ColorBrewer Intro – Selecting Good Color Schemes for Maps

One of our listeners, Jody, emailed us a link to ColorBrewer, an online tool to help people select color schemes for maps. It uses a flash-based map to demonstrate how changing colors affects the look of a map and how that impacts the information being represented. It’s a nice tool to give a user an introduction to choosing colors for maps, so they can immediately see the visual impact of their choices. Cynthia Brewer, the Penn State geographer who designed the ColorBrewer, has also written the book Designing Better Maps: a Guide for GIS users.

World Population Cartogram

A cartogram is a map that distorts geographic boundaries based on different values of a variable. So, if smaller areas have higher values, they will be deliberately distorted to look bigger. Here is an example of the world map distorted based on population. It was done by ODT, Inc. which produces alternate views of map, such as world maps with South on the top or the Pacific Ocean in the center.

Via BoingBoing

NASA’s Aura Satellite Mission

Although Landsat is NASA’s most well-known satellite program, other missions are providing a wealth of information about our Earth. Aura, a satellite which was launched July 15, 2004, collects data that are used for studying the composition, chemistry and dynamics of Earth’s atmosphere, including ozone levels, air quality, and climate. At the recent American Geophysical Union conference, maps based on Aura data were presented showing the levels of Nitrogen Oxide (a precursor to ozone formation) in the eastern US.

NASA’s Aura mission website and Earth Observing System website

Via Chemical & Engineering News

Windows Live Local beta

So, I guess the other web mapping news would be the release of Windows Live Local in beta, which incorporates Virtual Earth. I played around with it a little in both IE and Firefox, and the navigation definitely has issues right now. The main new feature is the Bird’s Eye imagery for selected US cities. The images are actually quite nice. There have been a lot of comments in various blogs and tech news sites, so you’ve probably already seen a few.

Google Transit beta

Here’s is the latest beta in Google’s stable of mapping apps: Google Transit. It’s the same interface as Google Local, except it plots your trip directions using public transportation, and takes into account the time when you want to leave and arrive. Right now, the only available city on the beta is Portland, Oregon, but they are planning of course on expanding it to other cities.

Via – mapping at ground level

Although a lot of the attention has been focused on Google Maps, MSN Virtual Earth, and Google Earth, Amazon’s subsidiary is continuing to map US cities in a different way – from ground level by driving and photographing every block in a GPS-equipped SUV to create a virtual tour of each city. So far, has 35 cities mapped and I have used the service a couple of times to get a feel for the area I’ll be staying in for a conference.

Check out the BlockView images, and see what you think


‘Podcast’ is Word of the Year

That’s right! ‘Podcast’ has been declared the Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary and will be included in next year’s update to the dictionary. It’s really a recognition of the phenomenal growth in the popularity and awareness of podcasting.

Via BBCNews

AAA Travel High School Challenge

AAA (American Automobile Association) will be sponsoring the 4th annual AAA Travel High School Challenge, a 3-part geography competition that kicks off with a 40-question online contest from January 9-17, 2006. The top 5 scorers in each of the 50 states and DC will compete in state finals, with those winners receiving a paid trip to Orlando, FL to compete in the finals in May 2006. The challenge is open to all US students in grades 9-12, and is offering more than $100,000 in scholarships and prizes across the whole competition.

For information, check out the AAA website

Via Yahoo!