A VerySpatial Podcast
Shownotes – Episode 377
October 07, 2012
Main Topic: Ann Johnson of Geotech Center and iGETT
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There’s so much going on with this article in Jalopnik that I love. Let me break it down for you in rough order. First…. cars and geography and we all know how I feel about those. Second, the point of the article, which is to show we use a lot of gas in the US. But those are just the superficial, kinda uninteresting bits, especially to geographers.
The really cool part for me rests in a two things. This is an excellent example of how to lie with maps, or at least deceive. We know the US uses a lot of gas, but where and why is a bit of a mystery. One theory is the ‘fly over’ states tend to have older and less efficient cars and most importantly trucks. Furthermore, they tend to drive greater distances because they’re more spread out than an urban area like NY or LA. If you use the swipe bar in the middle (more on that in a second), you can flip between two views of the data. The left map shows annual gallons of gas used per capita and it clearly shows the middle of the country is the worst offenders. Again, the efficiency plus distances would make sense for the average person to use more gas than someone in an urban or suburban environment. However, the picture changes dramatically when you look at the map on the right. Here we see not per capita use, but total use, and it’s the more urban areas that tend to be the worst offenders. As Jalopnik points out in the text, the math is pretty clear – it’s because there’s more people. Even if a large number of people only drive a short distance in highly efficient cars they can still use a lot more gas per year than a small number driving large distances with inefficient cars. So how do you lower gas use? Thus far the focus has been upon fuel efficiency standards, but it looks like that might not be the only approach to take to tackle the problem. I just love the idea you can look at the same data totally differently and get a completely different compelling argument. It’s kinda awesome, I think.
And to round it out, the final really cool thing about this post is the great use of a swipe for displaying two maps. We use it a lot in our professional work as GISers, but I’d love to see more use like this ‘in the wild’ so to speak. It’s such a compelling way to present counter arguments just like this.
The Observer Arts & Media section has an interesting review of several upcoming books and exhibits that discuss the continued power of maps and cartography. Vanessa Thorpe’s article, “From Shopping to warfare, why maps shape our minds as well as our planet” provides a review Simon Garfield’s new book On The Map, Jerry Brotton’s new book A History of the World in Twelve Maps, and an upcoming exhibition of globes at the Royal Geographical Society in London. She succinctly discusses how cartography helps to shape commerce and politics from ancient times until today.
What I found most interesting were the World Views at the end of the article because of the way they were truncated. The history of mapping jumps from Atlas Maior (1665) to Google Maps (21st Century). It made me ask myself, “Is Google Maps really the biggest cartographic world view of the 21st century?” and “What would I think of as significant between 1665-today?” It raises many interesting questions for geographers to discuss.
The US Postal Service has released a great stamp set that highlights aerial and satellite imagery from around the country. The Earthscapes stamp set highlights scenes including cranberry bogs, geothermal springs, log rafts, barge fleets, railroad roundhouse, and others . I am off to acquire a set (or 5) for my future mailings. Click on the image to go to a printable poster-sized image.
We all know greenhouse gases are all in the news the last decade or so. On top of that, fuel dependency gets a lot of airplay. Those two things drive a lot of the decision making for car fuel economy standards. In the US, that’s translated into a rather arcane system called the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. Jalopnik has a pretty good breakdown explaining the logic and implications behind CAFE standards. CAFE regulations have had a huge impact on car development around the world, particularly in the US. Ever wonder why small trucks like my personal favorite, the VW Rabbit Truck aren’t made anymore? Completely counter to logic, it’s actually the CAFE standards that have driven these more efficient vehicles out of production. Ever wonder why modern small cars go from pristine to ‘totaled’ even in relatively small wrecks? Again, CAFE standards drive much of this. Yet most people really don’t understand how and why CAFE standards work.
If you’re even remotely interested it either fuel economy, greenhouse gas issues, or cars, check out the link for a great breakdown. It’s really worth your time.
Many popular news sites, such as the Telegraph, have picked up the story of Nestle UK’s campaign that embeds GPS trackers in candy bars, comparing it to the Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Using geospatial technologies as part of a marketing campaign has been around as long as the technologies themselves.
In 2006, The Charlotte County Visitor’s Bureau used a geocaching campaign to start a word of mouth marketing campaign by reaching over 3,000 geocachers, according to an article in the Herald Tribune. A 2011 article in The Drum: Modern Marketing & Media, cites a Google study that found mapping and geospatial technology were one of the fastest growing types of marketing and were a major part of marketing strategy. Many marketing and public relations firms such as Blast Companies are using GPS enabled target marketing to reach customers. Specialized companies such as GoldRun focus on geospatial technologies such as GPS-linked and augmented reality environments. Popular types of geospatial campaigns include social media, QR codes, geocaching, and GPS-tracking.
First, let it never be said I passed up an opportunity to make a The Police reference.
Now that we have that over, The Guinness Book of World Records has officiated the oldest note in a bottle ever found. The note is over 98 years old and it is an old National Geographic note from a 1914 scientific study concerning ocean currents. The note asks people to return the bottle to Captain C. Hunter Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation. Apparently they released nearly 1,900 bottles but only got back a bit over 300. That seems about right for survey return rates, I think
Cars + Geography = Frank in heaven. The car company Mobius Motors has created what is for gearheads like me might be darn near perfect car. The founders of Mobius recognized that access to transportation is critical to modern existence. Anybody doing, say, site location work will tell you one of the biggest factors is how far people have to travel to get to the service. Africa isn’t known for it’s bustling transportation infrastructure and thus any cars that operate there have certain challenges. They have to be cheap. They have to do a lot of different things well. They have to be rugged. They have to be fixable. In short, they have to go like Stig. The Mobius concept is to realize all of these in one vehicle. The drive train is the garden variety Toyota that’s everywhere. The frame is everyday tube steel. The body parts are mostly flat panels you can replace with any other flat panels. It’s a solid 4×4 offroader. It’s back can seat 8 in the old school Land Rover Series 2/3 fold up seats. Fold’em up, and suddenly it’s truck. The Mobius is a true SUV, but its also a delivery truck, a hospital truck, a cab, a pickup… it’s pretty much whatever you want. And it’s super cheap for a new car – a mere $6,000.
Let me tell you, I’d LOVE to get one of these in the US, although I expect safety standards would keep it from being street legal. It seems like the perfect all around ticker with it until it rusts apart type of car. So a gearhead salute to Mobius Motors for one cool little car!