• Using slime mold to find the best motorway routes

    February 20, 2014  |  Mapping

    This is all sorts of neat. Researchers Andrew Adamatzky and Ramon Alonso-Sanz are using a slime mold, P polycephalum, to find the most efficient road routes to provide guidance on how to rework them. P polycephalum is a single-celled organism that forages for food through various branches, and when it finds the most efficient food source, backs away from the others. The video above is a sped up version of it in action. Adamatzky and Alonso-Sanz put a map underneath.

    We cut agar plates in a shape of Iberian peninsula, place oat flakes at the sites of major urban areas and analyse the foraging network developed. We compare the plasmodial network with principle motorways and also analyse man-made and plasmodium networks in a framework of planar proximity graphs.

    [via infosthetics]

  • Why we think of north pointing up

    February 19, 2014  |  Mapping

    Claudius Ptolemy world map

    Nick Danforth for Al Jazeera delves into the history books for why north is typically on the top of our maps. There's no single reason for it, but Ptolemy might have had something to do with it.

    The north's position was ultimately secured by the beginning of the 16th century, thanks to Ptolemy, with another European discovery that, like the New World, others had known about for quite some time. Ptolemy was a Hellenic cartographer from Egypt whose work in the second century A.D. laid out a systematic approach to mapping the world, complete with intersecting lines of longitude and latitude on a half-eaten-doughnut-shaped projection that reflected the curvature of the earth. The cartographers who made the first big, beautiful maps of the entire world, Old and New — men like Gerardus Mercator, Henricus Martellus Germanus and Martin Waldseemuller — were obsessed with Ptolemy. They turned out copies of Ptolemy's Geography on the newly invented printing press, put his portrait in the corners of their maps and used his writings to fill in places they had never been, even as their own discoveries were revealing the limitations of his work.

    Ptolemy put north on top. Although, we don't know why he put it there.

  • Map: US bus and Amtrak routes

    February 6, 2014  |  Mapping

    Bus routes

    In case you're wondering how to travel the country without a car (in a way other than running), this map from the American Intercity Bus Riders Association [pdf] shows you all the bus and Amtrak routes that span the United States. Keep in mind that these trains don't run 24/7, so plan accordingly.

  • Places in the US with the most pleasant days per year

    February 4, 2014  |  Mapping

    Pleasant places to live

    We've seen plenty of maps the past few weeks that show how bad the weather is, in just about everywhere but California. Kelly Norton looked at it from the other direction and estimated how many pleasant days per year areas of the US get, based on historical NOAA data.

    I decided to take a stab at what constitutes a "pleasant" day and then aggregate NOAA data for the last 23 years to figure out the regions of the United States with the most (and least) pleasant days in a typical year. The results, I think, are not that surprising and pretty much affirm the answer given off the cuff by many of my west coast friends when asked about the best places, "Southern California?" For the areas with the least pleasant days, I admit I would have guessed North Dakota. However, it’s much of Montana that gets an average of a couple of weeks of pleasantness each year.

    Of course the map changes (mainly the geographic range) depending on the definition of a "pleasant" day. In this case it's defined as one where the mean temperature is between 55 and 75 degrees.

  • Digitally revamped atlas of historical geography, from 1932

    February 3, 2014  |  Mapping

    Snow cover

    In 1932, Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright published Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, a reference of almost 700 maps about a varied set of topics, such as weather, travel, and population. The Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond brought the atlas to digital life.

    In this digital edition we've tried to bring—hopefully unobtrusively and respectfully—Paullin and Wright’s maps a bit closer to that ideal. First, with the exception of the historical maps from the cartography section and a handful of others (those that used polar projections, for example), we’ve georeferenced and georectified all of the maps from the atlas so that they can be overlaid consistently within a digital mapping environment. (Georeferencing is a process of linking points on a map to geographic coordinates, and georectification is a process of warping a map using those coordinates to properly align it within a particular projection, here web mercator.) High-quality scans of all of the maps as they appeared on the plates are available too.

    Not only are the maps overlaid on a slippy map, but the lab also added simple interactions with tool tips and animation so you can look more specifically at the data.

    I could spend all day (or several days) looking through this. [Thanks, Lee]

  • Amount of snow to cancel school

    January 31, 2014  |  Mapping

    Snow day

    Someone ended an email to me last week with "Stay warm." Not to sound like a jerk, but I happened to be answering email outside with my t-shirt on and sweater slung over the chair. I was also half-wondering whether I should change into shorts. Anyway, this map by Alexandr Trubetskoy, or reddit user atrubetskoy, might be of interest to many of you not in California. It shows an estimated amount of snow required to close school for the day, by county.
    Continue Reading

  • Public transit times in major cities

    January 27, 2014  |  Mapping

    Public transit travel time

    Last year, WNYC made an interactive map that shows transit times in New York, based on where you clicked. Geography graduate student Andrew Hardin expanded on the idea for San Francisco, Seattle, Boulder, and Denver, with additional options and more granular simulations.
    Continue Reading

  • A century of passenger air travel

    January 22, 2014  |  Mapping

    Aviation for 100 years

    Kiln and the Guardian explored the 100-year history of passenger air travel, and to kick off the interactive is an interactive map that uses live flight data from FlightStats. The map shows all current flights in the air right now. Nice.

    Be sure to click through all the tabs. They're worth the watch and listen, with a combination of narration, interactive charts, and old photos.

    And of course, if you like this, you'll also enjoy Aaron Koblin's classic Flight Patterns.

  • Map projections illustrated with a face

    January 13, 2014  |  Mapping

    Map projection with a face

    Most people, at least those who visit sites like FlowingData, know about map projections. You have to do math to get the globe, a thing that exists in this 3-dimensional world, into a two-dimensional space. The often-noted scene from the West Wing explains a bit, some demos help you compare, and there are map games that highlight distortions.

    But, it can still be fuzzy because most of us don't deal with the true shape and size of countries regularly. These figures from Elements of map projection with applications to map and chart construction, published in 1921, take a different route and place a face — something familiar — to show distortions. Foreheads get bigger, ears get smaller, noses change sizes, and projections are easier to understand. [via io9]

  • A visual exploration of refugee migrations

    January 9, 2014  |  Mapping

    Refugee project

    Hyperakt and Ekene Ijeoma visualized migrations over time and space in The Refugee Project. The interactive is based on United Nations data, which is naturally limited in scope, because it's difficult to count undocumented migrations, but there is plenty to learn here about major political and social events in history.

    The map starts in 1975, and with each tick of a year, the circles adjust to show outgoing numbers. Mouse over a circle, and you can see estimates for where people went, which is represented with extending lines.

    Document icons appear over major event locations which provide more context about what happened in the country. This is key. I just wish there were more of them. It'd provide an even better history lesson.

  • Military footprint

    December 19, 2013  |  Mapping

    Military footprint

    Similar to his collection of prison map snapshots, Josh Begley collected images of military bases around the world.

    In addition to the map -- which is built using MapBox, an open source and user-friendly publishing platform -- I've included snapshots of the earth's surface at various latitudes and longitudes. What does a military base look like from above? Which installations are secret and which can be viewed on the open internet? Running a small Processing sketch to query the Google Maps and Bing Maps APIs, I grabbed a satellite image for each point and am displaying the collection as a simple lightbox gallery.

  • Earth wind map

    December 17, 2013  |  Mapping

    Earth wind map

    Remember the wind map of the United States by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viegas? Cameron Beccario made one for Earth, based on data from the Global Forecast System.

  • Uncertain cartographies

    December 11, 2013  |  Mapping

    Uncertain cartography

    Most people know the layout of their neighborhoods and some are good with the roads in their town. Zoom out farther though — to your city, state, and country — and the landscape grows fuzzy in your imagination. Cartographer Chris McDowall redrew his uncertainty of his native New Zealand with interesting, fuzzy results.

    The maps on this page are an attempt to translate my head landscapes into cartographic artefacts. I am trying to recreate of what I see when I close my eyes. They are rough approximations—the stuff in my head is far stranger and more difficult to pin down—but they feel honest. I share them because I find them beautiful and evocative.

  • What Antarctica looks like underneath the ice

    December 4, 2013  |  Mapping

    Based largely on satellite data and the results of an airborne data collection mission compiled by the British Antarctic Survey, Bedmap2 by NASA Goddard is a construction of what Antarctica looks like underneath the giant sheet of ice. This iteration of the map used 25 million more observations than the original Bedmap1, which was released in 2001, and provides a more granular view.

    [via Wired]

  • Climate change described visually

    December 4, 2013  |  Mapping

    A video from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme explains global warming and projected changes in the near future. I wanted them to provide more contrast to the data they showed over the globe, but the story itself is an interesting one.

  • MiseryMap of current flight delays and cancelations

    December 3, 2013  |  Mapping

    FlightAware MiseryMap

    FlightAware is a live flight tracker that lets you look up a flight to see where a plane is (and also provides a for-fee API). Their new MiseryMap focuses on delays and cancellations, a sore spot for all fliers and especially relevant given the holiday season and wintery weather. Donuts on the map represent on-time flights in green and delayed and canceled ones in red.

    They also show weather underneath, which is important context and a leading cause of misery. However, I wish there was a legend to tell me what those rainbow spectrum clouds mean.

  • Where the public radio is

    November 26, 2013  |  Mapping

    Public radio map

    Andrew Filer mapped the reach of public radio stations in the United Stations, based on data from Wikipedia and the station search from the Federal Communications Commission. Each circle represents a station and its coverage, and colors represent media outlets. For example, Capital Public Radio in Northern California is available across several stations in Sacramento, Modesto, Tahoe City, and others.

    So now you know where to go the next time you grow tired of the usual Billboard top 20.

  • Super ZIP codes

    November 25, 2013  |  Mapping

    Super ZIP codes

    The Washington Post looked at Super ZIP codes, a classification based on household income and education levels. It's a featured story, but it leads off with an interactive map so that you can see the ZIPs you're interested in.

    The ranks, ranging from 0 to 99, represent the average of each Zip's percentile rankings for median household income and for the share of adults with college degrees. Super Zips rank 95 or higher. This approach is adapted from one used by author Charles Murray.

    The map at top shows the nation's 650 Super Zips. Among them, the typical household income is $120,272, and 68 percent of adults hold college degrees. That compares with $53,962 and 27 percent for the remaining 23,925 Zips shown. Only Zips with at least 500 adults are displayed.

    I wonder what you get when you look at just education alone. Does it look the same? And, as usually is the case with these sorts of studies, how does cost of living play a role?

  • Global forest change

    November 20, 2013  |  Mapping

    Global forest change

    Hansen, Potapov, Moore, Hancher et al. produced high-resolution maps of global forestry to estimate change between 2000 and 2012.

    Quantification of global forest change has been lacking despite the recognized importance of forest ecosystem services. In this study, Earth observation satellite data were used to map global forest loss (2.3 million square kilometers) and gain (0.8 million square kilometers) from 2000 to 2012 at a spatial resolution of 30 meters. The tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2101 square kilometers per year. Brazil’s well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms. These results depict a globally consistent and locally relevant record of forest change.

    Be sure to select the various data products and zoom in on example locations via the dropdown menus on the right of the map.

  • Running traces

    November 11, 2013  |  Mapping

    Copenhagen

    The Endomondo app lets you keep track of your workouts, namely running and cycling, so it records your location, and then estimates your speed, calories burned, and elevation changes. And workouts are set to public by default. Nikita Barsukov used the public traces to make some quick and dirty maps of workouts in major European cities. Above is Copenhagen.

    I'm curious about how these compare to car traffic or social media usage. Are they opposites or are they roughly the same, corresponding to number of people who live in an area? And, of course, I want to know what this looks like for American cities.

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