In Search of Thoreau’s Missing Map

A 1970 article about a 1912 expedition to Maine’s Mount Katahdin that mentioned “a diagram that Thoreau had made in the middle of the last century when he paid Katahdin what was to become a famous visit” has set off a modern-day search for that map of Thoreau’s. Only, as the Lewiston Sun-Journal’s Steve Collins reports, no one seems to has a copy of, or even heard of, said map. [WMS]

Beidou, China’s Satellite Navigation System, to Be Complete by June

Beidou logoChina’s Beidou satellite navigation system—a competitor to GPS like Russia’s GLONASS and Europe’s Galileo—will be complete by June 2020, when the constellation’s final two satellites are launched, the Associated Press reports. Twenty-four satellites have already been orbited. Whereas the first two iterations of Beidou offered regional coverage, this third iteration will cover the globe when complete. [Engadget, TechCrunch]

GPS Is Easy to Disrupt, and the Consequences of Disruption Are Serious

In an article in the December 2019 issue of Scientific American, now available online, Paul Tullis looks at the problem of GPS hacking, or spoofing—how easy it is to do, how vulnerable GPS is to it, and the consequences we’d face if GPS was disrupted on a broad level. It’s essential but scary reading. The potential scenarios Tullis describes are far more serious than the instances of GPS spoofing we’ve seen so far. It’s not just about navigation: a lot of critical infrastructure relies on GPS timestamps.

Tullis points out that other GNSS systems have terrestrial-based backup systems; GPS does not, despite a 15-year-old directive to build an eLORAN backup that would put out a signal too strong to spoof.

Previously: A GPS Spoofing Mystery in Shanghai; The Russians Are Spoofing! The Russians Are Spoofing!

Check Out These Other Gift Guides

If The Map Room’s 2019 Holiday Gift Guide still leaves you wanting for ideas, and the additional books in the Map Books of 2019 page don’t do it either—maybe you just don’t want a book—here are some other map-related gift guides curated by colleagues and reviewers:

Over at Map Dragons, Betsy Miller posts 10 Great Gifts for Map Lovers that include not just books, but posters, wallpaper, notebooks and even rugs. Many items, like Eleanor Lutz’s Atlas of Space, Jim Niehues’s book of ski resort maps, and Anton Thomas’s still-forthcoming pictorial map of North America, will be familiar to regular readers of this blog.

Mapping London’s Christmas list focuses on recent books about maps of London, as you might expect.

The New York Times’s Tina Jordan looks at recent map books, starting, as you might expect, with the latest National Geographic Atlas of the World (“If you’re going to buy just one atlas this fall . . . ”). Her list also includes a couple of 2019 releases I somehow managed to miss:

Book cover: An Atlas of Geographical WondersAn Atlas of Geographical Wonders: From Mountaintops to Riverbeds (Princeton Architectural Press, September), by Gilles Palsky, Jean-Marc Besse, Philippe Grand and Jean-Christophe Bailly, explores nineteenth-century scientific maps and tableaux, beginning with those by Alexander von Humboldt.

Also from September, Infinite Cities (University of California Press), a boxed set of Rebecca Solnit’s trilogy of atlases of San Francisco, New Orleans and New York.

Mason and Miller’s Third Act: Map Dragons

Betsy Mason and Greg Miller started blogging about maps at Wired Map Lab (which ran from 2013 to 2015), then moved to National Geographic, where their blog, All Over the Map, provided first-rate coverage of all matters cartographic, and formed the core of their book, coincidentally also called All Over the Map, which came out at the end of last year (see my review). Unfortunately the blog seems to have come to a close at about the same time the book came out. But now it looks like Betsy and Greg have struck out on their own with a new website, Map Dragons, where they promise more map stories soon. Can’t wait.

Tom Patterson’s Map of Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound
Tom Patterson

Tom Patterson’s projects are always worthy of note. His latest is a wall map of Alaska’s Prince William Sound—a physical relief map that, Tom warns, will very soon be out of date:

Prince William Sound turned out being the most laborious map that I have ever made. The culprit: climate change. Although much of the data that went into making the map was of recent vintage, glaciers in the region have melted noticeably these last few years.

Updating physical features—glaciers, coastlines, rivers, and lakes—from recent satellite images took up ninety percent of my time. Nevertheless, the completed map is only a snapshot in time. Columbia Glacier, for example, lost another one kilometer of its length during the summer of 2019. Much of what the map depicts will be out-of-date again before too long.

It can be downloaded, printed (it’s 44 × 36 inches) and modified free of charge.

A Naïve Look at New York’s Subway Map

Screenshot (nytimes.com)

The New York Times does a deep dive into New York’s current subway map: its design choices, its history, its quirks. It’s more an animated slideshow than interactive map: each step takes us along a route, bouncing up and down (for example) where you’d expect to walk. It’s also completely devoid of any context, particularly the controversies around this very map’s design. People have been agitated about New York’s subway map, and have been reimagining and rethinking it, for decades.

That said, even a naïve look at the status quo isn’t without value, especially since the status quo is rarely looked at on its own terms, but rather in the context of tearing it up and coming up with something new and better.

Digital Historical Atlas of Luxembourg

Screenshot (luxatlas.lu)

Luxatlas.lu is a digital historical atlas of Luxembourg. A collaboration between the City of Luxembourg History Museum and the University of Luxembourg, the map presents historical building data atop of a series of maps and aerial photography layers dating back as far as 1820. In German (I’m pretty sure that isn’t Luxembourgish). [RTL Today, Tony Campbell]

Nostalgic for Old-School TV Weather Maps. Really?

I’ve seen a lot of nostalgic pieces about paper maps and the advent of digital maps (here’s another one) that they’re almost not worth mentioning. But this piece about TV weather maps—specifically, bemoaning the loss of physical weather maps on which presenters “slapped magnetic clouds on to paper cutouts” and their replacement by computer and satellite imagery—is too, ah, much to ignore.

Mapping Canadians’ Attitude Towards Climate Change

Screenshot of interactive map of Canadian public opinion on climate change
Screenshot

Researchers have released an interactive map showing Canadians’ opinions about climate change—whether it’s happening, and what we should do about it—and, more significantly, the regional variations in that opinion, down to the riding level. Not surprisingly, the oil- and coal-producing regions are much more likely to be climate skeptics.

The map is based on surveys of more than 9,000 Canadians taken between 2011 and 2018, which raised my eyebrows a bit: public opinion can change a lot over seven or eight years, after all. But the researchers did so to get a more accurate sense of regional opinion: opinion polls are usually based on a small national sample; regional breakdowns of that sample have large margins of error, and getting accurate regional samples would be a lot more expensive. More at Global News.

Bert Johnson, 1946-2019

Hubert O. (Bert) Johnson, longtime stalwart of the Washington Map Society and indefatigable administrator of its Facebook group, died earlier this month of a heart attack. He was 73.

Bert and I only knew each other online, and that mostly via what we posted. In fact, we made a regular habit of stealing each other’s links. He’d share many of The Map Room’s posts on the WMS Facebook group, and many of my posts had their origins in something Bert posted on the WMS Facebook group.

An obituary and funeral details are still to come.

First Geologic Map of Titan

Geologic map of Titan
NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

The first global geologic map of Titan, based on radar and infrared data from the Cassini probe, has been released.

The map legend colors represent the broad types of geologic units found on Titan: plains (broad, relatively flat regions), labyrinth (tectonically disrupted regions often containing fluvial channels), hummocky (hilly, with some mountains), dunes (mostly linear dunes, produced by winds in Titan’s atmosphere), craters (formed by impacts) and lakes (regions now or previously filled with liquid methane or ethane). Titan is the only planetary body in our solar system other than Earth known to have stable liquid on its surface—methane and ethane.

The map is the result of research published today in Nature Astronomy.

Previously: Titan in Infrared; Mapping Titan with VIMS; A Topographic Map of Titan.

A GPS Spoofing Mystery in Shanghai

Someone is spoofing GPS signals in Shanghai, and we’re not entirely sure why they’re doing it, or how. One ostensibly bizarre theory: sand thieves trying to obfuscate illegal dredging by zonking out the GPS received by other ships’ AIS transponders. But how they’re redesignating ship (and bicycle) GPS locations into riverside circles, rather than, say, shifting everyone’s position a few kilometres away, has not yet been figured out. [MetaFilter]

Previously: The Russians Are Spoofing! The Russians Are Spoofing!