Coming this weekend, as it does every first weekend in February: the Miami International Map Fair, now in its 25th year. It’s marking that milestone without its co-founder, Marcia Kanner, who died last June at the age of 82. [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.
Two things about CityGuide’s beginner’s guide to map collecting. One, it’s not so much for beginners as written by a beginner; the author, Chris Sharp, is recounting his own journey into map collecting. Which brings me to the other thing: what kind of map collecting he’s talking about, which is to say, the “collecting all the OS Landranger maps” kind of map collecting, not the “paying exorbitant sums for a rare and ancient map that might be a forgery or sliced out of a volume from a library’s rare books collection” kind of map collecting. I don’t want to invoke Dunning-Kruger here, but I’m not sure he knows how much more there is out there. I suspect that he’s going to find out. Not being British myself, I don’t know to what extent Ordnance Survey maps are the gateway drug to a serious map collecting jones, but I have my suspicions. [WMS]
The Australian government has released high-resolution sea floor map data of the Great Barrier Reef; the data improves the view of the relief by a factor of eight, from 250-metre resolution to 30-metre resolution. The result of a collaboration between James Cook University, Geoscience Australia and the Australian Hydrographic Service, the data “can be used for policy, planning and scientific work. For example, this data is an important input for oceanographic modelling, which we can use to enhance our knowledge of climate change impacts, marine biodiversity, and species distribution.” Press release, data files.
Maps of real places done up in the style of fantasy maps are a thing, as those who have been following along will know by now. I’m planning a dedicated page on the subject in the Fantasy Maps section. That page will have to include Dan Bell’s maps of the Lake District—maps, he says, “that resemble the iconic style of J. R. R. Tolkien.” His maps have suddenly got a bit of media attention, which is atypical for this sort of project: BBC News, The Westmoreland Gazette. They resemble more the maps done for the Lord of the Rings movies than the maps created by Christopher Tolkien or Pauline Baynes: one tell is the triple-dot diacritic above the a, which is used in the movie maps and comes from Tolkien’s Elvish script. Bell, a 25-year-old “ordinary guy” from the Lake District, is selling prints of the maps online. [Kenneth Field]
Today is the 90th birthday of Seymour Schwartz, surgeon, map collector and author of books of map history (The Mismapping of America and Putting “America” on the Map, among others). It’s a milestone noted by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, which gives considerable attention to his long medical career—a side of him that those of us into maps may know less about. [WMS]
Previously: Seymour Schwartz’s Hidden Passion.
Two items on books about nonexistent places on maps and other map errors, each of which we’ve heard of before:
- The Santa Fe New Mexican has a piece on The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps by Edward Brooke-Hitching, which came out in the U.K. in late 2016 (previously); that edition is available via Amazon on the U.S. and Canada, but a separate U.S. edition is coming in April from Chronicle. [WMS]
- Meanwhile, at National Geographic’s All Over the Map blog, Greg Miller takes a look at The Un-Discovered Islands, Malachy Tallack’s book about phantom islands: places once thought real, but later proven nonexistent. Like The Phantom Atlas, it first saw publication in 2016; its U.S. edition came out last November (previously). Miller’s piece includes examples of such nonexistent places on maps from the Osher Map Library.
A data visualization by Gwilym Lockwood looks at where passengers get on and off the tube—it’s “a geographically accurate map of the London tube lines, sized by number of passengers getting on and off at each station.” Hovering over and clicking on each station reveals more data. [Maps Mania]