Month: March 2012


County to County Migration Data Released

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.

A VerySpatial Podcast – Episode 349

A VerySpatial Podcast
Shownotes – Episode 349
March 25, 2012

Our conversation with GISCI’s Sheila on GISP certification

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    Counting the True Cost of Coal

    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.\

    Photo courtesy of DanaK~WaterPenny via Flickr

    GIS Summer Camps for Students

    Summer time is a great time for students of all ages to learn about GIS and geospatial technologies because it is a very hands-on technology. There are often GIS summer camps being offered at local colleges or incorporated into the general activities of 4-H and other camps. Some examples of upcoming summer camps by age group include:

    High School

    The GeoX: Geosciences Exploration Summer Program  is a FREE one-week program for high-achieving high  school juniors and seniors by being offered by Texas A & M (June 1-8, 2012).  It combines a mixture of classroom, campus, and field trips, along with technical and career skills.  The geosciences, especially geography, is a field that takes more recruitment at the high school level because of the misconception that geography is only being able to name all the countries in the world. This is changing as more high school outreach programs like this one introduce students to real life applications of geospatial skills and awareness. Application deadline is: April 9

    Junior High

    The TwiST GIS Summer Camp is offered by the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technologies (IAGT), Cayuga Community College, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the National Geospatial Technology Center, CIESIN and the New York State GIS Association to coincide with the Teaching with Spatial Technology (TwiST) Workshop for educators (June 28 – July 1).  Students learn geospatial technologies such as GIS, GPS, and remote sensing by working on a real world project.  Many STEM educators believe that junior high is one of the best times to get students interested in science, technology, and math related careers. Scholarships are available.

    Grade School

    The Harbor Discoveries Camp is offered by the New England Aquarium (July 9 – 24, 2012).  It is an interactive marine and environmental science program that uses geospatial technologies. Some of the activities include behind–the-scenes activities at Aquarium galleries, “excursions to Boston Harbor Islands, daily field trips to North and South Shore habitats, and an overnight experience.” Older students who have attended the camp are eligible to apply to be teachers and camp counselors. Many aquariums, museums, and nature preserves offer similar programs for students who don’t want to attend away camps.


    The Teaching with Spatial Technology (TwiST) Workshop offered by the IAGT and Cayuga Community College (June 25-28, 2012) is designed to teach K-12 teachers and college faculty members in the United States how to teach and empower through geospatial technologies in the classroom. In 2011, the TwiST workshop was recognized in an Esri Special Achievements in GIS Award for  11 years of geospatial education. Scholarships are available.  Application deadline is: April 15

    The “SATELLITES” (Students And Teachers Exploring Local Landscapes to Interpret The Earth from Space) K12 Summer Teacher Institute at the University of Toledo (July 9-13, 2012) is an award winning teacher education program focusing on geospatial technology and climate change and student research projects. The SATTELITES teachers have gone to the have gone to the White House Science Fair for the past two years.

    Application Deadline: April 17, 2012


    ESRI Kid’s Camp

    Don’t forget that if you are attending the 2012 ESRI User’s Conference this year, they offer a GIS Kids Camp (July 24-26, 2012) Many summer conferences offer geospatial education programs for kids attending the conference with their parents.

    If you know of any upcoming summer camps, post them in the comments section.


    Another great group of Threadless designs

    Threadless generally has a great bunch of art to wear and here are a few of the recent geo options.

    A VerySpatial Podcast – Episode 348

    A VerySpatial Podcast
    Shownotes – Episode 348
    March 18, 2012

    Our conversation with USGIF’s Max Baber on the 2012 USGIF Scholarship Program

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    ChronoZoom and Big History

    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.

    The Lightsquared Saga Continues

    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.

    Affordable Virtual Reality?

    A big part of my research for about a decade now has been exploring the development of immersive virtual landscapes, and how evolving technologies continue to make impressive strides toward creating compelling and believable virtual worlds. One of the issues that has always been at the forefront is the cost of virtual reality hardware, whether it was early attempts at head-mounted displays or immersive rooms, such as CAVE environments. These technologies can give you amazing simulations, but most users can’t afford to buy the hardware, let alone have the space to set up multi-walled immersive environments. Now, virtual reality technology is increasingly moving toward a consumer experience, with 3D TV’s, smartphone VR and augmented reality apps, and interface devices like Microsoft’s Kinect and even Sony’s Playstation VITA with Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities.

    Here’s a cool project that I had to share as well. Earlier this month, USC researchers participating in the Off-the-Shelf Virtual Reality Workshop, held in conjunction with IEEE Virtual Reality 2012 and organized by the Mixed Reality lab at USC, debuted FOV2GO, a portable fold-out smartphone viewer for iPhone and Android (sadly no Windows Phone love) that turns the screen into a 3-D virtual reality system. The viewer is made of cardboard and is easily assembled to look like an old-school ViewMaster, and you insert your smartphone into the FOV2GO and look through the eyepieces for a stereo 3D effect. To create your own 3D virtual environments to explore, there are downloadable software tools that are part of the project as well. I’d really like to use the FOV2GO in my class, so I’ll have to find out if they’ll be available in larger numbers.

    This short YouTube video illustrates the FOV2GO in action:

    New York City Data Transparency Law Goes Into Effect

    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.

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