Zombies are cool. Period. That’s a non-debatable, empirical fact of current pop culture. Like any good citizen, it helps to know what to do in the case of a zombie outbreak. Lucky for us all, one of the more geographic minded of us has released the Zombie Survival Map. The map shows location where zombies are likely to exist in red (in other words, population centers) and places that are likely to be zombie free in black/grey. On top of that, the map overlays locations for supplies such as food, shelter, hospitals, and oddly liquor stores. Although the map is obviously kinda silly (never mind the Zombie Outbreak Response Vehicle I have on my truck), it does highly some important base information for any sort of widespread emergency response issues. Similar things are being done by state and local governments to help detail routes for evacuation and emergency response. The map hopes to incorporate user generated data and some point, which will make it even more useful in the case of a natural or man made emergency…. or if the zombies ever do rise up and attack…. whichever 🙂
Google has begun field tests on their new augmented reality glasses. I have to say, they’re pretty snazzy lookin’ all things considered, especially if you dig the Geordi LaForge look. The link includes a demo video to show what life is like with the glasses and it’s AWESOME for nerdy folks like myself (and maybe not even no so nerdy folks). The demo features a sort of combination of Siri, LBS, IM, Foursquare, Google+, phone, augmented reality and the aforementioned all around awesomeness 🙂 Google has even started a Google+ group for it so you can keep on top of the information. What I haven’t seen much of as of yet is these things on people with glasses. The beautiful models look fantastic wearing them, but they kinda have to, don’t they 🙂
The US Census Bureau has released county to county migration for the 2005-2009 period. The data shows how people are moving around the US between counties. I was rather surprised to find out that only a bit over 1/3 of people who moved went to a whole new county. I would have guessed more than that. Maricopa County Arizona seems to have a lot of action going on. The received people from nearly 1,000 different counties around the US, but they also sent people to over 1,100 counties around the US. The realtors there must get a LOT of traffic. If you’d like to see the migration patterns for any particular county or even any particular state, you can download the excel spreadsheets yourself from this site.
Obviously being a native West Virginian and living in the state, this is an issue near and dear to my heart. Ars Technica does a wonderful job of summing up a bit of research presented last month at American Association for the Advancement of Science last month. Here are the bullet points: an estimated 20-30 atomic bombs worth of energy each year to get at the coal; 500 mountain peaks gone; 2,000 miles of streams gone; and the ‘extra’ cost including medical impacts, environmental impacts, and social impacts effectively doubles the energy cost of coal. There are clear place in these studies to challenge assumptions that arrived at the extra cost of coal. However, I think its an interesting geographic question to move beyond the cost of raw materials to look at the impacts of surrounding areas. We don’t tend to think much about our electricity beyond the socket in our wall. That’s not to say I think coal is evil, nor do I think it’s completely benign. It’s complicated and any research that can get us to think about the messy state of electricity generation in the US is beneficial research in my book.\
Ars Technica featured a pretty nifty new site, ChronoZoom, that attempts to show the history of everything in an easily explorable format. Several things caught my eye with this site. First, it’s written using HTML 5. I’m really impressed how functional it is given the spotty support of browsers with HTML 5 (although they’re getting better day by day). Second, it’s a pretty nifty way of presenting complex, multimedia information in a reasonably digestible way. The site has a ‘depth’ to it which allows them to collapse complex information into a small area. If you’ve used or seen Prezi then you’ll feel right at home. Try clicking on one of the Thresholds, say the birth of Humanity, and you’ll see the timeline zoom in pretty quick. The whole thing is based upon an approach to history called Big History, which attempts to span large epochs of time, say the Big Bang to modern times, and find common themes. It’s cross disciplinary to find themes in both physical and social sciences. I can’t say that I’ve ever studied Big History as most of my work centers on the extremely tiny tail end of that swath of time, but the idea is pretty intriguing (although I might call it “GINORMOUS History”, but that’s just me).
Play around with ChronoZoom and I think you can see how that basic idea might be used in geographic work.
Lightsquared is not prepared to go gently into the night. They have hired Theodore Olson (among others) to help argue their case. Olson is most famous for having successfully argued for Bush in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case that settled the 2000 US Presidential election. In other words, Lightsquared brought out the big guns. Olson argues that government encouraged Lightsquared to invest in a startup technology then slammed the door in their face when final approval was sought. I’m not enough of a legal expert to know if Olson’s argument holds water, but it is rather telling a relatively famous attorney would take up the case.
As I’ve said in nearly every post in this ongoing saga…. we’ll keep you abreast of the situation as news becomes available.
New York City has just implemented an open government data law that is now in effect. The Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications will post standards and then existing data will be converted over the next year to comply with those standards. Within 18 months, all departments must have a compliance plan in place and all data must be open by 2018 in a common portal. We’ve talked a lot about federal data portals and a bit about city portals on the blog and podcast, but it’s interesting to hear local governments joining the movement. Open data standards are increasingly important for transparent governments, but they do create technical challenges for agencies and even industries. A lot of geospatial data is collected with proprietary license restrictions that are complicated by these open data laws. Furthermore, there can even be debate about what is ‘open’ when talking about data formats. Is Microsoft Office .docx format ‘open’? It’s based upon XML, which is freely readable and adaptable, but it’s a semi-proprietary version. It’s neither fish nor fowl, as the saying goes. Open data formats even raise questions about privacy and confidentiality. If the technical format is well documented, what’s to keep me from deconstructing a file to get private information even if its encrypted or protected?
All of this is not to say I think open data laws are bad, just that they should be well debated and thought out. I’m personally encouraged by the adoption of open data laws, particularly in large city like New York.
I thought this was a particularly interesting article in the New York Times since the VerySpatial crew just returned from New York for AAG 2012. The Times sat down with some city planners and academics living in and around New York to try to figure out some of the urban dynamics of large cities. Currently New York holds around 1.6 million residents, with a surge to 3.9 million during the work day. As crowded as it is, that’s nothing compared to NYC circa 1910, which housed around 2.3 million permanent residents. So how many residents can New York hold? Well, the article never really answers the question because it depends on what kind of New York you want. Is it more residential, or large buildings? Do we make it bigger by adding land fills to create a Lower-Lower Manhattan, or do we leave the current geography intact? Ultimately, the article becomes a fascinating insight into urban planning and development, so check it out.
We’ve featured AirPano before on the site, but a set they’ve put up just took my breath away. They have a wonderful 360 degree air panoramic of Angel Falls in Venezuela. You can see these falls from the base on up to the top of the waterfall. The waterfall drops water nearly a half a mile to the ground. It’s just amazing. I really liked being able to start at the bast of the fall and virtually travel up via helicopter to the top. If you’re really interested in some of the details of the shoot, the link also has a bit of a pholoblog of the shoot and the area.
Unfortunately most of us won’t have the opportunity to see majestic sites like this in person, so effort
s like the AirPano project can really help us see our amazing world in ways never before possible. Not everything on the site is geographic (the ‘being a sandwich‘ one is kinda quirky), but the vast majority cover sites around the globe. Take some time to explore what they have – I think you’ll be blown away by the sites.
Lightsquared, who last month received a conditional waiver from the FCC on its products, looks like it might be in trouble as the FCC has withdrawn that waiver. Obviously the FCC acted in response to concerns over GPS interference. This officially ‘kills’ Lightsquared’s proposed solution to rolling out a 4G-LTE network over the spectrum it owns, baring some sort of miracle intervention from who knows where.
However, I think they’ve made an interesting counter argument to the GPS interference test results – the GPS industry is too big to fail. What they’re effectively arguing is that industrial GPS manufacturers use equipment that over listens to signals, meaning it’s paying attention to a portion of the spectrum upon they never were licensed to listen.
I’m not personally knowledgeable enough about spectrum use in general (and GPS spectrum use in particular) to know if the argument holds any water. I do think it’s interesting the FCC chose – wisely in my opinion – to preference navigation over cell communications. However, I believe more knowledgeable heads than mine should certainly investigate Lightsquared’s claims. The license of the spectrum really only works if everyone obeys the virtual fences properly. That’s true whether GPS is encroaching on Lightsquared’s territory as Lightsquared believes or whether Lightsquared is encroaching on GPS territory as testing has suggested.