19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind and Change the Way You See the World. Top All-time. You Won’t Believe Your Eyes. Watch.

By Nathan Yau  /  Posted to Data Underload  /  Tags: ,

Many lists of maps promise to change the way you see the world, but this one actually does. The maps above don’t count towards the 19, so your world view hasn’t changed yet. However, the binocular-like image represents your upcoming experience. You look around. Nothing. Look more. Nothing. Then maps catch your eye, and boom. Something. Your life transforms into something you never thought possible.

Time to blow your mind.

1. Booming beginning of the alphabet at the end

Most maps focus on demographics, geological makeup, and natural phenomena such as temperature and wind. No one focuses on what really matters though: the alphabetic makeup of states when you sort their names in various ways. Break the names apart and put them back together. That’s how you truly learn what a state is about and in turn, what your nation is about. Examine the parts to gain a vision of the whole.

I give you exhibit number one. It’s states that end with the letter “a”.

States that end in the first letter of the alphabet

A whopping 38 percent of states end with the first letter in the alphabet, which amazes to no end. Why did the state-naming people choose so many names with the same last letter? Was it because Americans hold a favoritism towards the first letter in the alphabet, and it would be too blatant if they started each state name with an “a”? Is there a cultural significance behind it? Are people more likely to migrate to states that end with the first letter, because first position is a valued quality in the world? Statistical models for the past ten years suggest that all the above is true with a probability of 50%, give or take 50%.

2. End of the alphabet

In contrast, zero — I repeat, zero — states end with the last letter of the alphabet (i.e. “z” or “zed” if you are from a different part of the world). The map below shows a stark image of a country depraved and starving for a state name that ends with a “z”. Forget about the end of state names. There is only a single state with “z” anywhere in its name. ONE.

States that end in the last letter of the alphabet

The only viable solution is to change current state names to end with zed. Let us not forget the other neglected in the process, such as “q” and “u”.

3. Letters at the beginning

We raise similar issues when we look at letters at the beginning of state names. There are obvious missing areas, and something must be done. I don’t feel like doing anything about it, but someone should.

States by the letter they start with

4. Changes over time and space

Several mini-explosions are going off in your head at this very moment, so brace yourself for what comes next. The most telling of maps is the one that ebbs and flows with the people who reside in the area. The data flows like water in a bendy river with a lot of rocks. This is a picture of life as we know it — random, unorganized, and unpredictable. When life gives you lemons, you make a map of those lemons, because the result blows your mind every single time.

Animated map.

The animated map above is only a snapshot of the millions of lives that the lines and shapes represent. The animation likely shows something interesting. Sometimes a state turns orange, others turn black, and the rest turn white. What will happen in the next frame? It is hard to say. Just like tomorrow.

5. Reverse the order

Alabama through Florida — unless you don’t count Washington, D.C., then through Georgia — always get to be first when the states are in alphabetical order. This is what happens when you sort by reverse alphabetical order. Here are the new first ten states. You go, Wyoming through South Dakota.

Bottom becomes top in a change of fate.

Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Filler text. Grocery list: eggs, milk, sugar, flour, potato chips, cat food, quinoa, broccoli, lettuce, taco shells, and seasoned salt.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Quisque varius eu ligula sit amet laoreet. Quisque rhoncus, neque eu aliquam mattis, quam lorem feugiat tortor, a gravida lectus diam quis massa. Nulla id porttitor eros. Donec volutpat ante a tortor sodales bibendum. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Mauris gravida leo eget elit dapibus, nec mollis nisl tempus. Interdum et malesuada fames ac ante ipsum primis in faucibus. In eget sagittis nisi. Nullam eget mi mollis, volutpat turpis vel, lacinia massa. Fusce vel elit erat.

6. Most used

This map highlights the most used letter in each state name. Again, the letter ‘a’ dominates nationwide. Needs more ‘z’.

Letter frequency, because it matters.

Although looking at only the most used letter of each state name misses out on more detailed distributions, looking at the number one is easier to understand and explain.

7. Dwindling and rebound

Something over some amount of time was dwindling. There was almost nothing left, and just as everyone feared the worst, America bounced back and returned to where it was. But then the metric dipped again. But then it came back up. Then down. Then up.

Shrinking, growing, shrinking, growing.

Like Batman’s dad said: “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” In many ways, this animated growth map is a triumph of the human spirit. Almost. Let’s not get too dramatic. This animated growth map is almost a triumph of the human spirit.

8. Top states

It’s time for what we’ve all been waiting for. What we scroll for. The source of so much controversy. There are many ways to rank states, and where your state appears on a list depends on the estimates and the standard errors. One day your state might be number one, but on another day, it might be number fifty. It depends on the data. The tricky bit? Ratings can vary even if you use the same data, because it also depends on how you frame things. One man’s worst might be another man’s best.

That said, this is the definitive map of top states in the United States of America. Here we go. The. Top. States. Boom.

The. Top. States.

Although, when you treat south as pointing up, you get a different story. Soooo…. yeah. Look at all those shaded states on top though. Alaska is so far north that it lapped everyone and came back around on the bottom, as if it were Pac-Man running from ghosts (or running after them depending on whether he just ate a power pellet or not). Very impressive.

9 through 18. In this together

I focused a lot on states’ names, but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least cover some of the demographics that are of utmost importance. We’re always looking for differences between the states to see who stands out, whether it be in a bad or good way. “See which states drink the most beer” and “worst states to live in”. This is the UNITED States of America, and we should act like it. Every day should be just like the day U.S. soccer goalie Tim Howard showed the world what America is made of. It should be a day of photoshopped block and save puns, sprinkled with animated GIF morsels. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. Mankind, that word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interest. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist and should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice, “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on, we’re going to survive.” Today we celebrate our independence day! Wait, what’s going on? Dang it, Bill Pullman.

These maps show just how united we are:

I'm all in. Are you?


19. Cute

Finally, we end on a relaxed note. Sometimes you must relax the mind so that you can blow it up again tomorrow.

Nappy nap.

It’s time for a short nap.


Jobs Charted by State and Salary

Jobs and pay can vary a lot depending on where you live, based on 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here’s an interactive to look.

The Best Data Visualization Projects of 2011

I almost didn’t make a best-of list this year, but as I clicked through the year’s post, it was hard …

Marrying Age

People get married at various ages, but there are definite trends that vary across demographic groups. What do these trends look like?

Where People Run in Major Cities

There are many exercise apps that allow you to keep track of your running, riding, and other activities. Record speed, …