In an article in the December 2019 issue of Scientific American, now available online, Paul Tullis looks at the problem of GPS hacking, or spoofing—how easy it is to do, how vulnerable GPS is to it, and the consequences we’d face if GPS was disrupted on a broad level. It’s essential but scary reading. The potential scenarios Tullis describes are far more serious than the instances of GPS spoofing we’ve seen so far. It’s not just about navigation: a lot of critical infrastructure relies on GPS timestamps.
Tullis points out that other GNSS systems have terrestrial-based backup systems; GPS does not, despite a 15-year-old directive to build an eLORAN backup that would put out a signal too strong to spoof.
If The Map Room’s 2019 Holiday Gift Guide still leaves you wanting for ideas, and the additional books in the Map Books of 2019 page don’t do it either—maybe you just don’t want a book—here are some other map-related gift guides curated by colleagues and reviewers:
Betsy Mason and Greg Miller started blogging about maps at Wired Map Lab (which ran from 2013 to 2015), then moved to National Geographic, where their blog, All Over the Map, provided first-rate coverage of all matters cartographic, and formed the core of their book, coincidentally also called All Over the Map, which came out at the end of last year (see my review). Unfortunately the blog seems to have come to a close at about the same time the book came out. But now it looks like Betsy and Greg have struck out on their own with a new website, Map Dragons, where they promise more map stories soon. Can’t wait.
Prince William Sound turned out being the most laborious map that I have ever made. The culprit: climate change. Although much of the data that went into making the map was of recent vintage, glaciers in the region have melted noticeably these last few years.
Updating physical features—glaciers, coastlines, rivers, and lakes—from recent satellite images took up ninety percent of my time. Nevertheless, the completed map is only a snapshot in time. Columbia Glacier, for example, lost another one kilometer of its length during the summer of 2019. Much of what the map depicts will be out-of-date again before too long.
It can be downloaded, printed (it’s 44 × 36 inches) and modified free of charge.
The New York Times does a deep dive into New York’s current subway map: its design choices, its history, its quirks. It’s more an animated slideshow than interactive map: each step takes us along a route, bouncing up and down (for example) where you’d expect to walk. It’s also completely devoid of any context, particularly the controversies around this very map’s design. People have been agitated about New York’s subway map, and have been reimagining and rethinking it, for decades.
Yes, I've seen this NY Times subway infographic piece. It's… odd. Seems to excuse bad design with some magical hand waves and expect us to believe this is really the best map that could be made.https://t.co/5xjiAK9EQz
That said, even a naïve look at the status quo isn’t without value, especially since the status quo is rarely looked at on its own terms, but rather in the context of tearing it up and coming up with something new and better.
Luxatlas.lu is a digital historical atlas of Luxembourg. A collaboration between the City of Luxembourg History Museum and the University of Luxembourg, the map presents historical building data atop of a series of maps and aerial photography layers dating back as far as 1820. In German (I’m pretty sure that isn’t Luxembourgish). [RTL Today, Tony Campbell]
I’ve seen a lot of nostalgic pieces about paper maps and the advent of digital maps (here’s another one) that they’re almost not worth mentioning. But this piece about TV weather maps—specifically, bemoaning the loss of physical weather maps on which presenters “slapped magnetic clouds on to paper cutouts” and their replacement by computer and satellite imagery—is too, ah, much to ignore.