Everything under the sun can be expressed as a Tube map. Including, as blogger Camestros Felapton demonstrates above, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books. A glance at the original and official maps of Earthsea reveals that world as an intricate, almost overwhelming archipelago: Camestros’s map, like all good transit diagrams, expresses the books as journeys between points.
The World Magnetic Model—the standard model of the Earth’s magnetic field and a crucial part of modern navigation systems—was last updated in 2015. That update was supposed to last until 2020, but problems with the model started within a year of the last update. As Nature reports, a geomagnetic pulse under South America in 2016 made the magnetic field “lurch”:
By early 2018, the World Magnetic Model was in trouble. Researchers from NOAA and the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh had been doing their annual check of how well the model was capturing all the variations in Earth’s magnetic field. They realized that it was so inaccurate that it was about to exceed the acceptable limit for navigational errors.
As a result, the WMM is being updated a year early—this month, in fact, though the U.S. government shutdown is pushing back the release of the updated model.
You know who isn’t worried about the future of paper maps and whether people still know how to use them? The people who actually sell them. The Guardian’s Kevin Rushby talks to Stanfords cartographer Martin Greenaway, ostensibly on the occasion of the venerable map store’s move to new digs in London; Greenaway thinks that paper maps are ripe for a comeback (Stanfords does a lot of print-on-demand maps), and points out a number of other map use cases that a mobile device simply can’t be used for. [CAG]
With Barely Maps, Peter Gorman has reduced maps to their most minimalist, and their most cryptic: a grid of abstract shapes that represent the geometries of states, neighbourhoods, subway stops or intersections. Gorman started desigining them a few years ago as a side-gig, he writes. “Then, last year, my print ‘Intersections of Seattle’ went viral, and I decided to make the map-based art prints a full-time thing. Now, as I get close to 100 original maps, my next project is to compile a book of my designs, along with the stories that inspired them.” The maps are available for sale on Etsy; the book, he hopes, will be available by the end of 2019. [Kottke]
CNet’s Kent German asks people to stop tech-shaming over old phones and paper maps, though I’m not exactly sure who exactly does this (it’s not like he provides any examples). Anyway, one example he does use to bolster his argument is the time a paper map saved him from getting lost in France when his rental car’s GPS didn’t have updated maps; the graft to the larger argument in favour of not being so quick to abandon old tech in favour of the latest and greatest does leave some visible seams. (He also drags the post office into the argument. It’s Luddite potpourri.) [MAPS-L]
The argument for paper maps is getting ever more insistent, even shrill, but it seems to me to be mainly coming from the tech side of things. My impression is that the people who rely too much on mobile maps haven’t lost the ability to read maps; they never had it in the first place.
Previously: Popular Mechanics Proselytizes Paper Maps.
Over at GeoLounge, Caitlin has a brief and basic overview of medieval maps and travel guides, including T-O maps, travel guides for pilgrims, mappae mundi, and portolan charts. As she points out, only the last of these even attempted to be geographically accurate; the others had other purposes.
So far there are not many books listed, but that will change as the year progresses. Also keep in mind that publication dates shift all the time: keeping on top of those changes can be a sisyphean task, but I’ll do my best.
What works online does not necessarily translate very well into a book, but All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey (National Geographic, October), a very fine book from our friends Betsy Mason and Greg Miller, is strong evidence to the contrary.
For the last two and a half years, Betsy and Greg have written a blog of the same name for National Geographic; from 2013 to 2015 they did the same thing with Map Lab, a map blog for Wired. Their background with regard to maps is similar to mine: “We are not experts in cartography or its history; we’re journalists with a lifelong love of maps who were eager to learn more,” they write in the book’s introduction.
The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World (HarperCollins) is the flagship of the Times World Atlas line. (The others, in descending order of size and price, are the Concise, the Universal, the Reference, the Desktop and the Mini.)1 It’s the latest in a long line of Times atlases, tracing its heritage to the original 1895 atlas published by the Times and the 1922 Times Survey Atlas of the World produced by the venerable Scottish mapmaking firm, John Bartholomew and Son. Like its predecessors, it’s absolutely gargantuan: with the slipcase, it’s 47 × 32.5 cm (16.5 × 12.8 inches) in size and weighs 5.7 kg (12.6 lb). Only the National Geographic Atlas of the World is a little bit larger, and even it weighs less than the Comprehensive (4.5 kg or 9.9 lb).2
The 15th edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas came out on 6 September 2018 (and on 15 November 2018 in North America). HarperCollins has sent me a review copy, and I’ve been trying to come up with something to say about it.
A long exposé from the New York Times explores just how much location data is collected from mobile apps, to the point where the identity of an anonymous user can be reconstructed from where they’ve been. The key point: whatever purpose the app is collecting your location for (for example, to give you your local weather), that location data may be shared with and sold to other parties.
We’ve talked about James Niehues before: the legendary artist has painted hundreds of maps of ski resorts and recreational areas since the late 1980s. I was excited to learn that he’s producing a coffee table book that includes all of his maps. It’s being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Pledging $75 or more gets you a copy of the book; other pledge levels get you a high-quality print. Clearly there’s some interest: at the moment the project has raised more than $223,000 from nearly 2,000 backers, 28 times its target of $8,000, with three weeks still to go. [Kottke]
Last Friday’s xkcd suggests that the Mercator projection’s reputation can be used to convince anyone of any false geographical fact.
Not that I’d suggest you do that, mind. No.
Meanwhile, Caitlin has a roundup of guides to making your own map-based Christmas ornaments. They include John Nelson’s printable geodesic globe ornament, a decoupage ornament made by gluing map cutouts onto a round ornament, and ornaments made by recycling old maps.
Previously: Waldseemüller Globe Ornament.
On The Map Room’s Facebook page I was asked, in the context of this year’s gift guide, whether I had any suggestions for younger readers. All I could come up with was The Ultimate Mapping Guide for Kids. Writing in the Guardian, Vivien Godfrey of Stanfords does rather better than I did, providing a list of maps, books, games and puzzles for children. Very much British-focused. [WMS]
The Mapping Grand Canyon Conference, to be held at Arizona State University from 28 February to 1 March, 2019, “explores the art, science, and practice of Grand Canyon cartography. […] Free and open to all, the conference promises a full two-day program of map-based story-telling, transdisciplinary analysis, state-of-the-art geospatial and cartographic demonstrations, engaging hands-on activities, and open community dialogue.”
The conference also includes a Grand Canyon map competition. Open to students, the competition seeks entries in three categories: artistic map, data driven map (static) and data-driven map (dynamic). Deadline is 20 January 2019. [NACIS]