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Unusual maps

An excellent collection, with thoughtful analysis, of quirky maps formerly at, now at Big Think, here. See also book: Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities, by Frank Jacobs.

-- Edward Tufte

From Envisioning Information, p. 102:

EI p. 102

Another collection of maps/visualizations: Manuel Lima's site Visual Complexity

An interesting transit map:

North American subways

North American subways
Bill Rankin, 2005, 2006

-- Fraser Moffatt (email)

Map of Electronic Shadows

Here is a graphic that I propose be posted to the Ask ET forum. I came across it in the June 2000 issue of National Geographic. It displays the heights of buildings in a city (New York) by color coded scaled replicas of each building. Red is used for the tallest, then orange, yellow, etc. thru the spectrum, with only green (used to represent ground level) being out of sequence. I like this graphic as the logical use of colors on the three dimensional map is easy to comprehend and intuitiviely communicates a lot of information to the eye. Beyond that, however, once created, this graphic (in the computer) becomes a usable engineering tool to define line of site positions for wireless communications antennaes, as explained in the text that accompanies it.

Once again, the graphic artist is not identified--only the firm.


-- Jim Heimer (email)

Response to Map of Electronic Shadows

This is very interesting. It would be helpful to see the original version used by engineers in the field.

By the way, that is sometimes a good strategy for information design: see what the insiders do to display their data, and then surface and revise the insider-design for outsiders. The content understanding of the insiders informs the design for users. So see how the insiders understand their information.

For many years, railroads planned schedules internally by means of graphical timetables. I tried to surface these designs for New Jersey train and bus lines (see Envisioning Information, pages 45, 107-110). About 15 years ago, I made an elaborate and extremely complex graphical timetable for the Morris & Essex train lines combined with aerial photographs of the route (so every rider could see where they lived); the printed version sometimes turns up in shows of my work.

-- Edward Tufte

The German site has a collection of cut-and-paste bike routes throughout Germany:

Paderborn bike route

Frankfurt bike route

They bear a striking similarity to "A New Plan of the Road from London to Dover,
and from Calais to Paris" as depicted on the spread on pages 112-113 of Envisioning Information:

(click to see larger)

-- Andreas Scherer (email)

I suspect that ET readers will be interested in reading about the Tabula Peutingeriana, a 13th-century copy of a late Roman roadmap of Europe. It is not on display due to its fragility and light sensitivity, however, yesterday it was displayed for one day as part of Unesco's Memory of the World Register. The map is almost a linear East-West mapping of important roads and destinations across Europe and Asia.

Tabula Peutingeriana

Here, note the city of Rome at the center of the map:

Tabula Peutingeriana

Wikipedia has a good entry on the Tabula Peutingeriana here.

-- Matt R (email)

I really like this visual display of the world's rivers and mountains. Does anyone know more about it?

-- Mark Neigh (email)

The map you show is from an American atlas in the mid-19th century; similar maps were found a few decades earlier in British and French atlases. According to the historical maps site,

For over 100 years, atlas and map publishers in the United States and Europe published a style of map that was a visualization of the heights and lengths of the world's mountains and rivers. Some of the earliest examples appeared in Europe towards the end of the 18th century. In the United States, the form was popular throughout the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. These maps appeared in atlases, as wall maps, and as pocket maps. One of the most elegant examples was engraved originally on copper by map publisher Henry Tanner in Philadelphia in 1836 and then continued by S. Augustus Mitchell, also of Philadelphia, in lithographic versions into the 1850's. This example was published by Mitchell in 1846.

-- Ron Hekier (email)

Here is an article at the website of The Planetary Society describing a map I made with the unusual property of folding up to make a model of an asteroid:

asteroid paper model

-- Chuck Clark (email)

The BBC aired a new TV series called "Britain from Above" on August 10th, 2008. This video clip teaser on the BBC website shows some beautiful maps of Britain displaying travel and communications data. Further clips:

-- Katherine Davoli (email)

Winnie-the-Pooh map

-- Edward Tufte

-- Edward Tufte

This sort of "aerial photo as a map" is now commonplace with the advent of web-based mapping services, and the technique of using aerial photography as the basis for maps is well established. I work with oil and gas pipeline maps that were historically hand drawn annotations on top of a printed aerial photo strips. These days they are computer generated from databases of imagery and vector map data.

The issue of the level of abstraction occurred to me when I saw the references to this as a map. A photo on its own is a literal picture of the terrain, albeit with changes in appearance due to the atmosphere (when present!), the camera, surface elevation and so on. A map would have other properties; often scale, location and some sense of abstraction to identify features of interest. So this photo seems to be a real map as it shows scale, a coordinate system and the flight path. The information content is very high, in that the area is described in great detail, but the level of abstraction is very low—it is a photo of the lunar surface with a flight path marked. A far cry from the work of a Swiss cartographer's pen!

I'm interested as to whether the general population still draws a distinction between traditional "drawn" maps and the aerial photos they see online. Google Maps offers users a map view and satellite view, maybe reinforcing this distinction. I wonder if readers, perhaps more familiar with a higher level of abstraction on their maps, consider this a map or not.

-- Nick Park (email)

The Apollo map above, which visited the moon, is a fine example of a mapped image (see Beautiful
chapter 1), nicely combining moon photographs with overlaid cartographic coordinates,
flight trajectories, and scales of measurement. It appears from this sheet that the map is constructed from
a mosaic of photographs taken at different times (note the varying tones and shadows at lower left and lower

The Apollo map is printed as a somewhat coarse black-and-white halftone, with a finer dot than a newspaper
photograph but coarser dot than a coated-paper newsmagazine.

Shown above is one of the 24 sheets. Perhaps the 1 meter long, but folded, cyclogram
(Visual Explanations, pp. 92-95), is a better method of map management.

(click to see larger)

(click to see larger)

I have only slightly mixed feelings about astronauts and cosmonauts selling off
government property at auctions (a few astronauts run rather aggressive souvenir
shops) because I so like to see information displays in action. The cyclogram, for example,
is an extraordinary piece of work and so I was happy to enrich, via Sotheby's, cosmonaut
Georgi Grechko, who later provided the extraordinary annotation used on the cyclogram
poster and for the versions in Visual Explanations.

-- Edward Tufte

The apparently wind-blown moon flag is always enchanting since there is no atmosphere
and thus no wind on the moon.

The lack of a light-scattering atmosphere produces intensely dark moon shadows that
caused problems for the first astronauts operating equipment on the moon because it was
so dark in the parts of the equipment falling in the pitch-black shadows. There is a sequence
of moon-shadow pictures in Beautiful Evidence, p. 99, in the discussion of Galileo's
report and drawings of moon craters.

moon-shadow pictures, BE p. 99

What does the moon look like to astronauts through the orbiting Apollo's windows
compared to the gray images on the map, and at what time of moon day? This is starting
to sound like our thread on runway incursions.

-- Edward Tufte

The Apollo map/photo hybrid is, as ET states, a fine example of a mapped image. Unfortunately, the items that accompany the map and serve to provide evidence of authenticity, show, at least to me, a distasteful overabundance of marketing spin and pitch.

The photo/map, with Duke's annotations, is grand in that it is nearly all content. The other items, although likely genuine, seem less impressive because of someone's attempt to make them look more impressive.

To me, the first sign that a pitchman is involved is the punctuation on the hand-written note. Quotation marks surround Orion. An exclamation point terminates the first sentence. "on" is underlined in the second sentence to reinforce the fact that a map that went to the moon really was on the moon. Without the exclamation point and underlining, am I to be less convinced?

And Duke, throughout the additional pieces of evidence, changes from being "MODULE PILOT" in the hand-written note, to "Astonaut" in the letter-head, to "Moonwalker" (in a slanted font no less!) beneath his signature. If you are not convinced now, wait! There's more!

Exclamation points also invade the other text: "... shown here on the Moon!", "... our historic lunar landing!", "... from the surface of the Moon!"

The letterhead does include the Apollo 16 insignia, but no mention of NASA (copyright issues??).

I'd love to have the map, and my supposition is that it is real. I suppose the market demands that things such as this need authentication and back up documentation. I'm just disappointed in the swarmy marketing approach to the evidence.

-- rafe donahue (email)

The Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL produced a video entitled "The Civil War in Four Minutes." It is the map of the eastern United States with a moving boundary of the North/South line and a running tabulator of the North and South casualties in the lower right hand corner. Key battles pop up chronologically and Lincoln's terms are identified. I think the music is from Ken Burns' documentary. The map details are fuzzy, but you get the idea.

-- S. Ira Grossman (email)

I came across this interesting map of 20th century architecture created by architectural historian Charles Jenks, reposted to Flickr:

Evolutionary Tree

Jenks calls it an evolutionary tree, but it reminds me of the idea maps that were shown and discussed in Beautiful Evidence.

-- Greg La Vardera (email)

From one of my favorite magazines, a heinous graphic that is technically a map, but is more accurately described as an effective summation of most of the attributes of bad design described in VDQI and later Tufte works. I'm sure others will add their own observations, but below are a few that quickly jumped out at me.

  1. The various statistic are located on a stylized map of the United States, but the location of the data is not related to its map location. The map seems to be entirely gratuitous, a waste of two dimensions of information--the x-y location of the data. It is also confused me as I struggled to determine if there is a reason "the number of major conflicts" is in California and the "Gross federal debt" in New England.
  2. Chartjunk abounds. Tiny paper cut-outs for troops, little power cords, half-open cell phones. Enough said.
  3. Volumes represent single numbers, a classic (bad) example from VDQI. My favorites are the hearts in Texas, the gold bars in Washington, the wireless video game controllers in Oregon, and the Monopoly man in the Mid-West. I don't need a cartoon to compare two numbers.
  4. Over quantitization of results. The percentage of wireless-only household is rounded from the 2- or 3-significant digits of data to a whole cell phone icon, reducing the fidelity of the data from 4.2% and 16.4% to 1 or 4 phones.
  5. Oil consumption shown on different time scales. Consumption in 2000 of 19.7 million barrels per day versus 19.5 million barrels per day in 2008 (through September). I am forced to assume this is simply total 2008 consumption divided by the number of days through September, but I'm not sure. Even worse, oil consumption varies by season, so excluding the last (Winter) quarter of the year skews the data, but we're not sure by how much.
  6. The icon for Lockheed Martin's sales is shown as a commercial aircraft. Presumably their sales are included because they are the nation's largest defense contractor, but Lockheed Martin has not built commercial aircraft for some time. Perhaps something defense related that they actually build would have made more sense. Or data for Boeing or Airbus could have been plotted instead.
  7. The use of a widening fat man to plot obesity statistics is disturbing, but did anyone else need to be told that there are 50 states in the union...twice?

There's more but I don't have the energy. I'm curious what others think.

-- Adam Wuerl (email)

Maps of the vertical (for TOM SACHS)

Rock climbing is full of strange & unusual maps of the vertical, with standardized notation that tells us the difficulty of each pitch of the route, type of climbing, fixed gear/bolts, gear to bring, descent route, and identifying features that help locate the route (which can be quite difficult).

Beyond their obvious utility, the topos serve as a visual history of the sport, when comparing one guidebook edition to the next - somewhat like comparing political maps of the world through time. New routes are added, features fall off, bolts are placed, former "aid" routes are free-climbed - acts which reflect changing standards about new routes and increasing skill levels among first ascentionists.

Here's a sample page from the regular guidebook showing (E) "West Crack" in Tuolumne Meadows; the page has a nice mix of notation and features. Lines represent cracks, X's represent bolts, and hash marks show roofs, ledges, corners and aretes. Last time on it a few years ago we were followed by a group including TM Herbert, one of the pioneers of Yosemite climbing, who is still going strong in his 70's. I look at the topo and remember him acting out the reach & twist to grab a key hold in the "5.8 buckets" noted at the end of pitch 1, useful information that no flatland guidebook could convey in quite the same way.

-- Tad Borek (email)

The beautiful charts of Clarence Larkin

I searched for an appropriate thread to add these to, and this is the best I could find.

Clarence Larkin (1850-1924) published the seminal book on "Dispensational Theology", a branch of theology dealing with the nature of time and prophecy in relation to the Bible. In his book, Dispensational Truth (1920), he created a number of truly gorgeous charts. I hasten to add that it is not necessary to be a theologian, or even a Christian, to see what a wonderful set of charts these are. In fact one of their major strengths is that, like all good charts, they make perfectly clear what they intend to represent without requiring prior knowledge of their subject.

My favorite chart, "The Mountain Peaks of Prophecy" is a marvelous example of displaying 4D information in a 2D format (source:

Here's another (same source):

More of Mr. Larkin's images (in fact, the entire book) may be found here.

-- Steve Roach (email)

The realistic chart of John Rapkin

The following chart presents a realistic comparison of the heights of various waterfalls:

Comparative View of the Principal Waterfalls

It is a subset of an illustration titled "A Comparative View Of The Principal Waterfalls, Islands, Lakes, Rivers and Mountains, In The Western Hemisphere," published in The Illustrated Atlas, And Modern History Of The World Geographical, Political, Commercial & Statistical, edited By R. Montgomery Martin in 1851. The electronic version is available in the David Rumsey Collection here.

I found this example of chart leading to the incapacity to compare the heights. On my point of view, the realistic aspect of the representation coupled to a perspective drawing of each element (waterfall) toward the center and an organization of the elements with the smallest in the middle induce the interpretation of a cirque of waterfalls. Linked to this perception effect comes a sense of homogeneity in heights.

The low visibility of the scales on both sides of the illustration and the indirect link between the name of the waterfall and its illustration put the reading at a stronger disadvantage.

-- Abram Pointet (email)

The strange map of today about ring roads (No. 384, 25 May 2009) is a good example of how poor design can result in a virtually undecipherable mess. Frank Jacobs writes that "As ring roads go, London's is one of the longer ones - which can with some difficulty be gleaned from this map." This was too polite: I would be more inclined to say that it can be gleaned with a great deal of difficulty if you think it worth the effort. The person who designed the map seems to have been more interested in producing a gaudy result, looking something like a flower, than in conveying any information.

Ring Roads of the World poster

Ring Roads of the World
designed for Rice School of Architecture
CPY, Houston, 2009

As one of the things I learned (or at least became conscious of) from reading The Visual Display of Quantitative Information was that producing bad graphics can be a form of lying it is interesting to note from some of the comments that the principal claim of the map, that Houston has the Longest Ring Road in the World, is not in fact true.

-- Athel Cornish-Bowden (email)

This NYT article gives a slideshow about a Natural history of Manhattan over the past 400 years. The new map-based exhibit opened at the Museum of the City of New York. It is called, "Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City." The exhibit consists of historical accounts, maps and computer models that explore the ecology of Manhattan from the time before it became a city.

Natural History of New York City

Natural History of New York City

The project has also its own website and a book. This is a pretty good multi-media site that gives layers of meaning to those who now live in Manhattan.

-- Matt R (email)

Cartographic treasures show little change in city life

24 Jun 2009

A unique collection of rare Manchester maps reveals how worries about congestion and binge drinking were just as prevalent 100 years ago as they are today.

The drawings, part of an exhibition of 80 maps unseen in public for up to 200 years, can be seen at The University of Manchester's John Rylands Library opening on 25 June.

It includes an excerpt of the first large scale survey of the city published by William Green in 1794.

And a 1945 map shows how the city centre was slated for transformation into a modernist utopia along the lines of inner city Birmingham. Thankfully the plans never went ahead.

An "isochron" map shows how long it took to commute to the city centre in 1914 and was produced by Manchester Council to convince the movers and shakers of the time that tramways and traffic policemen were needed - echoing the rejected Transport Innovation Fund congestion charge proposals of last year.

"The congestion of 1914 shown in the map bears a strong similarity to the traffic hotspots of today," said Chris Perkins, geography lecturer from The University of Manchester and one of the exhibition's curators.

"It's amazing that it took up to 50 minutes to get to places as far out as Stockport and Timperley - a similar figure to now."

On display at 'Mapping Manchester' is material held by The University of Manchester and other institutions in the city, including generous loans of materials from the Manchester City Library and Archives, Chetham's Library and the Manchester Geographical Society.

An 1889 map of licensed alcohol sellers produced by the United Kingdom Alliance - one of the period's temperance societies - also has an eerily resemblance to the binge drinking hotspots of today, says fellow curator and geography lecturer Dr Martin Dodge also from The University of Manchester.

"This fascinating map published in the Manchester Guardian was purposefully designed to show that the biggest drinkers lived in Manchester's poorest areas - just like today."

"It certainly provoked a strong response from correspondents to the Guardian who were outraged by the 'low morals' of working people," he said.

The exhibition shows Manchester's first ever planning maps, hand-printed 220 years ago for wealthy citizens who displayed them in their homes and offices as a status symbol.

The maps capture the start of the massive growth of the city at the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Mr Perkins said: "In 1945 the Council planned a modernist utopia of straight roads, wide boulevards, roundabouts, and other civic buildings."

"It was part of a 200-page vision for universal education, healthcare and low congestion."

He added: "If they had got their way, they would have covered over parts of the river Irwell, bulldozed Victoria station, and built a wide boulevard between the Town Hall and Deansgate."

"Manchester would have probably looked more like inner city Birmingham than the winding medieval streets we know today."

"Thankfully as cash was so tight in the post-war years, the plans were never implemented."

Also shown in the exhibition is an insert given out free to Manchester Guardian readers in 1926 to celebrate the city's Civic Week.

Dr. Dodge said: "The map was a navigational device but also an elegant attempt to depict Manchester as a city of parks, education and good transport."

"There was of course no depiction of the city's less attractive areas - such as its slums!"

Click here to view the article.

-- Marek Karliner (email)

Scents of the City

"Scents and the City," by illustrator and author Jason Logan, as featured in the NYTimes:

Scents and the City

(click to read in full)

-- R.C. JONES (email)

Source: Swann, Autographs, auction catalog, October 29, 2009.

-- Edward Tufte

Mapping character interactions in movies

Three carefully crafted, ingenious charts followed by two delightful zingers (from xkcd)....

Movie Narrative Charts

(click for large view)

-- Bob Danielson (email)

A Tom Gauld map of his holiday home, complete with extensive key.

holiday home

-- Matt R (email)

Winnie-the-Pooh map

(click to see larger)

Source: Sotheby's catalogue, English Literature, History, Children's Books & Illustrations, London, 17 December 2009, p. 92.

-- Edward Tufte

How to plan your way around the solar system while watching your fuel gauge. Another well-executed graphic from

gravity wells

(click through for large view)

-- Aaron Symanski (email)

Astonishingly beautiful 15-sheet maps series of ancient courses of lower Mississippi from Harold N. Fisk's 1944 Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River.

Mid-res pictures available at Radical Cartography. Full-res originals can be downloaded at US Army corps.

Mississippi composite map

Mississippi map

Mississippi map

(click to view larger)

-- Ivan Poukhkal (email)

Some beautiful maps of 12 favourite art galleries in Tokyo from the book ArtSpace Tokyo:

-- Matt R (email)

An extract from a book about maps—an Ojibwe map from ca 1820 in Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS, by John Krygier and Denis Wood.

It's a Map

-- Matt R (email)

Flickr member Eric Fischer has created two very interesting sets of data maps.





When photographs are taken of a particular place, and then uploaded to a public forum, and tagged with the location that the photograph captured, this is called geotagging. Using scripts to mine the Flickr and Picasa public photograph collections, Fischer created the Geotaggers World Atlas of location-centric photographs, which he subsequently color coded based on who likely snapped the shot—locals vs. tourists. In the introductory text, he says:

"Some people interpreted the Geotaggers' World Atlas maps to be maps of tourism. This set is an attempt to figure out if that is really true. Some cities (for example Las Vegas and Venice) do seem to be photographed almost entirely by tourists. Others seem to have many pictures taken in places that tourists don't visit."

NYC tourists vs. locals

Chicago tourists vs. locals

London tourists vs. locals

Paris tourists vs. locals

I live in Pittsburgh, whose color coded map is shown below, and I'm very curious about some of these apparent hot spots—what's so interesting over there? I'll be finding out soon. And I will definitely check his atlases the next time I travel for hot spots to add to my itinerary.

Pittsburgh tourists vs. locals

-- Katherine Davoli (email)

Here is a great collection of book endpapers that are all in the form of maps. This one is from Portrait of a Village, by Joan Hassall & Frances Brett Young. Heinemann London 1937.

"I take this opportunity of declaring that no village like [Monk's Norton] has ever existed outside my imagination..." — Frances Brett Young
Portrait of a Village endpapers

-- Matt R (email)

Here is a children's geography book: The Map That Came to Life by Ronald Lampitt, published in the UK in the 1948. The book uses a mix of maps and scenes, segments of Ordance Survey type mapping in one-to-one correspondence with the 3D scene they represent.

The complete book is here.

The Map that Came to Life

The Map that Came to Life

-- matt R (email)

The cultural norm of the tube map strikes again!

The automotive industry by way of the London Underground map:

auto industry in 2005

-- Andrea (email)

Here is a Civil War-era map showing the distribution of the slave population of the United States as of the eighth census (1860):

distribution of the US slave population in 1860

The map is part of a collection from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NOAA story about the distribution of slavery map and other materials held by NOAA are available for download or purchase may be found here.

-- Ann C. Davidson (email)

This project seeks to create maps of electromagnetic fields, such as those used by WiFi, using a light painting long-exposure technique:

The results are impressive from both a visual and analytic perspective. By overlaying this information on a real-world scene the connection of the datapoints to a particular spacial area is made concrete.


Improvements in this technique could be had by choosing a different method of representing the signal strength variable, such as light brightness. This particular technique unnecessarily links signal strength with height, perhaps leading to confusion when the data is mapped over uneven topography.

-- John Taylor (email)

A map of a Shaker village in Canterbury New Hampshire, from the American treasures archive at the Library of Congress:

-- Matt R (email)

Here is a fantastic set of very beautifully drawn maps of English South Coast Harbours from 1698, by Edmund Dummer and Thomas Wiltshaw.

The image below is a low-resolution version of Falmouth and surrounding harbours;

"Of Dartmouth Fowey Falmouth & Helford how & what circumstances they differ from all ye rest and our opinion of them.

Dartmouth, Fowey, Falmouth & Helford are places of resort upon some occasions, And there are some particulars at Dartmouth improveable for the Services of the Navy, But in other Circumstances all these seem much more Subject to Hazards for the intercourse of Shipping than those Places do that are already in Use upon this Coast of England to which our Order Confines us, ..."

-- Matt R (email)

A beautiful animated map depicting winds across the continental United States.

wind maps

-- Adam Wuerl (email)

Here is an excellent website companion to the book Mapping the Nation by Prof Susan Schulten of the Department of History at the University of Denver, with many images and commentary.

Virginia slave population

-- Matt R (email)

Last week, Robert Krulwich (RadioLab co-host) wondered on his NPR blog about what happens when you chop up cities and stack them sideways? The pictorial answers, from French artist Armelle Caron, comprise a set of strange and unusual maps.

For example: here's Paris:

Paris from above.

and here's Paris with its city blocks dissected and arranged linearly based on shape and size:

Paris, dissected.

Different cities have different block layouts, and so stack up differently. New York's blocks, in contrast, are much more regular. From above:

New York from above.

and with blocks arranged linearly based on shape and size:

NYC, dissected.

I expect geographical features inform how one's city's blocks are shaped, but I wonder if there's other patterns one can eke out from maps like these?

-- Katherine Davoli (email)

Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913) was a British naturalist who independently arrived at the theory of natural selection when he was recovering from malaria on a remote Indonesian island. He wrote a paper describing his idea and famously sent it to Charles Darwin for his views. By rights Darwin should have sent the paper on to a suitable journal with a recommendation that it be published, thereby giving Wallace scientific priority for a radically new, and essentially correct, way of understanding nature.

But that isn't what happened. Darwin talked it over with a few influential chums (Hooker & Lyell) and they cooked up a way of presenting Wallace's paper and a hastily written paper by Darwin at the same meeting of the Linnean Society in London in July 1858.

It is a hundred years since Wallace died and the Natural History Museum in London will begin a celebration of 100 years since Wallace's death this week.

Wallace was a great Victorian travel writer and perhaps his best known volume is The Malay Archipelago. The Internet Archive has a full copy online of the 1869 edition.

Below is a map taken from the book that shows the island of Borneo (now split between three countries Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia) on the same scale as the British Isles (now split between two countries Eire and the UK). This is a clever way to show pictorially to the British readers of Wallace's book how big the island of Borneo is. I didn't realise how similar in area Borneo and the British Isles were—Borneo is the third biggest island in the world but is only about 2.5 larger in area than the British Isles (Wikipedia lists the area of Borneo as 743,330 km2 and the British Isles as 315,134 km2).

More at

Borneo to scale

-- Matt R (email)

Basketball maps

This article on several years of hoopster Kevin Durant's shots has several interesting and convincing graphical maps/arguments.

Durant every shot

Rookie Durant

Rookie vs New Durant

Durant % improvements

Durant 2012-13

-- R.C. Jones (email)

NASA has an incredible depth and breadth of image data that they allow people to use pretty freely in various ways. For example, I had been reading up on the libration of the moon (the observed 'wobble' it undergoes as part of its normal orbit. This means more than 50% of the moons face is seen from Earth—in fact about 60%) and wanted to create a day-by-day sequence of images that showed what you would observe of the moons surface from Earth as both phase and libration changed. It so happens that NASA have a nice web interface that allows you to create hour-by-hour visualizations of the phase and libration of the moon based on their detailed moon surface topographic data. They also have nice video visualizations of these images.

I created a series of these images from 9th May 2011 to 17th May 2011. Each image is at 0 hours UT. I have arranged the images in boustrophedon order beginning top left. I found that this was the best way of arranging the images so that each step in the image sequence is immediately 'adjacent' to the previous step and also adjacent to the next one. After one look you get accustomed to what seems a 'counter-intuitive' way of reading sequences of symbols or images.

A higher resolution version of this confection is here.

Note that these are not images captured from a ground based telescope, they are visualisations of data collected from a diverse set of experimental data—such as LOLA the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter measurements of moon topography.

lunar libration

-- Matt R (email)

One of my favourite artefacts is the set of pop-out maps made by PopOut products. They have cleverly identified both a need—high resolution spatial data in a pocket friendly format without the need for connectivity or power (i.e. a map) with a way of packaging it into a pocket sized unit.

According to the company history,

1992: Having spotted a need to cure what he calls 'Map Stress Syndrome' after watching numerous tourists around the City of Bath, England, battling with oversized maps, founder Derek Dacey recalls the invaluable miniature charts he used during his days as a commercial pilot. Aiming to bring this level of usability to the city map market, a small team of designers is recruited to realise what would soon become the PopOut.

Here is an example of the PopOut map of London UK showing the cunning folding mechanism that allows the centre of London to be packed into the pocket sized format. Good old fashioned ingenuity, high quality printing, paper and card put to great use.

PopOut London map

-- Matt R (email)

In 1855 the American oceanographer Mathew Maury described the Gulf Stream in the following lyrical terms:

There is a river in the ocean. In the severest droughts it never fails, and in the mightiest floods it never overflows. Its banks and its bottoms are of cold water, while its currents are warm. The Gulf of Mexico is its fountain and its mouth is in the Arctic Seas. It is the Gulf Stream. There is in the world no other such majestic flow of waters. Its current is more rapid than the Mississippi or the Amazon.

Below is a map of the Gulf Stream presented in Light science for leisure hours, a series of familiar essays on scientific subjects, natural phenomena, etc., (1871) by Richard Proctor, available online via the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Gulf Stream map

-- Matt R (email)

You might find these maps interesting.

The world without Facebook:

Over the last few hundred years, maps have divided territory into political administrative units (countries, states, etc.). Newer spatial realities, however, are driven by the flow or inhibition of information. One's physical location is just a single variable in the multitude of virtual projections possible in the networked world. Country borders may be highly controlled, but thoughts and ideas follow more fluid paths.

The UnFacebook World Map is a remix of two popular images: NASA's Earth at Night, and Facebook's Friendship Map. By subtracting the Facebook map from the NASA one, we end up with a new kind of tension between two zones: the ancient technologies of situated human settlement (rendered visible by electric light) and the newer technologies of disembodied electronic communication.

Further description here.

And new and disappearing cities:

This map was made by overlaying two publicly-available NASA maps showing light from cities at night. One map was recorded in 1992, the other in 2010. By overlaying and tinting them red and blue, respectively, we get a resulting map that reveals where urbanization has increased and declined over the last two decades.

I chose the colors for this map in reference to astronomical light shifting -- a phenomenon that scientists use to study distant stars and galaxies. Light shifting is like how the sound of cars change from high to low pitch as they drive past you....Using light shifting as a metaphor, I created the map at the top of this page. Instead of depicting the night sky, though, I am show the Earth's surface. My aim is to turn the awe and mystery of astronomy towards spaces closer to us. By producing new maps I hope to reimagine how we inhabit our planet and relate to others.

Further description here.

-- Ian Wojtowicz (email)

map of Harlem

-- ET

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