A map for extraterrestrials to find Earth

In 1971, astronomer Frank Drake, the father of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, drew a map pinpointing Earth in our galaxy. That diagram, a "pulsar map," was etched on a plaque designed by Frank and Carl Sagan and first carried into space in 1972 by the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft. In 1977, the pulsar map would appear again etched on the covers of the golden records affixed to the the Voyager probes. These days, Frank's original pencil drawing of the map is stored in an old tomato box at his house. (In fact, Frank kindly allowed us to scan it for our book included in our new Voyager Golden Record vinyl box set!) Over at National Geographic, Nadia Drake, one of my favorite science journalists who also happens to be Frank's daughter, tells the fascinating story of this iconic piece of cosmic cartography. From National Geographic:

The question was, how do you create such a map in units that an extraterrestrial might understand?

...To my dad, the answer was obvious: pulsars. Discovered in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, these dense husks of expired stars were perfect blazes in both space and time.

For starters, pulsars are incredibly long-lived, staying active for tens of millions to multiple billions of years.

Also, each pulsar is unique. They spin almost unbelievably fast, and they emit pulses of electromagnetic radiation like lighthouses. By timing those pulses, astronomers can determine a pulsar’s spin rate to a ridiculous degree of accuracy, and no two are alike.

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The Roman Empire as a modern subway transit map

Sasha Trubetskoy always makes great maps, like this cool imagining of the Roman Empire road system in the style of a public transit system. Read the rest

Vintage isochrone maps show 19th-century travel times

In the late 19th century, travel times became a thing of fascination as modes of transportation improved by leaps and bounds (e.g., Around the World in 80 Days, published in 1873). Great thinkers of the day like Francis Galton even devised isochrone maps, which showed how long it would take to get from a central point to other points of interest. Read the rest

Boston school district switches to a more accurate world map, blows kids' minds

The Mercator projection maps we're all familiar with dates to a 16th-centry Flemish cartographer who wanted to emphasize colonial trade routes; as a result, it vastly distorts the relative sizes and positions of the world's continents, swelling Europe and North America to absurd proportions and shrinking South America and Africa. Read the rest

Stunning 23-foot wall chart of human history from 1881

Sebastian C. Adams's Synchronological Chart from the late 19th century presents 5,885 years of history (4004 BCE - 1881 AD) on a magnificent 27 inch x 23 foot illustrated and annotated timeline. What a stunner. You can zoom and pan through the whole thing at the David Rumsey Map Collection or order a scaled-down print.

According to the book Cartographies of Time: History of the Timeline, the Synchronological Chart "was ninetheenth-century America's surpassing achievement in complexity and synthetic power."

(via Clifford Pickover)

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San Francisco Bay Area map according to Urban Dictionary

What happens when a professional cartographer needs a break? For Sasha Trubetskoy, it meant making a map of the Bay Area based on Urban Dictionary entries. Berzerkely, Freakmont, Pathetica, and The Yoch are just a few points of interest. Read the rest

Meet the small team producing some of the last handmade globes in the world

Bellerby & Co is one of the last companies that handmakes globes. It's a team of 15 people including woodworkers, painters, and a digital cartographer. (Great Big Story)

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ShipMap generates gorgeous maps of global shipping routes

Here's a fun interactive map of global shipping. ShipMap allows users to selected color coding for ship types: container, dry bulk, tanker, gas bulk, and vehicles. It even lets you select animated ships on their routes. Read the rest

Five years of American drought, visualized

At Adventures in Mapping, John Nelson developed a sobering series of maps that visualize the intensity of the drought gripping much of the US: Read the rest

The trials of living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (SE), Washington DC

Several years ago, a new apartment building went up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE in Washington DC. That's a few miles from the better known 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, aka the White House. A car lot was previously on the apartment building property, then registered as 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, but the developers thought it would be a hoot to petition for the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE address. They got it. From WTPO:

Residents say they often get funny looks or disbelief when they have to give their address or hand over their driver’s licenses. Carlos Gutierrez, 39, and other residents said they get asked: “You live at the White House?”

The address has produced headaches for some residents. One early resident of the building, Daniel Perry, 36, said Amazon.com initially wouldn’t take orders to the address, though that’s since been sorted out. Another resident said even now, she sometimes has difficulty ordering online. A recent order for a pair of summer sandals required calling the company, she said.

Residents have to make sure that anyone sending them mail puts the all-important “SE” after the address. The correct zip code — 20003 — is also key. The White House’s ZIP code is 20500.

A goof means the mail might eventually get to the correct recipient, but because the president’s mail gets extra security screening, any resident’s mail with an incomplete address could be significantly delayed.

Mail mix-ups happen the other way, too. Errant letters for the first family arrive at the building every so often and sit unopened by the residents’ mailboxes until the U.S.

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Map of North America drawn in Tolkein's style

Etsy artist Andrew Creamer drew North America to look like Tolkein's Middle-Earth. Read the rest

Prolific and talented D&D map-drawer

Dyson Logos's G+ account is an endlessly scrolling inventory of hand-drawn D&D maps, each one cooler than the last. Read the rest

_applyChinaLocationShift: In China, national security means that all the maps are wrong

Chinese law makes independent mapmaking a crime (you may not document "the shapes, sizes, space positions, attributes, etc. of man-made surface installations") and requires tech companies to randomly vary the locations of all landmarks by 100-500m. Read the rest

Brass cuffs decorated with vintage maps, anatomy, science and math

Kate in Dorchester, England makes gorgeous brass wrist-cuffs decorated with vintage literary, cartographic and scientific imagery: there's Poe's Raven; the periodic table; anatomical dentistry drawings; Newton's laws of motion; the human spine; a map of the Thames and the Tower of London; a tape-measure; the human foot's bones; and headlines from Jack the Ripper's killings and much, much more. Read the rest

The Mercator Puzzle reminds you how deceptive maps can be

The Earth is round, and maps are flat. While we have may mapped nearly every inch of our world, figuring out how to translate that information from three dimensions to two remains a problem. Read the rest

The Game of Thrones cartographer explains how to draw maps

If you've ever wanted to make your own map—either of the real world or a fantasy world of your creation—these tips are essential.

Fascinating guide to antique space maps (Also, the Earth is square)

Above, a map of the "Square and Stationary Earth" (1893) by a Professor Orlando Ferguson of Hot Springs, South Dakota. Read the rest

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