Always… Never Forget To Check With The Experts

Thanks to Real Genius for the title. Climate scientists are engaged in a little damage control after Britain’s Time Comprehensive Atlas of the World mistakenly claimed Greeland’s glaciers are melting at a breakneck rate. If you compare the ice cover from 1999 and 2011, the Atlas reports a 15% loss in ice coverage. Climate scientists report the real number is closer to one-tenth of 1%. That’s a healthy difference! Scientists have been quick to point out the error and the publishers are attempting to address the issue (although they go through great pains to keep from acknowledging the Atlas is wrong). Nobody’s really sure why the error was made, however one scientist attempted a little ‘cartographic forensics’ and claims someone has confused a thickness for an extent. The publishers deny this happened, but have offered no alternative theory.

Updates to the Metro mean changes to an iconic map

OK, I’ll admit it, one of my favorite things about visiting relatives and friends in the Washington DC area is getting to ride the Metro. I’m sure for those who have to commute on its trains every day, the feelings are more mixed, but I always find it the best way to get around.

One of the most memorable images for the Metro is of course its iconic map, designed by graphic designer Lance Wyman back in the 1970s (Wyman is also involved in designing the update). Now that a new line is under construction and scheduled to open in 2013, meaning realignments to parts of the existing lines, the time has come for the Metro Map to get an update to help riders navigate these changes. Metro officials are already drafting maps, but they are also looking for input from the Metro’s ridership to help them design a new updated map that gives riders the information they need. It’s the dilemma faced by every cartographer really, how to balance design with function in representing information spatially.

If you’d like to give your input on how best to update the DC Metro Map, you can take their Metrorail Map Survey.

Via MyFoxDC

Must – Have – Coffee!

Where you live might decide where you get your AM cup of joe (unless you get your fix from a local favorite).  Numbers Run has a neat series of maps that shows the number of store locations (Starbucks Vs. Dunkin Donuts) by zip code.  Living in New England I can already tell you that I don’t need a map to find a Dunkin Donuts.  They’re in every gas station, grocery store, shopping plaza… I think one is going in at the end of the hallway in my department!  To be honest, I’m looking forward to visiting the zip code with the largest number of Starbucks next month for the 2011 ESRI UC in San Diego, CA.

From: Numbers


Animated Maps on Memorial Day Weekend

On this memorial day weekend the History Channel is kicking off a week of Civil War themed shows.  While watching I thought I’d see if there were any interesting maps available on the intertubes.  What did I find? Some wonderful animated maps from the Civil War Trust ! The maps are flash based and progress through some key battles of the war.  The site also provides users historical maps and new digital maps that are static.

Additionally, the site has available BattleApps. The BattleApps are virtual Civil War tour guides for the war or specific battles for the iPhone or iPad.  The apps are location aware and throughout the tour one could view video clips from the national park service and see locations of troops of both the North and South.  Another great example of giving old paper maps a new lease on life with digital innovation!

Fredericksburg Gets Civil War App:


Google: It’s a visual.

I have started to worry that I am creating an infinite loop back to Apartment Therapy (as Frank rolls his eyes) but I always enjoy the fun posts, especially the quirky spatial ones that crop up. Apartment Therapy’s Unplggd highlights artist Alejo Malia who pictures Google in a whole new way. I have to say that my favorite is called ‘Routes‘.

BUT then I read the reply posts and found someone who said that they had a friend who was creating maps called Mapuccino that uses Google maps to create artwork based on a person or person’s life. Now I want both for my house.

Gough Map of Britain:Linguistic Geographies research project

The interdisciplinary linguistic geographies research project funded by the Arts & Humanities Council (AHRC) conjures up all the “old school” components of geography as a romantic, intellectual discipline but with the addition of new technology. For the past year, a team of researchers with backgrounds in geography, cartography, history, paleograhics, and linguistics have been developing techniques to use “linguistic geographies” to better study maps of “unknown origin” , specifically the Gough Map.

The Gough Map is the oldest known geographic map showing the whole of Britain (c.1360) and is housed at the Bodleian Library. Despite being noted and visually represented in books, documentaries, and articles not much is actually known about the Gough Map’s origins. The researchers wanted to “learn more about the Gough Map, specifically, but more generally to contribute to ongoing intellectual debates about how maps can be read and interpreted; about how maps are created and disseminated across time and space; and about technologies of collating and representing geographical information in visual, cartographic form.”

A significant outcome of their project has been a searchable digital version of the Gough Map available on their website. They also direct researchers to another version of a digital Gough map at Mapping the Realm which was funded through the British Academy.

A colloquium and exhibition of the linguistic geographies research project and the Gough Map will be held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford from Thursday June 23 to Saturday June 25 2011. At The Language of Maps colloquium, presenters will discuss the language and linguistics of medieval maps and mapping.

To Mars and Beyond

As a young girl reading OMNI magazine, I couldn’t imagine saying no to a one way trip to explore space. I’m a little older now and would ask more questions, such as the ones posed in Cosmic Logic on MSNBC. It discusses a paper written by Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Washington State University and Paul Davies, Arizona State University for The Journal of Cosmology about the real life logistics for Mars colonization. They aren’t the first researchers to consider the real life logistics of space travel. For several years, NASA has asked researchers and industry to come up with solutions for everything from cryogenics to remote healthcare to the politics of joint military/scientist ventures. It might not be Stargate but it made my heart jump a little bit when I played the free multi player on-line Moonbase Alpha game developed by NASA and the U.S. Army to realistically simulate space colonization. The game is fun to play but at first I was frustrated because you couldn’t carry the whole toolbox with you to fix pipes. But Frank pointed out that there is no magic bag of holding in real-life and this game is an accurate depiction of the challenges colonists will face. Among the many experts required, they will need good cartographers, engineers, biologists, mechanics, and especially welders with a steady hand.

Antiques Roadshow guide to maps

This link is a decade old, but still fun. The Antique Roadshow’s website has a section titled ‘Tips of the Trade‘ where different appraisers give tips that help them in deciding appropriate values. One of the tips is Searching out maps which talks about the different things that help them appraise the value of a map that they are brought.

Little statements such “Maps that show incorrect information—such as this non-existent lake—are sought after.” pepper the article.

Fun stuff I say! Now, go check it out.

Grassroots Mapping for the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Recently we featured the Grassroots Mapping project, a community participatory mapping initiative from the MIT Media Lab, on the podcast, and now the Grassroots team has headed down to Louisiana to try to utilize their balloon-based camera system to acquire imagery and map the Gulf oil spill along the Louisiana coast. Their goals are not to replace official imagery and mapping of the disaster, but rather to supplement the information by allowing citizens to provide their own documentation of the event using low-cost balloons to get aerial images for mapping.

If any of you are in the area, and would like to help out with the efforts, you can find more information at the Grassroots Mapping wiki for the Gulf Oil Spill project. There is also an article posted on

Bizarre Map Challenge

For all you students out there whose maps are greeted with a “That’s bizarre…”, I’ve got the perfect map challenge for you! Our reader Keith M. sent us a heads up about the Bizarre Map Challenge, a map design competition open to high school, college, and university students (only here in the US). The maps submitted by students are supposed to be “bizarre” in the sense of being out of the ordinary but still using real-world data, so thinking outside the box will pay off!

The deadline to submit your map is March 22nd, and you can find complete contest rules here

First Prize is $5000 and the top ten will all get cash prizes, so start designing those maps!