kottke.org posts about geography
Ian Silva is a Australian commuter train driver who spends his spare time mapping an invented country called the Koana Islands.
People in the Koana Islands love baseball. The first league play started in 1882, barely six years after the MLB. Between the top-tier, Triple- and Double-A leagues, there are over 180 teams spanning the island nation. Fans are so rabid that there's even talk of expanding to a Single-A league, adding even more teams. If you're a baseball fan, you might be surprised you've never heard of this. You'll be even more surprised when you try to find the Koana Islands. That's because the 32-island chain, with its nine major cities, 11 national parks, 93 million residents and a landmass that is equal to Spain and Sweden combined does not really exist.
Alan Taylor recently investigated where Google Maps' Street View coverage ends -- "whether blocked by geographic features, international borders, or simply the lack of any further road" -- and compiled a photographic look at the ends of the road.
This is like CSI for geography dorks: you're plopped into a random location on Google Street View and you have to guess where in the world you are. So much fun...you get to say "wait, zoom in, enhance, whoa, back up" to yourself while playing. My top score is 14103...what'd you get? p.s. Using Google in another tab is cheating! (thx, nick)
A list of the northernmost, southernmost, easternmost and westernmost cities/towns/villages in all 50 US states.
Vermont -- Northernmost: Derby Line. Southernmost: Vernon (specifically South Vernon area). Easternmost: Beecher Falls. Westernmost: Chimney Point.
California -- Northernmost: Tulelake (note: Fairport is more northerly but is considered a "former settlement") Southernmost: San Diego (San Ysidro District). Easternmost: Parker Dam. Westernmost: Ferndale.
New York -- Northernmost: Rouses Point. Southernmost: Staten Island-New York City (Tottenville Neighborhood) Easternmost: Montauk. Westernmost: Findley Lake.
The British Board of Film Classification was said to have an informal rule called the Mull of Kintyre test about the erectness of penises shown in films and videos. If a man's penis was at an angle greater than Scotland's Kintyre peninsula, you couldn't show it.
The BBFC would not permit the general release of a film or video if it depicted a phallus erect to the point that the angle it made from the vertical (the "angle of the dangle", as it was often known) was larger than that of the Mull of Kintyre, Argyll and Bute, on maps of Scotland.
The BBFC has denied the test was ever applied. Sometimes a Scottish peninsula is just a Scottish peninsula. (via @josueblanco)
A group of Australian scientists sailing to research plate tectonics discovered more than they were expecting. Well, less. They sailed right through where an island should have been.
Dr. Maria Seton, our cheif scientist, noticed that on the path that we were taking there was this very unusal island. Essentially it was on all the Google Earth maps and it was on all the weather charts. But when you zoom in on it it was just a black blob. Google had no photos from it. It was just this sort of slit in the Earth.
Starting with a blank map of the US, the object is to place each state in its proper place.
My average error was 8 miles. A better test would be to start each state with the blank map...placing Colorado in the western part of the country without any guide is much tougher than doing it last. (via @notrobwalker)
Using computer modeling, it's possible to take a crack at answering that question.
If the earth stood still, the oceans would gradually migrate toward the poles and cause land in the equatorial region to emerge. This would eventually result in a huge equatorial megacontinent and two large polar oceans.
I like these Alphaposters by Happycentro, especially the gorgeous Lowercase F Island:
Because of fences, differing policies, or different cultures, national borders also mark habitat boundaries for animals and plants. More at Edible Geography.
For example, the antlion surplus in Israel can be traced back to the fact that the Dorcas gazelle is a protected species there, while across the border in Jordan, it can legally be hunted. Jordanian antlions are thus disadvantaged, with fewer gazelles available to serve "as 'environmental engineers' of a sort" and to "break the earth's dry surface," enabling antlions to dig their funnels.
Meanwhile, the more industrial form of agriculture practised on the Israeli side has encouraged the growth of a red fox population, which makes local gerbils nervous; across the border, Jordan's nomadic shepherding and traditional farming techniques mean that the red fox is far less common, "so that Jordanian gerbils can allow themselves to be more carefree."
Update: As this satellite view shows, the US-Canada border quite literally forms a line that cuts through the landscape. I had no idea this fenceless border was so visible. (thx, jonathan)
To get to a McDonald's in the lower 48 United States, it's never more than 145 miles by car. And the McFarthest Spot in the US is in South Dakota.
For maximum McSparseness, we look westward, towards the deepest, darkest holes in our map: the barren deserts of central Nevada, the arid hills of southeastern Oregon, the rugged wilderness of Idaho's Salmon River Mountains, and the conspicuous well of blackness on the high plains of northwestern South Dakota.
See also maximum Starbucks density and Starbucks center of gravity of Manhattan.
Update: The distribution of McDonald's in Australia is a bit more uneven. (thx, kit)
Though not as well known as the US version, Europe has a continental divide located between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. It doesn't run along the Alps as much as I thought it would.
BibliOdyssey has collected a number of charts which compare the heights of mountains and lengths of rivers by laying them all out next to each other. (Ok, kinda difficult to explain...just go take a look.) I had a chance to buy a copy of one of these maps a few years ago (not sure if it was an original print or what; it looked old) but passed it up because I didn't have the money. Wish I would have bought it anyway. (via quips)
Forget the Red State / Blue State labels; the real question is Wal-Mart State or Starbucks State.
Click on world cities on a map to test your traveler IQ. Africa = nearly random clicking for me although I would have done better had I not misread Swaziland as Switzerland.
A plot of Japan's Phillips curve ("a historical inverse relation and tradeoff between the rate of unemployment and the rate of inflation in an economy") looks like Japan itself.
Detailed satellite photo of the northern polar ice cap showing that for the first time in recorded history, the Northwest passage (the orange line) is open to sea traffic. The passage was a subject of intense interest to the European powers from the late 1400s, who wanted to find a way to Asia by boat that didn't involve sailing around Africa. (via ben)
Statetris: "Instead of positioning the typical Tetris blocks, you position states/countries at their proper location." There are versions for the US, Africa, Europe, the UK, and more.
The Arctic Ocean was once more of a big lake that drained into the Atlantic Ocean. "18.2 million years ago, something happened. Drawn by shifting tectonic plates, the strait began to widen. Slowly, over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, salt water from the Atlantic began flowing into the Arctic turning it into the ocean we know today."
Lake/island recursion, including "largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island". It's like matryoshka dolls except with islands and lakes. (via fimoculous)
How many countries can you name in 10 minutes? I got just over 70...my weak spots were Africa and spelling. And 10 minutes just isn't enough time. See also name the 50 US states in 15 minutes.
The upper reaches of the northern hemisphere are warming so much that new islands are being discovered, including those once thought to be peninsula. "A peninsula long thought to be part of Greenland's mainland turned out to be an island when a glacier retreated."
Test yourself: how well can you pick out countries on a map of the world? I got a 59 my first time through...better than I thought I would do. (via plasticbag)
Heading into dinner last night, I believed with certainty that Finland was one of the Scandinavian countries. I rebuffed Mr. Jones' attempts to disabuse me of that notion before dessert arrived, but it wasn't until this morning that I checked into the matter and found that he may be correct.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune investigated the issue back in January, finding that there's some controversy, even among the staff at the Finnish Embassy in Washington D.C.:
I called the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C., where press aide Mari Poyhtari started by saying Finland is part of Scandinavia, but then someone in the background disagreed and she corrected herself. The most accurate term is Fenno-Scandinavia or the Nordic countries, Poyhtari said. But, she admitted, "We always say we're part of Scandinavia."
The Wikipedia page on Scandinavia, the result of a vigorous discussion on the topic, indicates that there are several possible arrangements of Scandinavian countries, depending on the grouping criteria used and who you're talking to.
- Geographically, the Scandinavian peninsula includes mainland Norway, Sweden, and part of Finland.
- In the region, the common definition includes Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.
- Outside of the region, the term often includes not only Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland but also Iceland, a grouping commonly called the Nordic countries.
- Linguistically speaking (pardon the pun), the Finnish language is unrelated to Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish, which is an argument for the cultural exclusion of Finland from Scandinavia.
So there you go, clear as mud. Probably best to avoid the issue altogether in the future by using the term Nordic instead of Scandinavian. All look same anyway.
Update: Underbelly notes that this "issue is in no way limited to Scandinavians":
It's the kind of muddiness you just have to expect when you consider any culture. Was Cleopatra an Egyptian? Are the Tasmanians British? What did the Byzanatines have in mind when they described themselves as "The Romans" while fighting wars against, well, Rome?
The CIA World Factbook maintains a page about the entire world, which seems like it was meant to be read by aliens about to visit Earth for the first time. (thx jake)