Google Maps Switches to 3D Globe at Small Scales

Google

Web mapping uses Web Mercator. As Kenneth Field points out, this is fine at large scales, but at small scales you end up replicating the problem of using the Mercator projection on a wall map of the world.1 Zoom out in Apple Maps: using the map layer you get a Mercator; using imagery you get a virtual globe (basically, an orthographic projection you can spin). Ditto in Google Earth. But Google Maps, after some tests and starts, now does this in its map layer—and not just in Chrome, either. This means, among other things, that Antarctica is usably visible, as are the Arctic regions—and, of course, Greenland is its proper size at small scales.

At the Edinburgh Fringe: ‘The OS Map Fan Club’

Helen Wood
Helen Wood

At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? You may want to check out The OS Map Fan Club, an hour-long solo performance about Ordnance Survey maps that sounds relevant to our interests. Written and performed by Helen Wood, The OS Map Fan Club has been making the fringe and festival circuit this year and has been getting good reviews (see here, here and here). At the Edinburgh Fringe until 18 August; details and tickets here. [Map of the Week]

Previously: Cartography: ‘A Gently Interactive Show’ at the Halifax Fringe Festival.

Maps of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham at the Canadian War Museum

CBC Ottawa looks at four hand-drawn maps of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham of 1759, in which British forces captured the city of Québec. The maps are held in the vaults of the Canadian War Museum and are too delicate to put on display; I have not as yet been able to find online versions of these maps there or at Library and Archives Canada.

Dave Imus Profiled; New Edition of His Iconic Map Coming Soon

Dave Imus is in the news again: he’s the subject of this profile by Oregon Public Broadcasting, which looks at his childhood, his career, and his sudden launch to fame and fortune when his iconic, award-winning map of the U.S. was called “the greatest paper map of the United States” by Slate. It also drops a bit of news: Imus is working on a new edition of his map, which will see a limited release in November before the regular version is published in 2019. [Gretchen Peterson]

Previously: The Best Map of Alaska?; David Imus’s Map of Oregon;  David Imus in the Oregonian; A Paper Maps Roundup.

An Amazing Relief Globe of the Moon

In 2016 I told you about Michael Plichta’s first globe, a delightfully retro hand-crafted globe of Mars based on Percival Lowell’s maps that showed the world covered in canals. Plichta’s second globe project is also cool and unusual, but in a completely different way: it’s a relief globe of the Moon. No globe gores were used to make this 30-cm globe: the textured surface is cast in artificial plaster and then painted by hand, a compulsively exacting process laid out in this short video:

Hand-crafted globes are never inexpensive, and though Michael never mentions prices, this one cannot be either. (I’ve seen his Mars globe listed for $1,850.) That said, this is a definite lust object. I desperately want one.

Previously: A Globe of Percival Lowell’s Mars; New Moon Globe Released; Globes of the Solar System.

Geographers on Film

Waldo Tobler

The Library of Congress’s Geographers on Film collection is a video archive of interviews with cartographers and geographers conducted during the 1970s and 1980s. About 300 interviews were apparently conducted; 28 are online so far. Interview subjects include Walter Ristow, Arthur Robinson (in 1972 and 1984) and Waldo Tobler, among others.

Diagrams of Power

Diagrams of Power, a group exhibition taking place right now at OCAD University’s Onsite Gallery in Toronto, “showcases art and design works using data, diagrams, maps and visualizations as ways of challenging dominant narratives and supporting the resilience of marginalized communities.” Curated by Patricio Dávila, it runs until 29 September. Free admission.

Update: The above is lacking in some detail; here’s the Toronto Star review to make up for it.

‘Empty Land Doesn’t Vote’ and Other Hot Takes

New York Times (screen capture)

The hot takes about the New York Times’s detailed map of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results (see previous entry) have been coming in fast. Most of the critiques focus on the map’s failure to address population density: a sparsely populated but huge precinct appears to have more significance than a tiny district crowded by people. See, for example, Andrew Middleton’s post on Medium, Keir Clarke’s post on Maps Mania or this post on Wonkette—or, for that matter, a good chunk of cartographic Twitter for the past few days. (It’s not just Ken, is what I’m saying.)

The responses to those critiques generally do two things. They point out that the map had a specific purpose—as the Times’s Josh Katz says, “we wanted to use the 2016 results to make a tool that depicted the contours of American political geography in fine detail, letting people explore the places they care about block by block.” As he argues in the full Twitter thread, showing population density was not the point: other maps already do that. Others explore the “empty land doesn’t vote” argument: Tom MacWright thinks that’s “mostly a bogus armchair critique.” Bill Morris critiques the “acres don’t vote” thesis in more detail.

Relatedly, Wired had a piece last Thursday on the different ways to map the U.S. election results, in which Ken Field’s gallery of maps plays a leading role.

Previously: The New York Times’s Very Detailed Map of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

The New York Times’s Very Detailed Map of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

New York Times (screen capture)

It’s 2018. The 2016 U.S. presidential election is nearly two years in the past. But that didn’t stop the New York Times from unleashing a new map of the 2016 election results earlier this week. On the surface it’s a basic choropleth map: nothing new on that front. But this map drills down a bit further: showing the results by precinct, not just by county. The accompanying article sets out what the Times is trying to accomplish: “On the neighborhood level, many of us really do live in an electoral bubble, this map shows: More than one in five voters lived in a precinct where 80 percent of the two-party vote went to Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. But the map also reveals surprising diversity.”

Kenneth Field has some objections to the map. “So you have smaller geographical areas. Detailed, yes. Accurate, certainly. Useful? Absolutely not because of the way the map was made.” It’s a choropleth map that doesn’t account for population: “An area that has 100 voters and 90 of them voted Republican is shown as dark red and a 90% share. Exactly the same symbol would be used for an area that has 100,000 voters, 90,000 of whom voted Republican.” It gets worse when that thinly populated precinct is geographically larger. (Not only that: the map uses Web Mercator—it is built with Mapbox—so Alaska is severely exaggerated at small scales.) There are, Ken says, other maps that account for population density (not least of which his own dot density map).

The Times map has a very specific purpose, and Ken is going after it for reasons that aren’t really relevant to that purpose. The map is aimed at people looking at their own and surrounding neighbourhoods: the differences in area and population between a precinct in Wyoming and a precinct in Manhattan wouldn’t normally come up. It works at large scales, whereas Ken’s point is more about small scales: zoom out and the map becomes misleading, or at the very least just as problematic as (or no more special than) any other, less granular choropleth map that doesn’t account for population. The map isn’t meant to be small-scale, doesn’t work at small scales, but then people regularly use maps for reasons not intended by the mapmaker. The mistake, I suspect, is making a map that does not work at every scale available at every scale.

Update: See this post for more reactions to the map.

Arrests Made in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts

Arrests have been made in the case of the rare books and maps stolen from the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, the New York Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report. Former library archivist Gregory Priore and John Schulman, the owner of the Caliban Book Shop, are accused of stealing some $8 million in items from the library over a 20 year period, about $1 million of which has since been identified and returned.

They both face numerous charges, including theft, receiving stolen property, conspiracy, retail theft and forgery; Priore has also been charged with library theft and criminal mischief, while Schulman is also facing charges of dealing in the proceeds of illegal activity, theft by deception and deceptive business practices.

Both men turned themselves in last Friday and were released on their own recognizance; a preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1 August. For his part Priore seems to be cooperating with the investigation.

Previously: New Details Emerging in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts; 314 Rare Books and Maps Stolen from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

New Maps of Pluto and Charon

Tenzing Montes, Pluto. NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI/LPI/Paul Schenk.

New global and topographic maps of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, have been published. The Icarus articles—this one for Pluto, this one for Charon—are behind a paywall, however, though I expect the maps themselves to be freely available at some point.

To create the maps, New Horizons researchers, led by Universities Space Research Association (USRA) senior staff scientist, Paul Schenk, at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, registered all the images from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) systems together and assembled the mosaics. This labor-intensive effort required detailed alignment of surface features in overlapping images. Digital analysis of stereo images obtained by both cameras were used to create topographic maps for each region; these were then assembled into integrated topographic maps for each body. These new maps of Pluto and Charon were produced painstakingly over a two-year period as data were slowly transmitted to Earth from the New Horizons spacecraft. The quality of geographically and topographically accurate maps improved with each new batch of images that were returned to Earth.

One surprise revealed by the maps: both Pluto and Charon have a lot of elevation. For example: Pluto’s Tenzing Montes range (above) rises up to 6 km above the surrounding plain, and Charon has a topographic amplitude of 19 km (only Iapetus has more). That’s seriously craggy. Keep in mind that these are not large worlds: Pluto’s radius is 1,200 km, Charon’s 600 km. [Michele Bannister]

Radiation Map of Europa

U.S. Geological Survey, NASA/JPL-Caltech, JHUAPL, Nature Astronomy.

I knew that Europa, like Jupiter’s other major moons, was absolutely baked by radiation coming from Jupiter (Wikipedia reports it at 5.4 Sv/day, a lethal dose). It did not occur to me that that radiation was not evenly distributed. In preparation for future missions to Europa, a new study, using Galileo and Voyager data, tries to map where the radiation is most intense on the Europan surface, as well as how far that radiation penetrates beneath the surface. If there’s life on Europa, it’s probably where the radiation isn’t. [JPL]

Another Caricature Map of Modern Europe

In December 2016 cartoonist Andy Davey created, for a private client, a modern-day “serio-comic” map of Europe in the style of the caricature maps that proliferated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Now he’s created another one in the same style, this one even better than the last: it features political figures in the shape of their countries, with leaders from elsewhere in the world blowing wind in Europe’s direction. Very easy to get lost in the detail here. [WMS]