NASA’s Earth Observatory has satellite images and animations of the weather system that spawned so many tornadoes this week.
Nearly 300 people were killed in storms and ensuing tornadoes across the southern U.S. on Wednesday. To provide some context, the New York Times maps annual deaths by tornado in the United States since 1950.
Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas
by Rebecca Solnit
University of California Press, 2010. Hardcover and paperback, 164 pp.
ISBN 978-0-520-26249-2 (hardcover); 978-0-520-26250-8 (paperback)
Not every city has a soul: some are decidedly soulless. But while I’ve never been to San Francisco, it seems to me that it, at least, is one that does. Cities like that can be magical places: they don’t just have histories, but mythologies, too. “This atlas is a valentine of sorts to a complex place,” Rebecca Solnit writes in the acknowledgements to Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, itself a complex and many-layered book. The 22 maps and accompanying essays, by divers cartographers, artists and writers, depict a San Francisco with a layered history, and in many ways is a record of a city that has been lost to history. The San Francisco in these maps is a palimpsest, the city repeatedly overwritten, maps and histories overlaying one another.
A key strategy employed by the artists and cartographers in Infinite City is to display two things on the same map — sometimes complementary, sometimes contrasting: drag queens and butterflies, murders and cypresses (“death and beauty”), zen centers and salmon rivers. The accompanying essays make the case for these combinations.
Though invariably artful and beautiful, the cartography is frequently not much to write home about. Some of the maps are of the labels-and-dots variety, and could, at least from a cartographical perspective, be rendered equally well in Google Maps, though the result wouldn’t nearly be as visually appealing.
The maps that stood out in my mind were those that departed from the standard template: “Third Street Phantom Coast” (#10) compares the pre-1849 and 2010 shorelines (among other things); “Graveyard Shift” (#11) shows the now-lost industrial and port sector of the city; “Once and Future Waters” (#22) takes the 1850 landmass and compares it to where the sea levels will be in 2100 if the sea level rises 1.5 metres. Some venture toward art: a phrenological map (#19) and a treasure map (#21). “The Mission” (#13) superimposes the U.S.-Mexico border on a map of the Mission District that includes gang territories.
But the strength in this book is in the essays, which is a strange thing to say about an atlas, particularly in a review on a map blog. Above all else, Infinite City is about telling San Francisco’s stories — using both narratives and maps to do so. The maps aren’t at all scientific or demographic; there are no cartograms or choropleths, and no GIS appears to have been harmed in their making. They tell tales — idiosyncratic tales, comprising an unconventional book.
I received a review copy of this book.
Glenn Fleischman’s article on Macworld.com, How the iPhone knows where you are, explains in great detail how an iPhone — or anything else using assisted GPS — can figure out where it is far more quickly than it could using GPS alone (which can take up to 12½ minutes), thanks to cell tower and Wi-Fi trilateration.
TomTom has apologized after customer driving data collected from their GPS units was used by Dutch police to set speed traps where the average speed exceeded the posted speed limits (AP, El Reg). From their CEO’s official statement: “We are aware a lot of our customers do not like the idea and we will look at if we should allow this type of usage.”
I wasn’t aware that using a GPS during flight presented a hazard to navigation, but a 73-year-old passenger was arrested in Winnipeg after refusing to turn his off during a flight from Minneapolis. (But then refusing to do what you’re told on board a plane is a no-no.)
Even asteroids get place names: 36 features on the asteroid Lutetia have been assigned names. Lutetia is only 130 km across along the major axis, but it was visited by the Rosetta probe last year. Via The Planetary Society Blog.
Some developments on the iPhone/iPad tracking story since I last posted. For now, I’ll just refer you to the links.
First, Peter Batty’s must-read posts on the subject: So actually, Apple isn’t recording your (accurate) iPhone location; More on Apple recording your iPhone location history; The scoop: Apple’s iPhone is NOT storing your accurate location, and NOT storing history.
A follow-up from the original researchers: Additional iPhone tracking research (O’Reilly Radar).
Opinion: Mike Elgan at Computerworld; Brian X. Chen and Mike Isaac on Why You Should Care About the iPhone Location-Tracking Issue.
Today, Apple has posted a Q&A on the issue: they say it’s a cache of a subset of a larger hotspot and cell tower database, not location tracking.
The U.S. National Nuclear Safety Administration has produced a map (as part of a presentation) showing the estimated first-year, long-term radiation dose in and around the Fukushima nuclear plant. “In the red swath of land northwest of the plant where weather deposited a lot of fallout, potential exposures exceed 2000 millirems/year. That is the level at which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would consider relocating the public,” says ScienceInsider. “Although 2000 millirems over 1 year isn’t an immediate health threat, it’s enough to cause roughly one extra cancer case in 500 young adults and one case in 100 1-year-olds.” Via @MattArtz.
Google will be revising its maps of Rio de Janeiro after city officials complained that its labels gave too much prominence to Rio’s favelas — hundreds of shanty towns that surround the city and make up nearly a fifth of the region’s urban population — over wealthier districts and tourist sites. Is anyone else at all bothered by the implications of this? Via @ogleearth.
NASA’s Earth Observatory has a number of satellite images of the spring flooding in the Canadian Prairie Provinces and the U.S. Upper Midwest. The most recent image, above, is a MODIS image combining visual and infrared views of the flooding in southern Manitoba on April 24.
Previously: Prairie Flood Maps.
How about those opening credits to Game of Thrones, the HBO series based on George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series? It’s a fantasy map with gears, which is somehow appropriate. (The map will apparently change as the series progresses.) Via Very Spatial.
CNN Travel’s Jeffrey Weiss: Why your trusty GPS sometimes fails you. “GPS navigation systems aren’t perfect. Most of them are pretty good, but blind acceptance of their advice can become a traveler’s nightmare. … The bottom line: GPS is an amazing aid for the many directionally challenged travelers who nevertheless take to the roads. But it has its limits.” Via @gpstracklog (who is quoted in the article).
John Speed’s atlas, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, first published 400 years ago, has been digitized and put online by the Cambridge University Library, which possesses one of only five sets of proof maps. (Zoomify format; Flash required.) Print copies for sale. News coverage from the Daily Mail; a gallery of Speed’s maps from BBC News.
Previously: Speed Atlas’s 400th Anniversary.
An interactive map showing oil production by country from 1960 to 2010. Flash required. Via @spatialanalysis.
This could be interesting. Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden report today at Where 2.0 that they’ve discovered that iPhones and 3G iPads have been recording their positions and storing them in one large — unencrypted — tracklog file, and are raising the alarm at the privacy implications. “Anybody with access to this file knows where you’ve been over the last year, since iOS 4 was released.” They’ve yet to hear back from Apple on this. The basic questions: what is the purpose of collecting this data, and why is it being stored in this (possibly insecure) manner?
Photography Blog has a review of the Fujifilm FinePix XP30, a rugged pocket digital camera with built-in GPS. The review cites some problems with both the camera’s ruggedness and its GPS. “Putting GPS on the camera is a great idea, but living in England as we do, we couldn’t get it to work because of the bad weather we experienced at the time of testing. There are good GPS systems on the market that can get a signal when indoors and in tunnels but the XP30 can’t even get through clouds.”
A Flash animation that morphs between the Beck tube map, the modern variant thereof, and a geographical map of the London Underground, previously on the Transport for London website, has resurfaced on its designer’s home page. No idea when it moved, but it’s worth another look all the same. Via @HodderGeography.
Google announced today that Map Maker is now available for the United States; the tool that allows users to add contributions to Google Maps had, I thought, been targeted at countries where Google lacked map data, but it appears that user contributions are welcome in countries with existing data — once they’ve been reviewed.
So it looks like a Map Maker vs. OpenStreetMap conflict is shaping up. Last week, Mikel Maron accused Map Maker of copying OpenStreetMap’s model and exploiting freely made contributions in a way that benefits Google, in that the resulting data is not freely available; moreover, he says,
Corporations should not be the stewards of a public resource, and a potentially controversial public resource. Compare Gaza in OpenStreetMap and Gaza in Google for just one example of why this is a bad idea. We’re approaching a situation where a corporation is becoming the decision maker on international borders. Wait, did you think the UN or other international forum was supposed to have some role in these kind of things? Nope, Google is getting UN data too.
Nicholas Tam has written a very long essay on maps in fantasy novels — their design, their relationship to the text, their use to the reader. It’s definitely worth reading in full; here’s a piece:
So when we open up a novel to find a map, we can think of the map as an act of narration. But what kind of narration? Is it reliable narration or a deliberate misdirection? Is it omniscient knowledge, a complete (or strategically obscured) presentation of the world as the author knows it? Or is the map available to the characters in the text? If it is, then who drew up the map, and how did they have access to the information used to compose it? If it isn’t, then through what resources do the characters orient themselves in their own world? And finally, does anyone even bother to think about these questions before they sit down to place their woodlands and forts?
In the post that follows, I am going to informally sketch out a theory of fictional maps, which is to say that I will put up a lot of pretty pictures from novels and talk about why they are neat. There is likely some academic work on this somewhere — I would be astonished if there weren’t — but I’m not aware of any, and certainly nothing that has accounted for modern critical approaches to the history of cartography. Map history and the comparative study of commercial genre literature are niches within niches as it stands, and my aim is to entwine them together.
I don’t often post links to (or via) Strange Maps — not because I have anything against Frank, but because I assume that you’re already reading it. But I’m making an exception in this case for Frank’s post about the map from the Russian translation of The Hobbit, because it’s utterly unlike any other fantasy map I’ve ever seen (most of them have a certain sameness that is not improved by repetition), and certainly different from the maps made when J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel was first published. I’m making a note of that, here. Here’s a collection of maps from other foreign-language editions of The Hobbit.
A small exhibition of 11 hand-drawn maps of London (really, only 11?) at the Museum of London opens this Thursday. Done in partnership with Londonist, which has been soliciting such maps for some time, the free exhibition runs until September 11. Here’s a post by one of the artists, Paula Simoes, about her map, “Loos of London” (above).
The April 2011 issue of online science-fiction magazine Clarkesworld features a story by E. Lily Yu called “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees,” which is exactly about what it sounds like it’s about. It’s set in reasonably contemporary China, where “it was discovered that the wasp nests of Yiwei, dipped in hot water, unfurled into beautifully accurate maps of provinces near and far, inked in vegetable pigments and labeled in careful Mandarin that could be distinguished beneath a microscope.” I do love fantasy and science fiction tales with maps at their heart, but that shouldn’t surprise you.
Clement Valla collects instances where Google Earth’s 3D terrain layer doesn’t play well with the satellite and aerial imagery — elevated highways and bridges, for the most part. The effect is redolent of Dali — and it’s what happens when you try to make a 3D model of 2D imagery of a 3D surface. Via Boing Boing and Kottke.
A couple of events taking place at Oxford’s Bodleian Library in the near future. The Gough Map (previously) will go on display in an exhibition called Linguistic Geographies: Three Centuries of Language, Script and Cartography in the Gough Map of Great Britain, which runs from May 14 to June 26, 2011. The exhibition closes with a colloquium, The Language of Maps: Communicating Through Cartography During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, which runs from June 23 to 25. Via MapHist.
More maps showing results from the 2008 federal election in Canada; interesting that they’re coming into view now, as context for the current election campaign, rather than immediately after the vote they map. Here are a series of intensity maps that show the popular vote in each federal constituency in British Columbia for the four major parties running there. Via @acoyne.
Previously: 2008 Canadian Election Results.
BBC News’ interactive virtual globe of the world’s time zones isn’t the most informative or even the best time zone map I’ve ever seen (it misses Newfoundland), but it’s certainly an interesting interface. Flash required. Via @mrgeog.
La Presse, a Montreal newspaper, has put poll-by-poll election results from the 2008 Canadian federal election onto a Google Maps interface. (Kudos to them for doing it for the entire country, and in English as well — not something I’d necessarily expect from a Quebec media source.) Being able to get that much detail about the last election is extremely useful in the context of figuring on what’s going on in the current one. More about this at Fagstein. Via Maclean’s.
Oh, hello there, London Mapping Festival — “an 18 month programme of activities designed to promote the unique range of mapping, innovative technologies and applications that exist for the Capital. The festival will showcase all mapping-related disciplines including cartography, surveying, GIS, GPS and remote sensing.” Starting, apparently, in June. See the (preliminary) calendar of events for an idea of what’s going on; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single event attempt to be so all-encompassing. More at Londonist. Via MapHist.
As part of an ongoing effort to find an ideal GPS receiver for field work, Leszek Pawlowicz has a three-part review of the Garmin GPSMAP 62s up on Free Geography Tools: part one, part two, and part three. The review doesn’t pull any punches: Leszek faults the unit’s poor documentation and track and waypoint management, and wonders whether there will be any room in the market for an expensive standalone GPS unit.
Cameron Booth has previously done an Amtrak route map and a map of the U.S. Interstates in the style of a subway diagram; more recently, he’s done a system map of the French high-speed rail network — “all the high speed train routes that pass through France. This includes the French (SNCF) TGV trains, the Eurostar trains from London, the Thalys services from Belgium and the Netherlands, and some ICE services from Germany that operate in tandem with corresponding TGV services from France.” (He’s also done a new version of his Interstate map.)
Fantasy novelist Saladin Ahmed has put out a request for a high-quality map for his upcoming series. “Now. DAW’s in-house person can provide a very serviceable, basic, black-and-white line map. I love my publisher to death and have zero complaints about their plans for the book. But. Truth be told, I would love for the map to move beyond utility and help contribute to teh splashery first impressions.” He’s already gotten enough requests for his needs and as such does not need any signal boosting on my part, but I make a note of it for future reference all the same. I may at some point return to the topic of fantasy novel maps, the quality of those “serviceable, basic, black-and-white” line maps, and what a better class of fantasy map would look like.
Reif Larsen’s 2009 novel, The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, about a precocious 12-year-old cartographer, is now available as an iPad app (iTunes link). Unfortunately not available in Canada, so I can’t say more than that. Via @HodderGeography.
Big Map Blog is, well, a new map blog. The curator explains the premise behind it: “there’s always been two things I wanted from a map blog, and rarely got: A.) enormous maps, and B.) access to the full-resolution file. That’s what this website is about. Enormous maps, file access, and if I can bang out a couple of paragraphs without sounding like an ass, then all the better.”