouble. But “Bike Map of Wedding” (a district in Berlin) and Chris Collier’s “Remembered Map of a Childhood World” are extremely sharp and detailed work. Shane Watt’s amazing “Empatheia” is given a full-colour two-page spread.
These maps, as far as I can tell, are not available on the HDMA website; you’ll have to buy the book to see them. (Reviews of this book by Ace Jet 170, Book by Its Cover and DesignNote’s review have some photos of the interior pages.) But with a list price of $17.50 (and available for a lot less than that on Amazon.com and elsewhere), this inexpensive little book is surprisingly good value. I don’t know what kind of paper the publisher is using — it’s not glossy — but it reproduces the colours really well, something I’d have expected from glossier, heavier stock. I have no trouble recommending this whimsical and quirky gem of a book.
I received a review copy of this book.
Ogle Earth reports on the future of Google Maps in China: “In short, things are still not looking up for Google. Sina’s article references government sources who state that Google will definitely not get its license by the end of the year, when China’s laws on internet mapping will begin being enforced in earnest. The implication is that the site will thenceforth be blocked in China.”
Previously: Big Trouble for Google in China?
Peter Watts (the British journalist, not the Canadian science fiction writer) pours cold water on the urban myth that Phyllis Pearsall walked 3,000 miles of London streets — repeated by yours truly as well as many others — to create the famous A to Z map of the city. He quotes Peter Barber, head of the British Library’s map department, who calls the story “complete rubbish”: Pearsall’s father had produced map books of London, which, Barber believes, Pearsall simply updated. The story was an exercise in marketing and myth-making — an effective one, if we’re still repeating it decades later. Via @HodderGeography.
I’m hard on OpenStreetMap sometimes, but that’s mainly in the context of the North American coverage not living up to the rather Eurocentric hype. Because Europe is definitely where it’s at with OSM, as this video chronicling the growth of its coverage in Europe since 2006 shows. Via OpenGeoData.
Matt Rosenberg reviews the new ninth edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World (previously). Matt likes and recommends it: “This new edition is absolutely gorgeous, from the clear, color-coded index in the front to the legible-sized font in the gazetteer in the back,” he writes.
Pleasantly surprising are the two page spread of Greenland, a two-page spread of Alaska and Hawaii (each separately!), two pages of the Amazon basin, an independent Kosovo, individual detailed maps of Europe’s smallest countries, a two-page spread of the Levant, two pages of the Caucasus (with Abkhazia, South Osssetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh shaded in and using the same font as the West Bank and Gaza).
On the other hand, he finds the paper thin and the coverage of Africa skimpy. Still, Matt says, “Overall, I highly recommend this atlas. It is an excellent reference for our planet and even our solar system. It gives the Times Atlas of the World a run for its money.”
- Buy National Geographic Atlas of the World, Ninth Edition (hardcover) at Amazon.com (Canada, UK)
- Buy National Geographic Atlas of the World, Ninth Edition (hardcover) at the National Geographic Store. Other editions: softcover, personalized, Platinum Edition with case, Platinum Edition without case.
You may recall that our friend Frank Taylor of Google Earth Blog has been sailing around the world. Recently he made headlines because his kite aerial photography of Manihi atoll in French Polynesia, taken last May, has been added to Google Earth. CNet, Gizmodo. Not, apparently, the first time this has happened: he’s taking such pictures along the way. I wonder if this could happen more often. Lord knows there are plenty of places that don’t have high resolution imagery in Google Earth (my own town, for example).
“Americans are better educated now than ever, but the distribution of people with college degrees is growing increasingly unequal,” write Roberto Gallardo and Bill Bishop in the Daily Yonder. “And the clustering of people with higher education is creating greater disparities in regional incomes and unemployment.” Their article includes three U.S. county maps showing how much above or below the national average each county has been in terms of number of adults with a college degree since 1990. Via David Brin.
China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping unleashed its own online mapping service Thursday. Map World is presumably kosher insofar as Chinese mapping restrictions are concerned. It has both maps and satellite/aerial imagery, though the map’s design is rather ugly by 2010 standards. “Map World only provides high-altitude images outside China, with the other side of the Chinese-North Korean border a stark white blank once a certain resolution is passed. Other countries also turn up a blank page at close resolution,” says Reuters. That goes for both maps and imagery. “Taiwan, which China claims as a renegade province, cannot be viewed at the same resolution as the mainland,” the article adds. Via @ogleearth.
Update, 10/22: Ogle Earth has some early observations: “Overall, Map World feels quite robust, far more so than the France’s GeoPortail and India’s Bhuvan at launch.”
Most maps found in fantasy novels are rather uniform in design, following the style of, for example, the black-and-white maps Pauline Baynes did for novels by Lewis and Tolkien. J. E. Fullerton’s maps of the world of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series aren’t like that at all: full of icons and colour, they’re a little closer to medieval maps in style, maybe, than children’s book illustrations.
I’ve been on Twitter longer than most of you, but it was only this morning that I finally got around to setting up a dedicated Twitter account for The Map Room at @maproomblog. Links to all my new blog entries will obviously turn up there, but I’ll also be posting quick notes, responding to people, getting into fights, and retweeting interesting links. (Full posts on said links may follow, but that usually takes me a while.)
It’s also another way to send me link suggestions or other messages: I keep track of mentions, so I’ll see any tweet with “@maproomblog” in the text.
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comes up with an interesting example of humanity’s sense of entitlement: how long it takes a GPS receiver to get a satellite lock. Via @wilw.
GPS Review’s love-hate relationship with geocaches: “[L]ately I’ve become a bit turned off by caches placed in places where they simply shouldn’t be. While each area is different, I’d say more than half of the geocaches I’ve visited in recent years are located in places where I just don’t think a geocache belongs.” Such as caches that are too far off the marked trail or in improper terrain, that trigger bomb scares, or that are placed too closely near other caches.
The ninth edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World is now available; the official publication date was yesterday. The press release outlines some of the changes from the eighth edition, which came out in 2005:
Eleven of the 20 world thematic spreads cover new topics — population trends; urbanization; the rise of city dominance; economic and environmental impact of cities; health and wellness; the human condition; natural hazards; biodiversity; agriculture and food; technology and communication; and fuels and energy.
The topographic relief on the World physical and continental maps has been revised using the latest digital terrain data. The atlas also includes nine brand new regional plates: Greenland; the Amazon region; Greece and the Aegean with Cyprus; the Caucasus; Iraq and Iran; the Arabian Peninsula; Afghanistan and Pakistan; the Korean Peninsula; and the Horn of Africa.
The Oceans section is completely new, and the Space section has been fully revamped and includes new imagery from the Hubble Telescope. The moon map is based on a newly generated satellite mosaic superimposed over a digital relief model; the Mars map more accurately portrays this planet’s terrain based on imagery derived from the Mars Orbital Surveyor …
- Buy National Geographic Atlas of the World, Ninth Edition (hardcover) at Amazon.com
- Buy National Geographic Atlas of the World, Ninth Edition (hardcover) at the National Geographic Store.
- Buy National Geographic Atlas of the World, Ninth Edition (softcover) at the National Geographic Store.
- Buy National Geographic Atlas of the World, Ninth Edition (personalized) at the National Geographic Store.
- Buy National Geographic Atlas of the World, Ninth Edition (Platinum Edition with case) at the National Geographic Store.
- Buy National Geographic Atlas of the World, Ninth Edition (Platinum Edition without case) at the National Geographic Store.
Rachel Hewitt’s history of the Ordnance Survey, Map of a Nation, is now available (at least in the UK; here’s the Amazon.ca listing, but it’s not yet listed on Amazon.com). Not coincidentally, Hewitt has an article about the OS in the Telegraph. Meanwhile, the Guardian has a review of the book: Ian Pindar calls it “a solid account of how Britain’s national mapping agency came into being, though it lacks a certain pizzazz. Hewitt works hard to bring the story to life, but it is perhaps inherently undramatic.”
Previously: Forthcoming History of the Ordnance Survey.
Justin O’Bierne’s critiques of OpenStreetMap’s base map of North America — essentially, the first thing first-time visitors to OSM would encounter: the Mapnik layer — has apparently been stirring up a bit of controversy in the OSM community. Part one looks at the Mapnik UI, labels, boundaries, and roads; part two looks at city labels; and there is more to come. It’s a useful process, but it seems to have stirred up more than a few angry bees.
Some of this stuff can be dealt with by any OSM contributor, but other stuff is intrinsic to the Mapnik layer. Many of the problems Justin identifies are a result of applying British standards to North American roads and cities. (The definitions of “town” and “city” are quite different in Canada, for example, where cities can have fewer than 10,000 people; and figuring out which roads are trunk, primary and secondary is, from my own experience, a bit of a challenge.)
Open-source projects don’t generally do user-interface stuff very well, as anyone familiar with Linux-on-the-desktop efforts can tell you: too many people conflate user-interface questions with “making it pretty,” when in fact it’s all about ease of use. Whether OSM is there largely to provide basemap data for third-party projects (e.g., MapQuest Open) or whether you actually expect people to use Mapnik for their online mapping needs, I don’t think it’s heresy to say that much more work is needed here. Even map contributors need a decent UI, and if you want more people to contribute to OSM (let me give you a hint: yes you do) then an accessible — and yes, attractive — map will help draw more people in.
And, considering how many third-party apps use Mapnik tiles directly — I’m thinking of all the apps on my iPad that use OpenStreetMap — there really is a strong case for making Mapnik better.
A printed world atlas is more than a bound collection of relief maps; among the additional materials usually found in a world atlas is a section that the Oxford series calls a “Gazeteer of Nations” and the National Geographic atlas calls “Nations”, containing a short entry on each country and territory in the world. The MapQuest Atlas heads in that direction, but it’s basic: clicking on a country gets you the name, flag, capital and the time and temperature (for the capital, problematic and confusing with larger countries that span many time zones). Clicking again gets you a short entry from the CIA World Factbook. It’s effective only at a couple of zoom levels, and the interface doesn’t adjust: too far out and you can’t see what you’re clicking on, too close and you can click anywhere and get the same country (there are no state/provincial or city pages, or continental pages, and so forth). A lot more could be done with this idea. Via @MapQuest.
In one of those kinda-superficial tech-journalism articles that assigns scores to competing products and services, PC World’s Christopher Null asks, Which Online Mapping Service Is Best? Null compares Google, Bing, and MapQuest, in six categories — how well, Null says, they’ll get you from point A to point B (essentially, features and UI) — and ends up ranking them in that order. But this is hardly comprehensive, and using other criteria would no doubt yield different results: Google would do better on hackabiity/extensibility and worse on basemap accuracy, for example.
On MAPS-L, Rob Lopresti reports that he just learned that map thief James Brubaker, who had been sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment for a series of book and map thefts from more than 100 libraries, but especially Western Washington University, was released from prison in May. “He is on parole and probation and I believe he is not allowed to leave the state of Montana.” In other news, WWU’s newspaper, The Western Front, interviewed Lopresti (who you may remember was instrumental in nabbing the guy) about the case last week. Via MAPS-L and MapHist.
According to this interactive map from the Center for American Progress, “almost one-third of American schools are rural, and more than 40 percent of those students are living in poverty” — which is to say that the challenges involved in educating kids from disadvantaged backgrounds are not inherently urban. Via Will Shetterly.
An interesting post on the blog of Harvard’s Houghton Library on their recent digitization of a 17th-century sketchbook of maps of Siberia: the Khorograficheskaya Kniga of Semën Ul’ianovich Remezov. Via BibliOdyssey.
Yesterday, Google announced that Google Latitude can now be accessed directly from a desktop web browser at google.com/latitude; previously, the only way to use Latitude on a computer was via an iGoogle widget. It remains to be seen whether this will increase the usage of this service. It’s telling for me that no one on my (very small) Latitude friends list has checked in for months (myself included).
Reports of GPS-induced driving mishaps continue to take a darker turn. The Globe and Mail: “An Ontario woman had to be rescued from the roof of her flooded car after a GPS system steered her astray into an isolated marsh.”
Gizmodo ranks the best navigation apps for the iPhone and Android platforms, awarding gold, silver and bronze medals (figuratively, of course) in each.
British Columbia’s Challenger Map is by no means the only very large relief map to be hidden away in storage. The San Francisco Chronicle has the story of a relief map of California that was once displayed in San Francisco’s ferry terminal. Formally called Paradise in Panorama at the time, it was far larger than the Challenger Map: the article says it was twice as long as two football fields, which would put it at 720 feet (220 metres), or eight times the size of the Challenger Map along the long axis. Unveiled in 1924, the map has sadly been cut into sections and held in storage since 1960, with nowhere to display it and no funds to restore it. The Chronicle calls it the quintessential white elephant: “too valuable to scrap, but too expensive to keep.” Thanks to M. for the tip.
xkcd’s updated map of online communities “uses size to represent total social activity in a community — that is, how much talking, playing, sharing, or other socializing happens there. This meant some comparing of apples and oranges, but I did my best and tried to be consistent.” Cut off from the excerpt above, Facebook looms huge as a megacontinent.
Previously: D&D Map of Online Communities.
Nearly every line of text in these maps was laid out manually. And after that, nearly every line was edited manually to create effects such as the appearance of woven streets. It was all done in Illustrator, beginning with images from OpenStreetMap. We traced streets, filled in areas like water and parks, and then revisited every detail. In this process I think we’ve learned a few things that will help us generate maps of some other cities without taking two years to do it.
Google Earth Blog addresses the question: how often does Google update its imagery for Google Earth?
Stories about people getting into trouble because their GPS navigation system led them astray are amusing — at least until someone dies. That’s what happened in Spain on Saturday night after a man drove his car into a reservoir, where he drowned; his passenger escaped and swam to shore. Mitigating the driver error: it was at night, the road he was directed down goes right into the water, and based on the photos in this Spanish news article, there was no barrier to stop him. The reservoir is 21 years old; presumably the map data is somewhat older. Via Matt Rosenberg.
A copy of Joan Blaeu’s Toneel der Steden, a 17th-century atlas of Dutch cities, was auctioned in Amsterdam for a record 330,000 euros on Saturday. Via Cartographie.
Adena Schutzberg reviews Muki Huklay’s Interacting with Geospatial Technologies. Despite quibbles about the graphics and the copyediting, Adena says, “This is a solid book that pulls together the research in what hopefully will be a growing area of study for the GIS community.”
Jeff Thurston reviews The GIS 20: Essential Skills by Gina Clemmer. “The book is concise, focused and provides the details that one needs to know to work with ArcGIS, including those transitioning within ArcGIS versions. First time users or even those who may have forgotten some of the basic skills and the way to accomplish them will appreciate this book.” Via Slashgeo.
Very Spatial notes that the deadline for submitting to the 26th volume of the ESRI Map Book (previously) is November 19, 2010; a few previous volumes of the ESRI Map Book — namely, volumes 1 and 20-25 — are available online.
We first heard about Margaret Maher’s Lining Up Data in ArcGIS back in June; on ESRI Mapping Center, Maher explains the inspiration for writing the book.
GeoLife has released a free version of its turn-by-turn navigation software for the iPhone and iPad. Navfree covers the UK and Ireland, is a universal app, and uses OSM data (which presumably explains the free part; its other apps cost money). Via Geospatial News.
Something I’m going to have to try myself: UpNext, a 3D cities mapping app (eight U.S. cities so far), again in both iPhone and iPad versions. Free. There are video demos for each version: iPad, iPhone. More at TechCrunch. Via Ed Parsons.