Rethinking the Cone of Uncertainty

A feature of hurricane maps is the so-called cone of uncertainty, which shows the range of likely paths the hurricane is forecasted to follow. The problem is that the cone of uncertainty is easily misinterpreted by the reader. The MIT Technology Review’s Karen Hao looks at five ways the cone can be misinterpreted, along with some alternative methods of visualizing a hurricane’s projected path. [Gretchen Peterson]

More from (and on) The Writer’s Map

On Monday I received a review copy of The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands, a collection of essays edited by Huw Lewis-Jones. It’s out this week from the University of Chicago Press. It’s very much up my alley, relevant to my interests, et cetera, and I’m looking forward to reviewing it, though the to-be-reviewed pile it’s sitting on top of is getting very large.

In the meantime, another book excerpt has been reprinted online: Literary Hub has Lev Grossman’s wide-ranging piece on fantasy maps. It joins the essays by David Mitchell, Frances Hardinge, Robert Macfarlane and Miraphora Mina we’ve seen before. The book isn’t all text, though: as you might expect, there are rather a lot of maps in it. Those maps are the focus of Atlas Obscura’s look at the book.

Previously: David Mitchell on Starting with a Map; Essays on Literary Maps: Treasure Island, Moominland and the Marauder’s Map.

Navigating New York: An Exhibition at the New York Transit Museum

An exhibition at the New York Transit MuseumNavigating New York, got a writeup in Curbed New York. “The exhibit, which has been in the works for about a year, draws heavily on the NYTM’s extensive collection of objects related to the transit system—subway maps, yes, but also cartographic tools, renderings, and other ephemera. There are also items that might be familiar even to those who aren’t transit wonks, like the New Yorker’s 2001 ‘New Yorkistan’ cover by Rick Meyerowitz and Maira Kalman.” Vignelli’s famous 1972 subway map also makes an appearance. The exhibition runs through 9 September 2019; there’s no dedicated web page for it.

Map of Indigenous Canada Accompanies People’s Atlas

Canadian Geographic

The map accompanying the Indigenous People’s Atlas of Canada is a map of Indigenous Canada: as iPolitics’s Anna Desmarais reports, “Dotting the map are the names of Indigenous languages, including Cree and Dene, and the geographical location where each language is spoken. The size of the word, officials said, depends on how big the Indigenous population is in a given region.” Meanwhile, the names and borders of provinces and territories are apparently absent, and the only cities that appear on the map are the ones with substantial Indigenous populations. It sounds marvellous. [WMS]

Previously: The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada.

Mapping Natural Disasters in France

In response to the latest round of flash floods in France, The Local has a piece looking at natural disasters in France that points to a set of interactive maps from France Info (in French; page doesn’t work well in Safari) that show the number of natural disasters, by commune, since 1982, as well as the number of disasters due to flooding and drought. The maps indicate where the disaster hot spots are in France and (to some extent) where they aren’t: only 3.5 percent of French communes have never had a disaster declaration in that period. Sixty percent of the disasters were due to flooding; The Local also points to the Global Flood Map: zooming in sufficiently shows the zones for high and moderate risk of flooding. [Gretchen Peterson]

Equal Earth Gets a Wall Map

It was announced today at NACIS that the Equal Earth projection is now available as a wall map—which is a necessary thing if it’s going to go toe-to-toe with the Peters map. The political wall map is only available as a download (three versions, centred on Africa and Europe, the Americas, or the Pacific): the 19,250 × 10,150-pixel, 350 dpi file results in a 1.4 × 0.74 m (55″ × 29″) print—assuming you have access to a large-format plotter. Not everyone does, so it’s only a matter of time, I suspect, before they have prints available for sale.

The map shows countries and territories in surprising detail (it includes Clipperton, for example); and while it does show disputed regions as such, its choices of boundaries and nomenclature won’t make it many fans in South Korea or India.

Previously: The Equal Earth Projection; Equal Earth Updates; More on Equal Earth.

The BBC on the Ordnance Survey

Speaking of the Ordnance Survey, here’s a potted history of the OS from the BBC’s Bethan Bell. The definitive history, of course, is Rachel Hewitt’s Map of a Nation (2010), which I reviewed in 2012, but it only covers the first century or so. Bell’s piece is full of factoids—scattershot, random access—from both the 19th and 20th centuries. [A-Z Maps]

The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book

Today is the publication date for The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book (Trapeze), a collection of map quizzes and puzzles—a “mix of navigational tests, word games, code-crackers, anagrams and mathematical conundrums” contrived by Gareth Moore—based on some 40 Ordnance Survey maps dating as far back as 1801. It’s out in the U.K. only; North Americans will have to try third-party sellers on Amazon (or elsewhere) or order directly from British vendors.

The Lost Art of Finding Our Way

Book Cover: The Lost Art of Finding Our WayIt’s become a commonplace that modern technology has eroded our ability to navigate: that relying on GPS and smartphones is destroying our brains’ abilities to form cognitive maps and that we’d be utterly lost without them.1 I’m not sure I subscribe to that point of view: plenty of people have been getting themselves lost for generations; relying on an iPhone to get home is not much different from nervously having to follow someone’s scribbled directions without really knowing where you’re going.

For my part, I can’t get lost. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for me to get lost: that has, in fact, been known to happen. I mean that I can’t allow myself not to know where I am under any circumstances. I’ve got a pretty good cognitive map, but if I’m in a strange city without a map of said city, I’m deeply uncomfortable if not upset; provide me with a map to get my bearings with and I’m immediately at ease. In my case, having an iPhone—with multiple map applications—means I don’t have to get to the nearest map outlet as soon as freaking possible. It’s not, in other words, an either-or situation.

John Edward Huth is firmly in the former camp. He’s a particle physicist at Harvard who’s worked on the Higgs boson who for years has been running an interesting side gig: he teaches a course on what he has called “primitive navigation”—the ancient means of navigating the world that existed prior to the advent of some later technology. The course, and the accompanying book, The Lost Art of Finding Our Way (Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2013), are an exercise in recapturing those methods.

Continue reading “The Lost Art of Finding Our Way”

Hurricane Michael’s Impact

It’s after the fact, at least in terms of initial landfall (if not aftermath), but maps I’ve seen of Hurricane Michael include the USGS’s Hurricane Michael page, which includes an event support map and a map of coastal change impacts; and imagery from the Suomi NPP satellite that shows the path of Hurricane Michael through the power outages left in the storm’s wake.

Are People with a Good Sense of Smell Better Navigators?

A recent study suggests that there’s a link between a good sense of smell and a good sense of direction, with the same brain areas being implicated in both abilities. As someone who has difficulty getting lost who also has a precise sense of smell, I resemble this study, which was published at Nature Communications. [Boing Boing]

Toronto’s Cartographic Birth Certificate?

Jean-Baptiste Franquelin, Carte pour servir à l’éclaircissement du papier terrier de la Nouvelle-France, 1678. Map in 8 tiles, 1.09 × 1.91 metres.èque nationale de France

A 1678 map of New France by Jean-Baptiste Franquelin may be to Toronto what the Waldseemüller map is to America: a so-called “cartographic birth certificate”—i.e., the first instance of a name to appear on the map. The label “Tarontos Lac” on what is now Lake Simcoe isn’t legible on the Bibliothèque Nationale de France’s online version, but when Canadian geographer Rick Laprairie ordered a high-resolution print of the map from BNF, he was surprised to discover it. Laprairie, who notes that three other maps with “Toronto” in the name have come from maps believed to be created later, is writing this up for Ontario History magazine, but in the meantime see coverage from CBC News and the Toronto Star.

Here XYZ

Here Maps is still around, and they’ve announced the public beta of Here XYZ, a set of tools for developers to create online and interactive maps. There are several levels of said tools: Here XYZ Studio is a web-based application designed for non-developers; there are more advanced tools and APIs available, up to and including a command-line interface. Documentation is here. [Maps Mania]

Previously: Google Maps Changes API Pricing, Competitors Respond.

Mapping Society

Laura Vaughan’s Mapping Society: The Spatial Dimensions of Social Cartography (UCL Press, 3 September) “traces the evolution of social cartography over the past two centuries. In this richly illustrated book, Laura Vaughan examines maps of ethnic or religious difference, poverty, and health inequalities, demonstrating how they not only serve as historical records of social enquiry, but also constitute inscriptions of social patterns that have been etched deeply on the surface of cities.” Available in the U.K. in hardcover (£45) or paperback (£25), but you can also download the PDF for free: the book is published under a Creative Commons licence.