The maps that appear from time to time on xkcd are usually a lot more whimsical than the one Randall posted today: his somewhat belated “2016 Election Map” assigns one figure for every 250,000 votes for each of the 2016 presidential election candidates. As Randall says in the alt text,1 “I like the idea of cartograms (distorted population maps), but I feel like in practice they often end up being the worst of both worlds—not great for showing geography OR counting people. And on top of that, they have all the problems of a chloro… chorophl… chloropet… map with areas colored in.” This is an issue that election map cartographers regularly have to deal with, as many of my readers know well.
I’m surprised it took as look as it did for physics and cartography to collide—relativity and choropleth maps—in an xkcd cartoon.
In yesterday’s xkcd cartoon, Randall makes explicit what I think a lot of us have been thinking about those maps assigning a word or a search term to each state or country or whatnot.
Randall Munroe is a bad man who is back with another bad map projection to make our eyes bleed. (If he does this often enough he’ll have enough for a book. Heaven forfend.) This one is, like his other maps, fiendishly subtle: it stretches and compresses countries to fit where their time zones ought to be, longitudinally speaking.
Today’s xkcd is a British map labelled by an American. It’s another one of those where the longer you stare at it, the more it hurts. Randall’s messing with us again.
Today’s xkcd is a flowchart for figuring out the age of an undated world map. Look carefully.
Today’s xkcd is a map of the United Sta—wait … what has Randall done? My eyes … they’re bleeding.