A Czech Atlas Publisher Is Caught Between Israel and Palestine

A Czech publisher has managed to get itself entangled in the dispute over how to map Israel and Palestine, with a school atlas that showed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (which Palestinians dispute). The Palestinian ambassador protested; the Czech education ministry relented—which enraged the Israelis, until the Czech education ministry reversed itself again. This is one of those situations where a neutral map is impossible: each option pisses off the other side. As Google found out about Crimea, it isn’t always enough to show the “right” map to the right people.

Previously: Russia Accuses Google Maps of ‘Topographical Cretinism’ Over CrimeaGoogle, Palestine, and the Unbiased MapEmpty Maps and Virgin Territory.

Street View Protects Cow Privacy

Google’s Street View blurs people’s faces for privacy reasons. Licence plates, too. But a tweet by the Guardian’s David Shariatmadari reveals that Google’s algorithm sometimes extends privacy rights to cows.

See the BBC’s coverage. Some context from Slate.

High-Resolution Elevation Data Released for Alaska

The White House
The White House

A new digital elevation model of Alaska was released earlier this monthThe result of a presidential directive to improve elevation maps of Alaska as a tool “to help to help communities understand and manage” the risks of climate change, the ArcticDEM project is a collaboration between the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the University of Minnesota, among others. The unclassified data gives two-metre (or better) resolution across the state. Lower-resolution DEMs for the entire Arctic will follow next year.

Digital elevation data for Alaska had previously been poor; the National Geographic article leads with the point that Mars has better topographic maps than Alaska does. Most digital elevation data is collected by airplane—an impractical method in the far north; the ArcticDEM is based on stereo imagery from DigitalGlobe satellites. (As a comparison, the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission’s DEM resolution is 30 metres for the U.S., 90 metres elsewhere.)

ArcticDEM data is available on the ArcticDEM Explorer page and on the NGA’s Arctic Support 2016 page.

After the cut, a comparison of digital elevation models pre- and post-ArcticDEM, using Anchorage, Alaska.

Continue reading “High-Resolution Elevation Data Released for Alaska”

Treasures from the Map Room

treasures-map-room-obliqueA new book, Treasures from the Map Room, “explores the stories behind seventy-five extraordinary maps” held at the Bodleian Library, including the Gough Map, the Selden Map, and maps by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Edited by Debbie Hall, it’s out now in the U.K. and next month in North America. Buy at Amazon. [Tony Campbell]

Related: Map Books of 2016.

Gaia’s First Sky Map

gaia-sky-map

Yesterday the European Space Agency released a sky map based on the first 14 months of data collected by the Gaia spacecraft, an astrometric observatory whose mission is to create a precise catalogue of astronomical objects’ position and relative motion. Several versions are available: annotated, unannotated, annotated with titles (above), unannotated with titles. The maps contain artifacts (curves and stripes) from Gaia’s scanning procedures, but they’ll improve as more data is added over the course of Gaia’s five-year mission.

Mapping Star Trek

This month marks Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, so I thought it might be worth it to put together a little post about maps in Star Trek. This proved to be more fraught a subject than I expected. There are a lot of maps of the Star Trek universe out there by divers hands, some more official than others, and they don’t always agree on all points, as Sufficient Velocity forum member WhiteDragon25 griped in 2014:

Despite so many planets, stars, systems, and other locations that were mentioned and referenced to throughout the entire franchise’s run, we’ve never got an official and fully accurate map of the Trek universe. […] Hell, for all of the Star Wars EU’s faults, at least it managed to generate a universally accepted map! Star Trek on the other hand, despite being just as popular as Star Wars, cannot even figure out the sizes and positions of the Feds, the Romulans, and the Klingons in relation to one another!

WhiteDragon25 might be overstating things a bit: most of the maps have the Star Trek major powers in the same relative position (other empires like the Tholians are another matter). But the point remains. While original series canon assigned aliens to known nearby stars, and the shows occasionally used real locations (e.g. Wolf 359), episode writers did not start with a map and generally did not take spatial relationships into consideration, which no doubt has made the belated mapping process a bit more challenging.

star-trek-map-books

In print form, the earliest map I’m aware of is Star Trek Maps (1980), which according to Memory Alpha was a pair of double-sided map posters accompanied by a fairly mathy booklet; of course, the Star Trek universe was a lot smaller then. Star Trek: Star Charts came out in 2002 and seems to be considered the most canonical of the maps in existence; it’s out of print now, though. Star Trek: Stellar Cartography (2013), a collection of ten 24″×36″ folded maps. (Note that I haven’t seen any of these maps.)

star-trek-stellar-cartography

Online, Star Trek Dimension’s Cartography section has maps from the series as well as Christian Rühl’s Galactic AtlasStarTrekMap.com, a fan site that appears to be based on Star Trek: Star Charts, uses an in-universe interface that functions well (scroll wheel zooming!) but is awfully small on large screens. Neither has been updated in years. The Star Trek Online game also has, as you might expect, a map.

Mapping Same-Sex Marriage in America

The New York Times
The New York Times

The number of same-sex marriages in the United States is not directly tracked. But a new Treasury Department research paper has been able to come up with a count of same-sex marriages by looking at jointly filed tax returns; the New York Times story is accompanied by a nice interactive map of such marriages by zip code. [MAPS-L]

British Library Exhibition on 20th Century Maps Opening in November

The British Library’s upcoming exhibition, Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line, runs from 4 November 2016 to 1 March 2017. Tickets are now on sale.

Two World Wars. The moon landings. The digital revolution. This exhibition of extraordinary maps looks at the important role they played during the 20th century. It sheds new light on familiar events and spans conflicts, creativity, the ocean floor and even outer space.

It includes exhibits ranging from the first map of the Hundred Acre Wood to secret spy maps, via the New York Subway. And, as technology advances further than we ever imagined possible, it questions what it really means to have your every move mapped.

The Evening Standard and TimeOut London look at one item going on display: Harry Beck’s original sketch of what would become the iconic Tube map.

New Edition of Times Concise Atlas Now Out

times-concise-13thThe 13th edition of the The Times Concise Atlas of the World came out last week. The HarperCollins listing sets out the updates and changes from the previous edition (including changing “Czech Republic” to “Czechia,” argh). The Concise is the second-largest of the Times world atlases and slots between the Comprehensive and the Universal in terms of physical size, page count, number of maps and place names. Here’s a handy chart showing the differences between the various Times atlases. [Collins Maps]

Related: Map Books of 2016.

The Geography of American Incarceration

The New York Times
The New York Times

The New York Times maps “the geography of American incarceration,” in an investigative piece that includes an interactive map showing prison admissions per county. They’ve diverged sharply in recent years: less populous, more rural, more conservative counties are doubling down on being tough on crime.

Just a decade ago, people in rural, suburban and urban areas were all about equally likely to go to prison. But now people in small counties are about 50 percent more likely to go to prison than people in populous counties.

They’re also more likely to get much stiffer sentences—something the map is not able to track.

Doctor Who Does Trap Streets

Last year a Doctor Who episode turned the concept of the trap street—a fictitious map feature designed to catch copyright violations—on its head. In the series nine episode “Face the Raven,” the Doctor looks for a London street that cannot be found on maps.

THE DOCTOR: But if the stories are true though, there should be a street in one of these old maps that no longer exists in the real world.

CLARA: Like a trap street, only not.

THE DOCTOR: What did you say?

CLARA: A trap street. You know, when someone’s making a map—a, um, cartographer—uses a fake street throws it into the mix, names it after one of his kids or whatever, then, if the fake street—the trap street—ever shows up on someone else’s map they know their work’s been stolen. Clever, right?

THE DOCTOR: My God! A whole London street just up and disappeared and you lot assume it’s a copyright infringement.

Unlike trap streets, the street exists, and the reason it has disappeared has nothing to do with cartographic copyright. Finding the street takes some doing, as this clip the BBC has made available recently shows; unfortunately, it takes place immediately after the bit I quoted above.

Architectural Maps of London

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London-based publisher Blue Crow Media has begun issuing a series of cartographic guides to urban architecture. They sent me samples of their first two maps, the Art Deco London Map and the Brutalist London Map. (A bilingual Constructivist Moscow Map came out this week, and a Brutalist Washington Map is coming in October.)

Each is a folded paper map of London, 42 × 60 cm in size, that highlights more than 50 examples of Art Deco or Brutalist architecture, respectively, found in that city. On the front side is the map itself, where the architectural examples, highlighted in red, pop out against an extremely spare base layer that has no text except for parks and Tube stations; streets are unlabelled. The end result is dramatic and clear—the grey-on-black Art Deco map is particularly striking—but presupposes a familiarity with the landscape (or a smartphone); these maps really can’t be used on their own to find things. They’d look awfully good on a wall, though. These are simple, well-designed maps that make a virtue of simplicity. They cost £8 each (or two for £14.50).

The Cultural Impact of the Irish Ordnance Survey

ordnance-survey-irish-literatureCóilín Parsons is the author of The Ordnance Survey and Modern Irish Literature (Oxford University Press, June 2016; Amazon, iBooks), which links the Ordnance Survey of Ireland to the origins of literary modernism in Ireland. Writing in The Irish Times, Parsons makes a larger argument about the cultural impact of the Irish survey, which resulted in large part from the survey’s precise mapping requirements and the need to hire non-cartographic scholars to get the job done—they were mapping aspects of Irish life that had not previously received official attention.

This unlikely assembly came about because the survey was instructed to make a map at a scale of six inches to one mile. The scale might seem unexceptional to anyone who grew up using the survey’s maps, but at the time it was nothing short of revolutionary—it called for enormous maps of frequently sparsely inhabited areas, and at a level of detail never before seen across such a vast expanse of land. How was the survey to gather the information to fill in such detailed maps? The answer was to task not only the engineers of the army, but also a crew of civilian workers under Petrie’s supervision, to both map the physical features of the landscape and also record every possible aspect of the landscape from its placenames (the initial justification for employing Irish language scholars) and archeology to its productive economy.

[WMS]