This interferogram shows the ground displacement caused by last week’s earthquakes in southern California. Produced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it’s based on synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from JAXA’s ALOS-2 satellite taken both before (16 April 2018) and after (8 July 2019) the earthquakes. Each colour cycle represents 12 centimetres (4.8 inches) of ground displacement.
Map data is not perfect and users are too trusting. They believe maps to be accurate, and the map data that GPS receivers, online maps and smartphones rely on is riddled with a thousand insignificant errors that show up in unexpected cases. Whenever we read a story about some driver getting themselves into trouble because they followed the directions their GPS receiver or phone gave them, that’s what caused it.
Take, for example, last month’s incident where Google Maps’ response to a traffic accident was to route traffic heading toward Denver International Airport along a private dirt road that was muddy and nearly impassible due to recent rains: about a hundred cars got stuck. That Google Maps thought the muddy part of East 64th Avenue was a viable route would not likely have been spotted were it not for the accident; said accident routed dozens of drivers along an unfamiliar route that they had no real option other than to trust Google on. [Jalopnik]
Meanwhile, see Dan Luu’s Twitter thread on Google Maps (and other map providers’) errors, their persistence, and the trouble it can sometimes take to get them dealt with.
Talking Maps, opening today at the Bodleian Libraries, is a major new map exhibition featuring maps from the Bodleian’s collections.
Highlights on show include the Gough Map, the earliest surviving map showing Great Britain in a recognizable form, the Selden Map, a late Ming map of the South China Sea, and fictional maps by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Map treasures from the Libraries’ collection will be shown alongside specially commissioned 3D installations and artworks, and exciting works on loan from artists and other institutions.
The exhibition is co-curated by Jerry Brotton, who among other things wrote A History of the World in Twelve Maps (my review) and Bodleian map librarian Nick Millea. They’ve co-authored a companion book to the exhibition, also out today, and also called Talking Maps (Bodleian).
The Bodleian is also publishing a number of other map books to coincide with the exhibition, including Mark Ashworth’s Why North is Up: Map Conventions and Where They Came From (Bodleian) and Brotton and Millea’s Fifty Maps and the Stories They Tell (Bodleian).
(See the Map Books of 2019 page for more Bodleian titles.)
Briefly noted: the publication last month of Marieke van Delft and Reinder Storm’s De Geschiedeneis van Nederland in 100 Oude Kaarten (Lannoo), whose title, for the 98.6 percent of you who are not visiting this website from the Netherlands, translates as The History of the Netherlands in 100 Old Maps, which makes it the same sort of book as Susan Schulten’s History of America in 100 Maps (reviewed here), only about the Netherlands. And in Dutch. It’s not listed at every Amazon store (and at the moment is not in stock where it is listed), but it’s available (at a discount) from the publisher.
In Monday’s xckd, Randall Munroe points out that when it comes to coordinate precision, there is such a thing as too many decimal places.
Mapping Memory: Space and History in 16th-century Mexico, a new exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, presents “a selection of maps, known as Mapas de las Relaciones Geográficas, created by Indigenous artists around 1580. These unique documents show some of the visual strategies used by native communities for the endurance and perseverance of their cultures throughout the so-called colonial period and well beyond.” Opened 29 June; runs until 25 August.
Opening today at Hughenden Manor: a permanent exhibition on the secret wartime mapping activities that took place at the Buckinghamshire mansion during the Second World War.
In rooms never before opened to the public, the installation features original photographs, records and memories of personnel involved at the time.
In newly accessible spaces used by the mapmakers themselves, the interactive exhibits shed light on how Hillside played such a significant role in shaping the outcome of the war. […]
Codenamed ‘Hillside’, Hughenden played such a critical role supporting the pilots of nearby Bomber Command that it was on Hitler’s list of top targets.
Around 100 personnel were based here, drawing up the maps used for bombing missions during the war, including the ‘Dambusters’ raid and for targeting Hitler’s mountain retreat Eagle’s Nest. Skilled cartographers produced leading-edge maps from aerial photographs delivered by the RAF’s reconnaissance missions.
The BBC News story provides more detail: some 3,500 hand-drawn target maps were produced at Hughenden Manor during the War.
Europe is in the middle of a severe heat wave. The European Space Agency has released a map of land temperatures in Europe as of 26 June, produced from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite’s temperature radiometer, “which measures energy radiating from Earth’s surface in nine spectral bands—the map therefore represents temperature of the land surface, not air temperature which is normally used in forecasts. The white areas in the image are where cloud obscured readings of land temperature and the light blue patches are either low temperatures at the top of cloud or snow-covered areas.”
With the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 almost upon us, there’s been an uptick in moon-related content, which includes moon-related map content. For example:
New Exhibition. Opening today at The Map House in London, The Mapping of the Moon: 1669-1969, an exhibition of three centuries of lunar cartography. “The exhibition includes rare early 17th and 18th Century observations of the moon from astronomers such as Athanasius Kircher and Jean-Dominique Cassini, important maps produced by NASA for lunar exploration, globes and signed material by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean and Jim Lovell.” Runs until 21 July. [ARTFIXDaily]
New Map. The July 2019 issue of National Geographic has a new map of the Moon that updates the 1969 painted version (see above) with a mosaic based on Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imagery. I don’t know whether that means a physical version of the map will be included with the issue as an insert, but I hope it does.
New Way to Navigate. NASA has a post on using GPS on the Moon. Now, I’d thought that using GPS on another world would require the deployment of a GPS satellite constellation around said world. No, this is about using Earth-orbiting GPS signals for lunar navigation, which simulations suggest is possible. The mind boggles.
The Wall Street Journal goes in-depth on a problem Google Maps has had for years: fake and deceptive business listings posted by scam artists that crowd out legitimate local businesses—as many as 11 million such listings at any given moment, according to experts.
Online advertising specialists identified by Google as deft fraud fighters estimated that Google Maps carries roughly 11 million falsely listed businesses on any given day, according to a Journal survey of these experts.
They say a majority of the listings for contractors, electricians, towing and car repair services, movers and lawyers, among other business categories, aren’t located at their pushpins on Google Maps. Shams among these service categories, called “duress verticals” inside Google, can snag people at their most vulnerable.
Those experts and Google disagree as to the extent of the problem. (Which is exacerbated by how easy it is to set up a business listing.) And the scam artists aren’t simply displacing local businesses: they’re resorting to outright extortion: pay up, or we’ll swamp you with bogus listings. [Engadget, The Verge]
A new study quantifies the economic benefits of GPS: in the U.S. alone, it estimates around $1.4 trillion in economic activity resulting from private-sector GPS use, about half of that coming from improvements in the telecommunications sector. (Roughly a quarter came from the telematics sector, and 15 percent from location-based services.) About 90 percent of those benefits have been generated in the last decade. The study also quantified the impact of a GPS outage: about a billion dollars a day, more if it occurred during planting season (agriculture has become reliant on GPS). [Ars Technica]
And speaking of GPS outages, earlier this month hundreds of flights were grounded over what appeared at first to be a GPS signal problem, but turned out to be a technical issue with GPS receivers made by Collins Aerospace. About 400 flights were cancelled on Sunday, 9 June, mostly involving Bombardier regional jets, but also other airliners and private aircraft. The FAA instructed pilots of affected aircraft to use other navigation methods; Collins says it has identified the issue and is working with the airlines. Coverage: AINonline, FlightGlobal, Forbes, GPS World, RNTF. [Jason Rabinowitz]
The British Antarctic Survey—which despite its name focuses its attention on both polar regions—has released a new one-sheet map of Greenland and the European Arctic. The 1:4,000,000-scale map covers a region from Baffin Island to Novaya Zemlya to Scotland: a region that’s usually on the edges of maps of the Arctic and Europe rather than getting its own map. More importantly, it’s a very recent snapshot of a rapidly changing region: the retreating ice sheet in Greenland is revealing new landscapes. The map costs £12 and is available either folded or rolled from Stanfords and the Scott Polar Research Institute. [BBC]
Last week Eleanor Lutz, who gave us an old-style map of Mars in 2016 and a Goddesses of Venus map in 2017, announced her latest project: “Over the past year and a half I’ve been working on a collection of ten maps on planets, moons, and outer space. To name a few, I’ve made an animated map of the seasons on Earth, a map of Mars geology, and a map of everything in the solar system bigger than 10km.” In the coming weeks she’ll be going through each of those maps and explaining the design and source data for each. First up this week: her map of the solar system showing the orbits of every object larger than 10 km in diameter, from Mercury to the Kuiper Belt, and thousands of asteroids in between. [Universe Today]
Om Malik’s take on the updates to Apple Maps: “all it does is remind me of Bing—an also-ran that can never catch up to Google.”
The WWDC hoopla around this tells me that Apple thinks of Apple Maps as an application, whereas in reality, maps are all about data—something Google understands better than anyone. Google maps are getting richer with data by the day. The more people use those maps to find locations, the deeper their data set gets. In my last visit to Old Delhi, I was able to find antique stores in back alleys with no difficulty at all. Apple Maps was nowhere close.
Malik suggests that Apple’s concern with their customers’ privacy may be holding back the quality of its maps relative to Google.
Google has faint regard for customer privacy, so they don’t hesitate to suck up all our data in order to build an amazing experience—so much so that many of us are willing to pay the price with regard to our personal information. Apple has a stance on privacy, which is why I am their customer, but at the end of the day, it’s an irrefutable fact that the Internet is a connected experience—and maps are part of that Internet.
Meanwhile, Reüel van der Steege has a side-by-side comparison of Apple’s upcoming Look Around feature with Google Street View.
Made a quick side-by-side comparison video driving the same road in Hawaii with 'Look Around' in Apple Maps on #iOS13 vs Google Street View. It really is "smoothly move down the street"! Impressive 🤩 #WWDC19 #iOS13Beta #AppleMaps #GoogleMaps #Apple #maps pic.twitter.com/nIA3kklhJe
— Reüel van der Steege (@rvdsteege) June 13, 2019