The Michigan Mitten, Orthorectified

The lower peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan is often called the mitten, for its resemblance to a human hand, and apparently Michiganders indicate where they’re from by using their hands as a rudimentary map of the state. The upper peninsula too. See Strange Maps. Now John Nelson has taken this entirely too far: he’s made the Michigan hand map geographically accurate.

Some Map How-to Videos

Most of their videos are a few years old, but I only recently stumbled across the YouTube channel of New World Maps. They have a number of short, practical videos aimed at map buyers and map owners who want to display their maps: tips for framing maps, for flattening maps so they can be framed (above), for dealing with small chips and tears (at least on inexpensive maps), among other subjects. Useful—and not just for maps.

Confused by Cartographic Conventions

Daniel Huffman writes that “there are certain cartographic conventions out there for which I don’t understand the logic.” (Such as that thematic or choropleth maps should be on equal-area projections.) “I do not suggest that these conventions are wrong; only that I lack a clear, intuitive rationale for following them, and so haven’t always incorporated them into my own practice. Maybe you can help explain them, or maybe you’re confused, too.”

An SF/Fantasy Map Roundup

In December revealed the map for Martha Wells’s upcoming fantasy novel, Witch King, which comes out in May. The post includes both Rhys Davies’s map and Wells’s initial sketch: compare and contrast. Amazon (Canada/UK) | Bookshop

How often do Star Trek tie-in novels come with maps? John Jackson Miller’s Strange New Worlds novel, The High Country, which comes out today, includes maps of the low-technology world on which it is set; in Miller’s Twitter thread last month, he wondered whether his book was the first, but it turns out that a 2000 Deep Space Nine novel also had maps. Amazon (Canada/UK) | Bookshop

In my article about maps in science fiction I made reference to the maps in Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1993-1996 Mars trilogy. Mastodon user 65dBnoise decided those maps were “very few” and “very coarse” (he’s not wrong1) and made some higher resolution maps based on USGS topographical maps of Mars.

Google Maps Updates (February 2023)

Updates to Google Maps announced earlier this month include a rollout of immersive view—first announced last year—in the previously announced cities of London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo (the rollout is delayed somewhat: it was promised for later this year last year), with more cities, including Amsterdam, Dublin, Florence and Venice, coming soon [Engadget]. Also announced: an expansion of the augmented-reality Live View feature (previously: 1, 2) to more cities and indoor venues [AppleInsider]; “glanceable directions” enabling navigation from the lock screen (“in the coming months”) [9to5Google]; and improved charging station search results for electric vehicles with built-in Google search [Jalopnik].

Previously: Immersive View and the Death of Consumer Maps.

In Praise of Dot Grid Maps

Historical FEWS NET Data

Mikel Maron is a fan of dot grid maps:

Dot grids are a clear, informative, multidimensional and flexible cartographic technique. They effectively leverage patterns of human perception to present information dense but readily comprehensible maps. Compared to choropleth maps, dots retain the base map context, and invite us to fill in the gaps. They emphasize the limits of data sampling. Dot grids can be joined together across different boundaries flexibly. The density of a dot grid can be varied depending on the scale. And that visual regularity … it just looks so cool.

He offers some examples of dot grid maps from his work at Earth Genome (see e.g above), and elsewhere, and gives some history of the format.

Colour and the New York Subway Map

Gothamist looks at how colour has been used on maps of New York’s subways: first to to distinguish between subway companies, then to distinguish lines from one another. The post talks to, and draws on the work of, Peter Lloyd, who’s been studying the history of subway mapping in New York and gave a talk last Saturday on the subject of colouring the map’s subway lines. See Peter’s blog post on the subject from this time last year.

Ordnance Survey Soliciting Ideas for New Map Symbols

The Ordnance Survey is asking its users to propose new symbols for its paper and digital maps, the Sunday Times reports [paywalled;  News+]. “The national mapping agency is suggesting a list of potential updates, such as cafés, dog-waste bins and bicycle repair shops, as well as annotations to alert wheelchair and pushchair users about paths that have stiles. It may also include defibrillators once there is a reliable register.” Symbols were last updated in 2015. The Times article quotes a number of people who point out that the OS map could stand more radical change: among other things, there are still no separate symbols for non-Christian places of worship. See also the Guardian’s coverage.

A Kickstarter Project to Rediscover 19th-Century Atlases

Alejandro Polanco’s latest Kickstarter, Geography 1880, is in the vein of some of his previous ones: restoring and reprinting works from the late 19th century. This time he’s looking to create an anthology of maps from family and school atlases of the era.

The idea is to give shape to a new atlas that brings together maps forgotten in time that were once enjoyed again and again, by the light of a fire or gas lamps, from the great era of family atlases. To this end, I am undertaking a process of scanning the atlases of the period between 1860 and 1900 that I have in my library. Alongside this material, the book includes maps from various map libraries around the world (from USA, Spain, UK and Germany), with the corresponding attribution. All this forms an atlas full of authentic 19th century works of art that I hope will spark the imagination of my backers just as it was in the 1880s. Alongside the maps and illustrations of the period, my descriptive commentaries include details of the graphic styles, cartographers and geographical curiosities that appear on each page.

Hardcover, softcover and PDF versions will be produced, the hardcover in a 100-copy limited edition that has already been spoken for.

Previously: A Project to Restore a 19th-Century Treatise on Hand-drawn Mapping.

‘What Is a Map’: A Terrible Educational Film from 1949

Sometimes a terrible old movie is only watchable when you add an audio track in which it’s being brutally and relentlessly mocked: this was the MO of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax, the latter featuring plenty of MST3K alumni. Such is the case with this 1949 educational film, late 1949, “What Is a Map,” which takes an awfully long time to (a) well, do much of anything and (b) get to the subject of maps, so RiffTrax’s version makes it a bit easier to stomach. A bit.

The Soviet Space Program’s Remarkable Electromechanical Navigation Device

Front-facing view of a Globus navigational device from a Soyuz capsule.
Ken Shirriff

You must see this. Ken Shirriff got his hands on an example of a navigational device from a Soyuz spacecraft and opened it up to see how it worked. Known as a Globus (its proper name is Индикатор Навигационный Космический—roughly, space navigation indicator), it’s an incredibly complicated marvel of gears and cams, an electromechanical analog computer that showed the capsule’s position on a physical globe. The position was predicted—the Globus received no navigational data. Ken’s got lots of photos of the innards at his website. See also his Mastodon thread. He has hopes of getting the thing operational, so keep an eye out for that.

(Based on the presence of NASA tracking sites on the globe, Ken thinks this particular unit was meant for the Apollo-Soyuz program, but I kind of wonder whether that was a function of the 1967 Rescue Agreement between the U.S. and the USSR instead.)

The Mercury capsule had something similar for a while: the Earth Path Indicator. One example sold for nearly $100,000 in 2019.