Planetary Maps for Children is a collection of pictorial maps of several moons and planets of the Solar System (so far: Venus, Mars, the Moon, Io, Europa, Titan, and Pluto and Charon), aimed at younger map readers. The maps are vibrant and colourful, full of sight gags and “fabulous make-believe creatures” and other sight gags. They’re available in digital, poster and virtual globe formats and available in several languages; the whole thing is a project of the ICA’s Commission on Planetary Cartography. [via]
A 2016 aerial survey of ten sites in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve used LIDAR to digitally remove the tree canopy from the landscape, revealing, National Geographic reports, “the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed”—and one that likely supported a much higher population than previously thought. The survey and its findings are the subject of a documentary special premiering tomorrow on the National Geographic channel. More coverage: CBC News, The New York Times, The Verge, The Washington Post.
Landmarks: Maps as Literary Illustration, an exhibition of literary and fantasy maps at Harvard’s Houghton Library, is free to the public and runs through 14 April 2018. “Presented in conjunction with the bicentenary of the Harvard Map Collection, this exhibition brings together over 60 landmark literary maps, from the 200-mile-wide island in Thomas More’s Utopia to the supercontinent called the Stillness in N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Visitors will traverse literary geographies from William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County to Nuruddin Farah’s besieged Somalia; or perhaps escape the world’s bothers in Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood.” Atlas Obscura has more on the exhibition, along with a selection of some of the maps it presents. [Tony Campbell]
When we talk about gerrymandering, about redrawing the political map to favour one’s own party at the expense of another, we talk a lot about the maps themselves. The mapmakers, not so much. Check out this New York Times article on the political consultants who do the redrawing; it focuses on the electoral map of Maryland, which like several other states’ maps is the focus of a court challenge. The process has become even more refined as more and more data becomes available to feed into the redistricting maw.
IanVisits has stumbled across Transport for London’s cache of car line diagrams (CLDs)—the linear maps that appear inside each train car. The TfL page includes CLDs ands CLD stickers for all lines going back to 1996; each line has its own PDF file that contains every iteration of its diagram, one per page. “No one will care about this whatsoever,” says IanVisits. IanVisits is, I suspect, wrong. [WMS]
Cape Town is running out of drinking water, a crisis dramatically depicted by NASA Earth Observatory maps that show the depletion of the city’s reservoirs. The animated gif above, for example, “shows how dramatically Theewaterskloof [Cape Town’s largest reservoir] has been depleted between January 2014 and January 2018. The extent of the reservoir is shown with blue; non-water areas have been masked with gray in order to make it easier to distinguish how the reservoir has changed. Theewaterskloof was near full capacity in 2014. During the preceding year, the weather station at Cape Town airport tallied 682 millimeters (27 inches) of rain (515 mm is normal), making it one of the wettest years in decades. However, rains faltered in 2015, with just 325 mm falling. The next year, with 221 mm, was even worse. In 2017, the station recorded just 157 mm of rain.”
More on the privacy issues regarding Strava’s global heat map and its customer data. Now Wired UK is reporting that Strava’s data isn’t anonymous. Because you can compare your results with nearby users, all it takes is a local GPS tracklog—which can be created out of whole cloth, as Steve Loughran’s blog post demonstrates—to see detailed information about users. Wired UK:
By uploading an altered GPS file, it’s possible to de-anonymise the company’s data and show exactly who was exercising inside the walls of some of the world’s most top-secret facilities. Once someone makes a data request for a specific geographic location—a nuclear weapons facility, for example—it’s possible to view the names, running speeds, running routes and heart rates of anyone who shared their fitness data within that area.
The leaderboard for an area, the Guardian reports, can be extremely revealing. “The leaderboard for one 600m stretch outside an airbase in Afghanistan, for instance, reveals the full names of more than 50 service members who were stationed there, and the date they ran that stretch. One of the runners set his personal best on 20 January this year, meaning he is almost certainly still stationed there.”
Which makes the security issue regarding military personnel using fitness trackers even worse than simply the anonymous aggregate of the routes they take. Yes, this is very much an unintended and unforseen consequence of relatively innocuous social sharing bumping up against operational and personal security protocols; and it’s as much on military personnel to, you know, not use GPS-enabled devices that upload your location to a third-party server as it is on companies to have clear and effective privacy controls. This is very much the result of a whole lot of people not thinking things through.
Previously: Strava Heat Map Reveals Soldiers’ Locations.
We’ve seen “serio-comic” or caricature maps before, most of them dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but Caitlin takes us behind the scenes with a story about one of the artists behind such maps. The twelve maps published in Geographical Fun: Being Humourous Outlines of Various Countries (1868) were the handiwork of a 15-year-old teenager named Lilian Lancaster, who originally drew them to amuse her ill brother. Which is a great and surprising twist. The accompanying text (an introduction and accompanying verses) was by William Harvey (under a pseudonym), who tried to make an educational case for such maps (as one did).
Meanwhile, aerial war games conducted by the USAF over Nevada will disrupt GPS in the western U.S. over the next few weeks. As The Drive reports, “the USAF is going to blackout GPS over the sprawling Nevada Test and Training Range to challenge aircrews and their weaponry under realistic fighting conditions. The tactic will spill over throughout the region, with warnings being posted stating inconsistent GPS service could be experienced by aircrews flying throughout the western United States.” The disruptions will occur through 16 February. [Matt Blaze]
Strava is a mobile fitness tracking app that uses GPS data from phones and watches. It has access to a lot of data, and has been using that data to create a global heat map showing the paths taken by its cycling and running customers. The map’s most recent update, last November, aggregates user data through September 2017. But analyst Nathan Ruser noticed a problem: in places where local Strava use is low, the map can reveal the paths of people from wealthy western countries—for example, soldiers at U.S. military bases overseas, whether they’re patrolling or simply exercising. (U.S. troops are encouraged to use fitness trackers.) Which is to say, suddenly Strava is a security problem. Details at BBC News and the Washington Post.
A Florida businessman’s private map collection is the subject of an exhibition at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. 100 Maps That Changed the World: Discovery of the Americas and the Establishment of the United States, featuring maps from the 15th through the 18th centuries owned by the Asbury family, runs until 31 January at the Alvin Sherman Library. The Sun-Sentinel has a profile of Neal Asbury, whose map collecting jones hit in his 20s. [WMS]
Gerrymandering isn’t just about congressional districts. Earlier this month, Vox’s Alvin Chang explored how school district borders are drawn—and whether they simply reflect existing neighbourhood racial segregation, exacerbate it, or reduce it. Because they can do any one of these things. [Dave Smith]
In gerrymandering news, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the state’s congressional district map earlier this week, ordering the 18 districts—which have been called some of the most gerrymandered in the United States—to be redrawn in time for the 2018 elections. The New York Times explores how the Pennsylvania map could be redrawn in two ways: “One is a neutral map, the kind that might be drawn by a nonpartisan committee. The other is an adventure in extreme gerrymandering that aims to maximize the number of Republican-held seats.” (See above.) Meanwhile, if you live in the state, you might want to take a crack at remapping the districts yourself. Draw the Lines, a project by a nonpartisan watchdog group called the Committee of Seventy, will be holding a contest to redraw the state’s districts later this year.