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kottke.org posts about maps

The Drawings Secretly Inserted into Official Swiss Topographical Maps

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2020

Hidden drawing in a Swiss map

Hidden drawing in a Swiss map

For decades, mapmakers working for the Swiss Federal Office of Topography have defied their mandates to create the most accurate maps possible by covertly inserting drawings in official maps.

But on certain maps, in Switzerland’s more remote regions, there is also, curiously, a spider, a man’s face, a naked woman, a hiker, a fish, and a marmot. These barely-perceptible apparitions aren’t mistakes, but rather illustrations hidden by the official cartographers at Swisstopo in defiance of their mandate “to reconstitute reality.” Maps published by Swisstopo undergo a rigorous proofreading process, so to find an illicit drawing means that the cartographer has outsmarted his colleagues.

It also implies that the mapmaker has openly violated his commitment to accuracy, risking professional repercussions on account of an alpine rodent. No cartographer has been fired over these drawings, but then again, most were only discovered once their author had already left. (Many mapmakers timed the publication of their drawing to coincide with their retirement.)

Some of these blend remarkably well within the usual details of the maps — I never would have noticed the reclining nude in the second image above if it weren’t highlighted.

See also trap streets, errors deliberately introduced by mapmakers to catch others copying their work. (via @jschulenklopper)

Linguistic Constellations

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2020

Linguistic Constellations

Linguistic Constellations

Illustrator Jerry M. Wilson has drawn a series of constellations that explore the etymology of the constellations’ names and related words in several languages. So for example, “Taurus” is Latin for “bull”, which is “toro” in Spanish & Italian and “tyr” in Danish. And then you also have associated words like “toreador” (“bullfighter” in Spanish) and “teurastamo” (Finnish for “slaughterhouse”)…a constellation of words related to “Taurus”.

Cycling Through All the Streets of London

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2020

Over a period of four years, Davis Vilums cycled every street in central London. A map and a time lapse of his journeys:

London Cycle Map

Including some irregular times off, overall it took me four years to visit every single road on the map. When I started this hobby, it took me 30 to 40 minutes to do the route. Later it expanded to 2 hours to get to the office when I tried to reach the furthest places on my map. One of the main goals was never to be late for work. From the beginning, I planned to visit not only the main roads but every single accessible mews, yard, park trail, and a path that was possible to go through. I used Endomondo app to have a proper record of my journeys and proof that I have been there. After every trip, I prepared my next route in Google maps where it was easy to adjust streets to the next ones and mark points to revisit if I missed something.

Marshall Islands Navigation Charts

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2020

Marshall Islands Navigation Chart

Marshall Islands Navigation Chart

Marshall Islands Navigation Chart

Marshall Islands Navigation Chart

The arrangement of the sticks in these Marshall Islands navigational charts represents ocean swells & currents and how they interact with the land, useful information for navigating between islands via canoe. From a Smithsonian Magazine article about these charts:

The chart is less a literal representation of the sea, says museum curator and anthropologist Adrienne Kaeppler, and more an abstract illustration of the ways that ocean swells interact with land. Curved sticks, she explains, show where swells are deflected by an island; short, straight strips often indicate currents near islands; longer strips “may indicate the direction in which certain islands are to be found;” and small cowry shells represent the islands themselves.

The stick charts were preparatory & teaching tools — mariners would memorize the charts before heading out to sea rather than take them along on the boat.

The photos above are from the Smithsonian Institution, courtesy of Flickr.

See also Secrets of the Wave Pilots and other physical data visualizations. (via curationist)

Map of Areas Most Often Missing During Handwashing

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 17, 2020

With news of more than 70,000 confirmed cases and 1700 deaths from the COVID-19 virus, the importance of handwashing is once again front and center. Using data from a 1978 study on the hygiene of health professionals, this is a map of the most missed areas when washing hands.

Hand Washing Map

This more recent paper contains a short review of various studies of missed areas, most of which conclude that people often forget to wash their fingertips:

In 2008, the WHO designed a handwashing leaflet, making reference to Taylor, who indicated that the fingertips, interdigital areas, thumbs, and wrists are the most commonly missed areas in handwashing. Pan et al. also found that the tips of the nails and the fingertips had the largest amount of residual florescent stains left after handwashing among healthcare workers in Taiwan. The commonly missed areas among medical students in the study conducted by Vanyolos et al. was the first metacarpal, the proximal part of the palm (lateral), the distal phalanges, and the nail beds. In healthcare workers in Škodová et al.’s study, the thumbs and fingertips were the most commonly missed areas. In this study, the most frequently missed area was also the fingertips. However, the medial aspect and back of the hand were the second and third most missed areas, respectively. Moreover, the interdigital area and the front and back of the fingers were the least missed areas, which is in contrast to Taylor’s study.

So wash those fingertips! Here’s the CDC-recommended guide to washing your hands properly.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

See also this TED Talk on how to properly dry your hands with a paper towel. (via a map a day)

Alternate Map of the Americas Features “Long Chile”

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 13, 2020

Anna Calcaterra Map

Long-time readers know that I like me some maps and in particular hand-drawn/homemade maps and maps of alternate realities. So I was charmed by Anna Calcaterra’s alternate map of the Americas, which features geographic entities like Long Chile, Ohio 2 (“Four Corners replaced w/ Ohio 2”), and East Dakota (RIP Minnesota). The kids are alright, y’all.

That ninety degree scenery thing

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Feb 03, 2020

Landscapes Brilliantly Turned On Their Heads in This Digital Campaign

Some quite stunning work by Cream Electric Art created for an ad campaign for United Airlines in Australia. These are quite made-up by assembling two different landscapes in a dreamlike 90° angle but I’m posting them here to take us back to a favorite movie of mine, Inception, and the architect scene in Paris where Ellen Page’s character Ariadne bends the dream in a similar fashion. Less well known but even more interesting because it bent an actual map’s perspective was the dearly departed BERG’s Here & There project.

The projection works by presenting an image of the place in which the observer is standing. As the city recedes into the (geographic) distance it shifts from a natural, third person representation of the viewer’s immediate surroundings into a near plan view. The city appears folded up, as though a large crease runs through it. But it isn’t a halo or hoop though, and the city doesn’t loop over one’s head. The distance is potentially infinite, and it’s more like a giant ripple showing both the viewers surroundings and also the city in the distance.

Horizonless projection

That whole piece is a great read for a tour of perspectives from Alfred Wainwright’s hand-drawn walking maps, to China, to GTA and SimCity.

Hacking Google, a red handcart for red roads

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Feb 03, 2020

red-handcart-1400.jpg

You’ve got to love little artistic hacks like this. Simon Weckert put 99 second-hand smartphones in a red handcart and walked around a few blocks in Berlin. Each phone was running Google Maps and being tracked for trafic measurements. Their presence and slow rolling around the streets caused Google to display a traffic jam.

The advent of Google’s Geo Tools began in 2005 with Maps and Earth, followed by Street View in 2007. They have since become enormously more technologically advanced. Google’s virtual maps have little in common with classical analogue maps. The most significant difference is that Google’s maps are interactive  - scrollable, searchable and zoomable. Google’s map service has fundamentally changed our understanding of what a map is, how we interact with maps, their technological limitations, and how they look aesthetically.

maps_17_2-1000.jpg

Maps of Every Single Street in Any City

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 23, 2020

Andrei Kashcha’s City Roads tool will draw you a map of just the roads in any city around the world. I’m in Saigon right now, so I did that one first:

Saigon, just the streets

And this is Paris:

Paris, just the streets

I love that the whitespace reveals more of a city than just roads — you can also see rivers, parks, train lines, stadiums, and airports.

See also Ben Fry’s All Streets project and Nelson Minar’s map of all the rivers in the US.

Update: Javier Pastor compiled a list of similar services that create artistic maps. The article is in Spanish but Google Translate works well on it.

10-Year Time Lapse of US Weather Radar

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2020

Sometimes I load up the US map on Weather Underground just to watch storm systems tumbling and swirling across the country, so this 2-hour time lapse of the last 10 years of US weather radar is riiiiight up my alley. You don’t have to watch the whole thing — even dipping in here and there for a couple of minutes is really gratifying. Can you get ASMR from a weather map? (thx, benjamin)

World Map Projection, But All South Americas

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2020

I bet you never noticed that South America can kind of approximate most of the world’s other continents pretty well. XKCD’s Randall Munroe did and made a bad map projection of it.

World Map Projection with all South Americas

This is only slightly worse than the Mercator projection tbh.

A Map of Mormon Geological Theology

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 10, 2020

Boston Rare Maps recently sold a nine-foot-high cloth map from 1899 that shows a geographic interpretation of the Book of Mormon.

Mormon Map Banner

The map was an official production of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) in Independence, Missouri. The RLDS (known since 2001 as the Community of Christ), is a reformist branch of the Church of Latter Day Saints, established in 1860.

You can read more about the proposed setting of the Book of Mormon on Wikipedia and its adherents’ belief that the indigenous peoples of the Americas are descended from Israelites.

The Book of Mormon is based on the premise that two families of Israelites escaped from Israel shortly before the sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and that they constructed a ship, sailed across the ocean, and arrived in the New World as founders of Native American tribes and eventually the Polynesians. Adherents believe the two founding tribes were called Nephites and Lamanites, that the Nephites were white and practiced Christianity, and that the Lamanites were rebellious and received dark skin from God as a mark to separate the two tribes. Eventually the Lamanites wiped out the Nephites around 400 AD, leaving only dark skinned Native Americans. The descent of Native Americans from Israel is a key part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s foundational beliefs.

(via @john_overholt)

Ridgeline Maps of the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2020

Ridgeline Map Italy

Using Andrei Kashcha’s Peak Map tool, you can create what’s called a ridgeline chart — picture the album cover for Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures — of the elevation anywhere on the Earth. Try it out here. (via @eramirez)

Huge Hand-Drawn Map of North America 5 Years in the Making

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 10, 2019

Anton Thomas Map

Anton Thomas Map

Anton Thomas has been working for the last five years on a huge hand-drawn map of North America.

North America: Portrait of a Continent is drawn completely by hand with colour pencil and pen. It is a 5 x 4 feet (150 x 120 cm) perspective projection of the entire region, spanning from Alaska to Panama; Greenland to the Caribbean. There are tens of thousands of features, including 600 individual cities and towns.

Looks fantastic. He finished it in February and is getting ready to open pre-orders for prints sometime this month.

Update: Prints of the map are available on Thomas’ store. He also made a video tour of the Mississippi River, in which he shares what all the little details on the map signify along the river’s meandering course.

Get Prints of Eleanor Lutz’s Genius Infographics

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 09, 2019

I’ve featured the maps and science infographics of Eleanor Lutz for years here. You might be interested to learn, as I did the other day, that you can get posters and prints (and iPhone cases and tshirts) of a bunch of her work at Red Bubble. Like this map of the geology of Mars or the butterflies of North America.

Atlas Of Space

Butterflies Lutz

These are definitely going on my holiday gift guide.

A Map of the 637 Languages Spoken in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 04, 2019

NYC Language Map

The Endangered Language Alliance has produced a map of the 637 languages and dialects spoken by the residents of NYC (past and present).

It represents ELA’s ongoing effort to draw on all available sources, including thousands of interviews and discussions, to tell the continuing story of the city’s many languages and cultures. The patterns it reveals — the clustering of West African languages in Harlem and the Bronx, a microcosm of the former Soviet Union in south Brooklyn, the multifaceted Asian-language diversity of Queens, to name a few — only hint at the linguistic complexity of a city where a single building or block can host speakers of dozens of languages from across the globe.

The online map embedded in the page works ok, but a $50 donation to the organization will get you a 24″ x 36″ print for your wall.

According to a Gothamist post about the map, the size and diversity of the city sometimes means that a significant chunk of a language’s worldwide speakers live in NYC:

Seke is a language spoken in just a handful of towns in Nepal-worldwide, there are fewer than 700 people who speak it. More than 100 of those people live in Brooklyn and Queens, according to the Endangered Language Alliance, a group that seeks to document and preserve smaller, minority, and Indigenous languages across New York City.

(via gothamist)

RPG Dungeon Generator

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2019

One Page Dungeon

One Page Dungeon generates small dungeon layouts for RPG adventures (Dungeons & Dragons, etc.) You can just throw all that graph paper in the recycling.

See also Auto-Generated Maps of Fantasy Worlds, Fractal Terrain in Javascript, and the Medieval Town Generator. (via @pomeranian99)

Map of the First Words of European National Anthems

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2019

Europe Map Anthems

From the @europemaps Instagram account, a map of the first words of the national anthems of European countries. Collectively, it sounds like northern Europe is having some fun in the bedroom: oh… yes… you… there… oh… my… god… not yet…

Please also note that there are a lot of people in the comments with corrections, especially about Spain, Germany, and Turkey, so take it with a grain of salt.

Animated Pixel Art Map of the USA

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2019

Animated Pixel Map of the USA

A fellow by the name of David who goes by PixelDanc3r made this animated map of the United States in the style of 16-bit video game graphics; it seems like the most direct inspiration is the overworld map in Super Mario World. He’s done similar maps of Brazil, Venezuela, and his home country of Argentina. You can check out more of his pixel creations on Instagram and DeviantArt. (via the morning news)

Six Maps that Reveal America’s Expanding Racial Diversity

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2019

Using 2020 census estimates, a series of six maps and the accompanying article from William H. Frey at the Brookings Institution show how the racial makeup on the United States is expected to have changed since the last census in 2010.

Map Census 2020

Hispanics and Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial minority groups nationally, increasing by 18.6% and 27.4%, respectively, from 2010 to 2018. There is also a growing dispersion of both groups to new destinations, which tend to lie further afield than the familiar large metro areas.

In 1990, 39% of all U.S. Hispanics resided in just four metro areas: Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Chicago. In 2018, 39% of U.S. Hispanics resided in seven metro areas, with Houston, Riverside, Calif., and Dallas added to the list (and each eclipsing Chicago in size). And beyond these, Hispanic growth is high in areas with smaller Hispanic settlements in all parts of the country.

The 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2019

Fall Foliage 2019

SmokyMountains.com is back this year with their best-of-web foliage prediction map. Here in Vermont, things are starting to look a little rusty out there, but it appears I have at least a few more days to pretend that it’s still summer. Right? RIGHT?!

The History of Europe, Every Year from 400 BCE to the Present

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2019

This video is an animated history of the shifting borders of Europe from 400 BCE to the present. This is a very nation-centric view of European history (and I would mute the music and use your own soundtrack), but it’s still worth a look.

Distorted US Map of Where Candidates Campaigned in 2016

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 26, 2019

Because of the Electoral College and the way the primary system works in the US, presidential candidates end up spending a disproportionate amount of time is so-called “battleground states” like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and our dysfunctional friend Florida and primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire and less time where most of the US population actually lives (NY, CA, TX, IL, and in cities). The campaign for the National Popular Vote has produced a map that shows where the candidates did campaign events in 2016:

Map Campaign Time

Because of these state winner-take-all statutes, presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the issues of concern to voters in states where the statewide outcome is a foregone conclusion. In 2012, as shown on the map, all of the 253 general-election campaign events were in just 12 states, and two-thirds were in just 4 states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa). Thirty-eight states were completely ignored.

And here’s the map for the 2012 election, which is even more extreme:

Map Campaign Time

State winner-take-all statutes adversely affect governance. “Battleground” states receive 7% more federal grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.

Also, because of state winner-take-all statutes, five of our 45 Presidents have come into office without having won the most popular votes nationwide. The 2000 and 2016 elections are the most recent examples of elections in which a second-place candidate won the White House. Near-misses are also common under the current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes. A shift of 59,393 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have elected John Kerry despite President Bush’s nationwide lead of over 3,000,000 votes.

The Bear with Its Own ZIP Code

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 15, 2019

Today I learned that ZIP Codes do not strictly represent geographic areas but rather “address groups or delivery routes”.

Despite the geographic derivation of most ZIP Codes, the codes themselves do not represent geographic regions; in general, they correspond to address groups or delivery routes. As a consequence, ZIP Code “areas” can overlap, be subsets of each other, or be artificial constructs with no geographic area (such as 095 for mail to the Navy, which is not geographically fixed). In similar fashion, in areas without regular postal routes (rural route areas) or no mail delivery (undeveloped areas), ZIP Codes are not assigned or are based on sparse delivery routes, and hence the boundary between ZIP Code areas is undefined.

The White House has its own ZIP Code (20500), as does the shoe floor of Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC (10022-SHOE). US mail to Santa Claus gets sent to the town of North Pole, Alaska (99705) but in Canada, Santa gets his own postal code (H0H 0H0). And Smokey Bear has his own ZIP Code (20252) because he gets so much mail.

ZIP Codes are therefore not that reliable when doing geospatial analysis of data:

Even though there are different place associations that probably mean more to you as an individual, such as a neighborhood, street, or the block you live on, the zip code is, in many organizations, the geographic unit of choice. It is used to make major decisions for marketing, opening or closing stores, providing services, and making decisions that can have a massive financial impact.

The problem is that zip codes are not a good representation of real human behavior, and when used in data analysis, often mask real, underlying insights, and may ultimately lead to bad outcomes. To understand why this is, we first need to understand a little more about the zip code itself.

For instance, in Miami’s 33139 ZIP Code the difference between the highest median income (as measured in much more granular US Census Block Groups) and lowest median income is over $240,000. So you can imagine it would be difficult to know or even assume anything in general about those residents based on their ZIP Code alone.

The Gerrymandered Font

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 14, 2019

Gerry Font

Gerry is a typeface where the letterforms are created from heavily gerrymandered Congressional districts. For example, the letter U is the 4th district in Illinois:

Gerry Font 02

Click through to download the font for free and to tweet at your representative to stop gerrymandering.

Taking a Full Photo of the Earth Every Day

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 13, 2019

This is a really cool visualization of how Planet’s 150+ imaging satellites take a complete satellite photo of the Earth every single day.

Planet Satellites Daily

Every few seconds, the visualization picks a new satellite to track, allowing you to see the location, height, and speed. The satellites are 300 miles from the surface of the Earth moving at about 17,000 mph.

Lovely Panoramic Paintings of US National Parks

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2019

Berann Maps

Berann Maps

Heinrich C. Berann’s panoramic paintings of US National Parks aren’t just art and aren’t just maps but sit somewhere delightfully in the middle. The US National Park Park Service recently released ultra high-res scans of Berann’s parks panoramas for free download. You can read about the paintings at National Geographic.

Part of the appeal of Berann’s depictions of the national parks is that they look fairly realistic while at the same time greatly enhancing the landscapes in a number of ways. The end result is similar to what you might see from the window of a plane, and yet better than any possible real-world view, Patterson says.

Berann made sure all the important features of each park were visible in the scene. Sometimes this required some creative distortion. On the Yosemite National Park panorama below, for instance, Yosemite Valley is widened to allow all the rock formations, waterfalls, and man-made structures to be clearly seen. All of the valley’s iconic natural features are exaggerated, with Half Dome and El Capitan much taller than in real life, and the waterfalls significantly longer.

The NPS has many other high-resolution maps available for download here. Another good resource for downloadable maps is National Park Maps.

(As an aside, I got this link from Open Culture, who said they found it via Boing Boing. I clicked through to Boing Boing to see that they’d discovered the link from, uh, kottke.org? Perhaps from this link last year?)

Neil and Buzz Barely Got Out of the Infield

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 18, 2019

Apollo 11 Baseball

With the 50th anniversary of the first crewed landing on the Moon fast approaching, I thought I’d share one of my favorite views of the Moon walk, a map of where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon, superimposed over a baseball field (bigger). The Lunar Module is parked on the pitcher’s mound and you can see where the two astronauts walked, set up cameras, collected samples, and did experiments.

This map easily illustrates something you don’t get from watching video of the Moon walk: just how close the astronauts stayed to the LM and how small an area they covered during their 2 and 1/2 hours on the surface. The crew had spent 75+ hours flying 234,000 miles to the Moon and when they finally got out onto the surface, they barely left the infield! On his longest walk, Armstrong ventured into center field about 200 feet from the mound, not even far enough to reach the warning track in most major league parks. In fact, the length of Armstrong’s walk fell far short of the 363-foot length of the Saturn V rocket that carried him to the Moon and all of their activity could fit neatly into a soccer pitch (bigger):

Apollo 11 Soccer

Astronauts on subsequent missions ventured much further. The Apollo 12 crew ventured 600 feet from the LM on their second walk of the mission. The Apollo 14 crew walked almost a mile. After the Lunar Rover entered the mix, excursions up to 7 miles during EVAs that lasted for more than 7 hours at a time became common.

Character Routing Maps of Famous Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2019

Illustrator Andrew DeGraff makes what he calls Cinemaps, maps of movies and their plots in the style of the dotted-line wanderings of The Family Circus comic strip or Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map. He’s done maps for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Princess Bride.

Cinemaps

Cinemaps

Cinemaps

My favorite DeGraff drawing is probably Back to the Future, with Hill Valley represented twice on the same page: 1955 in pink underneath 1985 in blue.

Cinemaps

DeGraff collected these maps (and several more) into a book called Cinemaps. (via fairly interesting)

The Atlas of Moons

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 11, 2019

Atlas Of Moons

From National Geographic comes The Atlas of Moons, an interactive reference to all of the major moons in our solar system, from the Earth’s own moon to the Galilean moons of Jupiter to Charon, which forms a binary system with Pluto.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t fully aware that some of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s major moons orbited their planets so quickly — Europa takes 3.6 days to complete an orbit, Io once every 1.8 days, and Mimas speeds around Saturn every 22.6 hours.