More on the astonishing idea that Earth-orbiting GNSS satellites can be used for navigation at the Moon. The European Space Agency reports that among the instruments carried by the upcoming Lunar Pathfinder commercial mission will be a 1.4 kg satnav receiver that will test its ability to receive GPS and Galileo signals from lunar orbit. “Satnav position fixes from the receiver will be compared with conventional radio ranging carried out using Lunar Pathfinder’s X-band transmitter as well as laser ranging performed using a retroreflector contributed by NASA and developed by the KBR company.” Lunar Pathfinder is currently scheduled to launch in 2024.
Out today from Black Dog & Leventhal: The Quarantine Atlas, a book-length distillation of CityLab’s COVID-19 mapping project, in which they solicited readers’ hand-drawn maps of life under lockdown, the year 2020 in general, and how life has been changed by the pandemic. They received more than 400 submissions; 65 of those maps, plus essays by divers hands, are included in the book.
To mark The Quarantine Atlas’s release, editor Laura Bliss has a piece in Smithsonian adapted from the book’s introduction and generously illustrated with maps. Bloomberg, which absorbed CityLab a while back, features twelve quarantine maps from the various calls for submissions. Update: Plus an adaptation of David Dudley’s foreword.
Yesterday, reports that Google Maps had stopped obscuring satellite imagery of sensitive Russian military facilities spread like wildfire across Twitter. Only there was no official announcement from Google saying they’d done so, and while Ukrainian Twitter was seriously running with it, I wanted to see some confirmation from the mapping side. In the event, an update to Ars Technica’s story says that Google hadn’t stopped blurring the imagery—the imagery hadn’t been blurred in the first place. “A Google spokesperson told Ars that the company hasn’t changed anything with regard to blurring out sensitive sites in Russia, so perhaps none of us were looking closely until now.”
Reece Martin of RMTransit has some thoughts about transit fantasy maps. These are maps that imagine a different transit network for a city, usually greatly expanded (often to the point of implausibility, with lines having nothing to do with where demand actually is or where available transit corridors exist). Reece’s main concern is that the wishful thinking of some of these maps can get in the way of advocating for better transit, but that presupposes that anyone is taking these these maps seriously; this is more his explanation of why he doesn’t talk about them on his channel than anything else.
(I’m reminded of similar fantasy intercity train network maps that expand or restore service to places that don’t have the demand—or the tracks—any more.)
Previously: Why Transit Maps Mislead.
The Geographical Names Board of Canada is celebrating its 125th anniversary. In Canada the provinces (since 1961) and territories (since 1984) do most of the actual naming (exceptions include Indian reserves, military reserves and national parks, which are done jointly by the relevant federal department and the province). What, then, does the Board do? From the Board’s about page:
Among today’s roles of the GNBC as a national coordinating body are the development of standard policies for the treatment of names and terminology, the promotion of the use of official names, and the encouragement of the development of international standards in cooperation with the United Nations and other national authorities responsible for naming policies and practices.
Coordinating, development, promotion, encouragement: as a former government employee, I’m familiar with those, erm, terms of art. But in a country with literally two major rivers named Churchill, a little coordination is not necessarily just an Important Canadian Government Initiative, if you follow me.
Mark Monmonier’s latest book, Clock and Compass: How John Byron Plato Gave Farmers a Real Address—out today from the University of Iowa Press—is a spinoff of sorts. This relatively slim volume does a deep dive on one of the inventions featured in his previous book, Patents and Cartographic Inventions: the clock system invented and promoted by John Byron Plato (1867-1966).
The clock system was an attempt to solve a specific problem: well into the 20th century, farmhouses in the United States lacked proper addresses. Without a street number or even a street name, navigating to a given farmhouse could be a real challenge. Plato’s solution, invented while he was trying his hand at farming in Colorado, was to assign each farmhouse an identifier based on its clock position, with the clock centred on the nearest town. The clock system saw its greatest uptake in upstate New York, where Plato relocated shortly thereafter and started his business selling the maps and directories based on his system. In a marketing turn worthy of Phyllis Pearsall, Plato cultivated his previous status as a farmer, citing as his inspiration a sale lost because his buyer couldn’t find his house.
It’s tempting to think of the clock system as the what3words of a century ago: a proprietary navigational aid promising to make wayfinding simpler. And apart from the considerable curiousity value of an obsolete but unusual (and therefore interesting) system, the story of Plato and his system is pure American hustle: the rise and fall of a business from patent to product to collapse in the face of the Great Depression, to an unsuccessful attempt at restarting in Ohio. The indefatigable Plato even persisted with his system while working for the federal government in various capacities during the 1930s. Meanwhile, after Plato’s patent had expired, a modified compass system—using compass points rather than hours on a clock face—persisted in upstate New York until 1940.
Apart from his system, and the maps and ephemera it produced, Plato left few traces in the historical record, which makes him a challenging subject for a biographer. Monmonier gamely reconstructs what he can from patent filings, tax rolls, employment records and news coverage. Lacking more verbose evidence, Monmonier even resorts to producing maps of Plato’s life from those records, which seems appropriate given the subject matter and even helps illuminate several points. The end result is necessarily fragmentary and inductive, but a portrait of Plato nevertheless manages to emerge: a restless man who after dabbling in many things, changing gears and relocating many times, hit upon an idea that was kind of neat and tried to ride it for all it was worth.
I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher.
Some maps showing the results of the first round of France’s 2022 presidential election. Le Monde’s interactive map shows the winner by commune: it has all the caveats you’d expect from a geographical map (the cities have a lot of voters but not much territory, making Le Pen’s rural support look more impressive). Bloomberg’s maps are behind a paywall: see this Twitter thread instead, which has maps of the regional concentrations of each candidate’s support. (With a dozen candidates on the ballot, it’s hard to get a true picture from a single map.) Also on Twitter, Dominic Royé’s dasymetric maps of the results [Maps Mania].
An interactive globe from the Berliner Morgenpost shows where the Earth is predicted to become uninhabitable by 2100, based on climate models that assume global warming of 2.5-3°C by that date. The globe starts with a vertical map of population, then uses heat maps to indicate where the impacts of heat, drought, sea level rise and increased tropical cyclones will be felt. The key point of this visualization is the impact on population: how many, not just where. In German and English. [Maps Mania]
Last month on the Library of Congress’s map blog, Worlds Revealed, Julie Stoner shared the story of an educational globe with a unique mount invented by author and teacher Ellen Eliza Fitz. “While working as a governess, Fitz imagined a new globe mounting technique, as seen in the globe above, that would facilitate students’ understanding of the Earth’s daily rotation and annual revolution. In 1875, she was granted a patent for her invention. A copy of the patent with a sketch of the design, which can be seen below, is held in the Ellen Eliza Fitz papers at the Watertown Free Public Library in Massachusetts.” Read the rest at Worlds Revealed.
Bespoke globemaker Bellerby and Company is putting the finishing touches on a one-of-a-kind globe that will be auctioned to raise funds for the defence and rebuilding of Ukraine. “One of our talented painters, Anastasiya (Nastia), has been in the company close to 5 years. She is hand painting traditional Ukrainian folk art directly on to this unique and special globe.” The globe is inspired by Petrykivka painting. More at their Instagram post.
In Geographical magazine, Doug Specht and Alexander Kent examine some of the design choices made by media organizations mapping the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Cartographic design choices over colour, layout, lettering and symbology, for example, all influence our attitudes and feelings towards the war in Ukraine. […] [B]y understanding how these choices (e.g., regarding the selection and classification of features as well as their colour and symbology) mask the nuances of reality, we can be better at reading the stories they are trying to tell.”
Relatedly, in a Twitter thread, Le Monde’s cartographic team explores the decisions behind one of their print maps (in French).
Updates to Google Maps announced today include estimated prices for toll roads as well as increased navigation detail. “You’ll soon see traffic lights and stop signs along your route, along with enhanced details like building outlines and areas of interest. And, in select cities, you’ll see even more detailed information, like the shape and width of a road, including medians and islands–you can better understand where you are, and help decrease the odds of making last-minute lane changes or missing a turn.” There are also updates specific to the Apple platform: iPhone and iPad users will get new widgets, Siri and Spotlight integration, and Apple Watch support. The updates will be rolling out gradually: some in a few weeks, some later this summer.
TeleGeography’s Submarine Cable Map 2022 displays the world’s current undersea cable network, plus those under construction; its web page takes you through new projects region by region. It’s available for download (scroll to the bottom of the page) and purchase (though at $250 the paper version is just a bit pricey). [Maps Mania]
In other news, today is The Map Room’s 19th anniversary.
It hasn’t been a continuous run: it was on hiatus between June 2011 and January 2016 (the map content I posted to my personal blog during that time has since been brought over). But still, it’s been a lot: approaching something like 6,200 blog posts as of this writing. It’s kind of staggering, in hindsight.
North American Maps for Curious Minds, written by Matthew Bucklan and Victor Cizek and featuring maps and illustrations by Jack Dunnington, is the second book in the Maps for Curious Minds series: Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds came out in 2019, and Wild Maps for Curious Minds is scheduled to come out this fall. The formula appears to be the same across all three books: 100 maps and infographics, divided by theme into chapters. In the case of North American Maps for Curious Minds, the 100 maps are sorted into seven chapters: Geography; Politics and Power; Nature; Culture and Sports; People and Populations; Lifestyle and Health; and Industry and Transport.
The series is a spinoff of the Brilliant Maps website, and can be seen as an attempt to render viral map memes in book form: if this book is any indication, the maps themselves are the sort that tend to get shared across social media platforms. One I recognized right away was no. 8: the first country you’ll reach going east or west from every point on the coast. Their appearance between hard covers is to be honest a bit unexpected, and to be honest, the translation from screen to page doesn’t always work.