Twice now I’ve encountered globes that I find more than a bit unsettling, in that they wrap a map of a portion of the Earth around an entire globe.
The first one I ran across was the Globus Polski or Poland Globe, an inexpensive 12-inch globe which comes in two versions, administrative and physical, and depicts the country of Poland as if it were Pangaea. According to a comment on the Reddit post where I think I first saw it, there are apparently other single-country globes like this out there.
The second is the polar opposite of the Poland Globe: it’s large, expensive and one of a kind: a bespoke, illustrated globe of the Silk Route that took Bellerby more than a year to complete to the customer’s exact specifications. The main map on the globe covers the Silk Route itself, from the Mediterranean to Japan; the back of the globe—this globe has a back side—“features a map of China with overlapping details on the eras at the time of the Silk Route.”
I have to confess that I’m weirded out by this sort of globe: they fall into a cartographic uncanny valley in which the thing mapped is ostensibly correct but in a form that somehow feels deeply wrong.
Tom created the Topologist’s Map of the World to show how countries connect to each other. Deliberately emulating the style of a T-O map, Tom started with a Voronoi diagram and finished the map in Inkscape. Exclaves are ignored (too complicated), and islands encircle the rest of the map. Among Tom’s observations: “Some countries get really distorted—mostly when they find themselves near the centre of a continent. I’d often thought of Germany as the centre of Europe, but here, Austria and Hungary get really stretched out because they end up bordering countries on opposite sides of the continent.” [r/MapPorn]
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal’s take on the Mercator projection is … not what you’d expect. The punch line is similar to Christopher Rowe’s short story, “Another Word for Map Is Faith”: if you can’t make the map conform to the territory, make the territory conform to the map. Since we’re dealing with the Mercator projection, this requires some … escalation.
xkcd is back with another bad map projection: in this one, it’s all South Americas. The alt-text: “The projection does a good job preserving both distance and azimuth, at the cost of really exaggerating how many South Americas there are.”
It’s not like xkcd has a monopoly on comics about maps. Last week, Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal web comic posted a comic about alternative non-spherical Earth theories: everything from a hollow Earth to, well, stranger variations—including a slightly lumpy oblate spheroid Earth, which I frankly find hard to believe in.
The dots don’t represent anything in particular, nor is their number and placement indicative of any kind of data. But when you’re looking at them, all spread out on a map of the United States like that—it’s hard not to be a little blown away.
Seven hundred of them. Seven hundred dots. That’s more than 500 dots—well on the way to 1,000. That could represent 700 people, or crime scenes, or cities. Or something that happens in this country every 20 seconds. These dots could potentially be anything—they’re red dots, so they could definitely mean something bad.
Whatever they might be, there’s no unseeing these dots.
This is a map of the United States without insets. Published in 1975 by the U.S. Geological Survey, it shows Alaska, Hawaii and the lower 48 states in the same, continuous view—though Hawaii’s Leeward Islands are cut off (as are the various territories). Can’t have everything, I guess. It’s available from the USGS as a free downloadable PDF; the paper version costs $9. [MapPorn]
If Shetland gets relegated to inset maps all the time, that goes double for Alaska, which on maps of the United States gets reduced in scale too. In response, this map turns the tables by relegating the lower 48 (as well as Hawaii) to a tiny and crude inset map. The 17×25-inch paper map costs $15. [Maps on the Web]
The Great Polish Map of Scotland, a giant concrete relief map 50 metres by 40 metres in size, was the brainchild of Jan Tomasik, a hotelier and former Polish Army soldier who was stationed in Scotland during the Second World War. He envisioned the map as a monument to Scotland’s hospitality to the visiting Polish soldiers. The map, designed and built by visiting academics from Kraków’s Jagiellonian University, was completed in 1979; it stands on the grounds of Barony Castle Hotel in Eddleston, which Tomasik had bought in 1968.
The hotel closed in 1985 (for a while), and the map began to deteriorate. In 2010 a campaign began to restore the map, which proved successful: the restored version of the map, complete with water surrounding the Scottish land mass, was unveiled to the public last Thursday, in the presence of the Scottish culture secretary and Polish diplomats.
We’ve seen maps reimagining the United States reorganized into a different number and configuration of states before, but this map by Reddit user Upvoteanthology_ looks north of the border for inspiration. It imagines what would happen if the U.S. were organized like Canada, with the same population imbalances: Ontario, for example, has 38.9 percent of the Canadian population, so this map imagines a superstate, Shanherria, with 38.9 percent of the U.S. population that spans the entire U.S. South, plus Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas and the non-Chicago parts of Illinois. Meanwhile, Maine is roughly equivalent to Prince Edward Island, and the three northern territories map to Alaska.
Clickhole, The Onion’s satirical clickbait website, had a hilarious piece last October declaring that rising sea levels will turn Australia into a rhombus: good news for cartographers, for whom Australia will be easier to draw.
According to a new study by the National Ocean Service, melting icecaps and glaciers will raise sea levels enough to cause drastic coastal erosion to virtually every landmass on the planet, including Australia, which will transform from its current shapeless continental configuration into a crisp, tightly angled quadrilateral. While this will unquestionably result in an incalculable amount of economic and ecological devastation, it will likely be a welcome change for cartographers, who instead of spending hours trying to perfect the jagged and asymmetrical outline of the Australian coast like they do now, will in the coming decades be able to handily dash off a geographically accurate rendering of the continent in just a few seconds flat.
The map is bad, is my point, and obviously bad, and I sincerely wish that we didn’t have to talk about it. But we do. Because maps like this one aren’t merely birdbrained schlock: They are a social media plague, a scourge that can reduce just about any social network to gibbering in-fights in the space of a few virally shared minutes. We’re all susceptible; we’re all defenseless. A dumb internet map with incendiary falsehoods is coming for all of us, and there is just about nothing we can do to stop it.
The formula goes something like this: Map plus declaration of definitive statewide preference equals profit. Profit here means eyeballs or clicks or reshares or, most likely, some combination of all three, especially the last one, because it turns out that there are few sentiments more appealing than Oy, check out the terrible things the cretins in [Bad State] get up to.
The truth is we’re all very boring, and our preferences aren’t all that different.
Worth reading in full.
The problem is that even though their methodologies are shoddy and their conclusions are dubious, clickbaity maps like these are popular. The competition for attention is fierce, and maps are a quick and dirty way of generating traffic. My traffic skyrockets whenever I post a link to something even remotely like these maps (xkcd is usually a safe bet), and if I resorted to posting maps like these all the time, I’d be making muchmore money at this. But I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror.