The dirty secret of Google's self-driving cars


They've 700,000 miles, but mostly the same few thousand miles, over and over again -- because the cars only work if every single light, piece of street furniture, and other detail is mapped and verified by armies of human and computer analysts, and when anything changes, the mapping needs to be re-created.

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Expanded Animaniacs "Capitals" song for the whole world

The beloved Spielberg cartoon's greatest accomplishment was its repertoire of hilarious, catchy, educational songs like Wakko's State Capital song.

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Danish Geodata Agency commissions 1:1 Minecraft replica of Denmark

For the kids! (Thanks, Shi-n0-bi) Cory 8

Making a planetary-scale sandwich

Svabialonso, a redditor in Iceland, teamed up with a friend on the (approximately) opposite side of the planet in New Zealand to make a world-sized sandwich: each of them went to a specific location at a set time and pressed a piece of bread to the ground there, with appropriate toppings.

On the Road converted to ebook of Google Maps directions

Here's On the Road for 17,527 Miles, a 45 page ebook of driving directions for recreating the journey of Sal Paradise in Jack Kerouac's 1957 classic On the Road. Its author, German college student Gregor Weichbrodt, is selling it as a print-on-demand title via Lulu, in case you want a hardcopy to take with on your trip.

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Canada's weirdly recursive geography

Mrmcd sez, "Contained within the borders of Canada are: the world's largest island in a lake on an island; the world's largest island in a lake on an island in a lake; and the world's largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island.

Gorgeous Map of the Internet: XKCD meets National Geographic


Martin Vargic has produced a gorgeous mashup of XKCD's Map of Online Communities and the classic National Geographic Maps, producing a work of art that is a wonder to behold. It's for sale on Zazzle, as a $37, 34"x22" poster.

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Globes: art-book traces 400 years' worth of strange and gorgeous globes


Here's a tantalizing preview [PDF] of The Art and History of Globes, a massive, gorgeous art-book tracing the history of globes. Written by Sylvia Sumira, forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press in March. The globes pictured run back 400 years, and come from the collection of the British Library. As Levi from the press says, "they're amazing: beautifully designed and drawn, intricate, strange--just incredible objects."

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Public transit times mapped

Andrew Hardin, a grad student from the University of Colorado's geography department, created an interactive map that shows how long it takes to get there from here in several major U.S. cities. A paper reveals the methodology used. [via Flowing Data]

Openstreetmap: why we need a free/open alternative to proprietary maps


In the Guardian, Serge Wroclawski makes the case for Openstreetmap, a free/open map tool maintained by a volunteer community. Wroclawski argues that allowing companies to own maps allows them to own places: to determine which features of our neighbourhoods are worthy of inclusion, to determine which parts of our cities should and shouldn't be considered in route planning, and to monitor our decisions about where we travel and what we do when we get there. It's a dangerous proposition, and Openstreetmap is a viable, and often superior, alternative (see, for example, the map above of the neighbourhood around my office):

The second concern is about location. Who defines where a neighbourhood is, or whether or not you should go? This issue was brought up by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) when a map provider was providing routing (driving/biking/walking instructions) and used what it determined to be "safe" or "dangerous" neighbourhoods as part of its algorithm. This raises the question of who determines what makes a neighbourhood "safe" or not – or whether safe is merely a codeword for something more sinister.

Right now, Flickr collects neighbourhood information based on photographs which it exposes through an API. It uses this information to suggest tags for your photograph. But it would be possible to use neighbourhood boundaries in a more subtle way in order to affect anything from traffic patterns to real estate prices, because when a map provider becomes large enough, it becomes the source of "truth".

Lastly, these map providers have an incentive to collect information about you in ways that you may not agree with. Both Google and Apple collect your location information when you use their services. They can use this information to improve their map accuracy, but Google has already announced that is going to use this information to track the correlation between searches and where you go. With more than 500 million Android phones in use, this is an enormous amount of information collected on the individual level about people's habits, whether they're taking a casual stroll, commuting to work, going to their doctor, or maybe attending a protest.

Why the world needs OpenStreetMap [Serge Wroclawski/Guardian]

(via /.)

Planetary-scale chicken


There is a chicken lurking in the geography of our continents.

A giant chicken.

The world’s countries can be arranged to form a giant chicken. (via Making Light)

Interactive graphic of migration within US


Chris Walker created a fascinating interactive graphic of migration patterns within the United States. It's based on US Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey estimates. Here are a few insights that Walker gleaned:

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China City of America coming to the Catskills?

Chinacity6n 6 web

Chinese developers are vying to build a massive China-themed retail center and casino in New York's Catskills. The 600-acre project is called "China City of America" and, surprise, it's highly controversial. I think it might do better in the hometown of hyperreality, Las Vegas! You can see the pitch at the China City of America site and read about it below:

"Developers pitch bringing a piece of China to Sullivan County" (YNN)

"Mysterious China-themed 'city' proposed in New York’s Catskills" (Fox News, thanks Bob Pescovitz!)

Why Google Maps is often wrong about your exact location

How does Google Maps account for plate tectonics? That's the seemingly simple question that led George Musser to unearth some fascinating facts about map-making, history, and the accuracy of modern GPS systems. Turns out, not only does the crust of the Earth, itself, move, but so do the locations of lines of latitude and longitude. Both those things contribute to small errors when your GPS tries to pinpoint exactly where you are.

The World of Equal Districts

Here is our world divided equally into territories of about 10m people, with existing boundaries taken into account.

"The logic of the map does not entirely discount existing ethnic or national boundaries, but neither is it beholden to them. The particular political rationale behind these divisions is not addressed - whether these are independent nation-states or provinces of a world government is left to the imagine of the viewer. The map is rather meant to provide a visual representative of the radically unequal distribution of the world’s population."

Zoom in: Pacific Rim, south-east Asia, the subcontinent, western Europe. [via MeFi]