Boing Boing 

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)

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]

Maps of the world made with spirographs


Artist Rachel Evans makes gorgeous poster-art with a spirograph, and has an especially sweet line of world-maps made using the technique, which she sells as posters. Click through for a video of her in action.

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Sinkhole opens 'neath holiday resort complex near Disney World

A 15-foot-deep sinkhole opened beneath a vacation condo complex near Walt Disney World in Florida, partially devouring a pair of three-story buildings above it. Some 35 people were successfully evacuated from the buildings at Summer Bay Resort, 10 minutes' drive from the Disney property. One building is still sinking.

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Randall Munroe finishes "Time," the 3,099-panel XKCD serial


Randall Munroe has finally finished Time, his 3,000+ frame slow-motion animation that began life as wordless, enigmatic single-panel XKCD installment. Since then, the panel has been slowly, slowly updating itself, running out its course over several months. Geekwagon has collected the whole series in an easy-to-control window, and the story, taken as a whole, is a beautiful and odd existentialist parable touching on the discovery of geographic knowledge; cultural first contacts; environmental disaster, friendship and ingenuity. (Thanks, @dexitroboper!)

Map of local word for "beer" in each European country

(Click to embiggen)

Feòrag NicBhrìde has provided us with a vital cartographic reference: a map of Europe showing the word for "beer" in each country.

The Essential Map of Europe and Environs. (Thanks, Charlie!)

GeoGuessr: Street View location guessing game

Geoguessss

Anton Wallén created GeoGuessr, a fun game where you have to guess at the location of Google Maps Street View images. Not only am I terrible at geography, I haven't seen nearly enough of the planet.

Zombie-based learning: Kickstarting a zombie apocalypse geography textbook

David Hunter sez, "I'm a public school teacher and last year I created Zombie-Based Learning, a standards-based curriculum that uses a zombie apocalypse to get kids into learning geography. The last Kickstarter was successful and a lot of fun. Now I'm working on the comic that goes with ZBL. This comic will help engage kids, teach real-world geographic concepts, and encourage readers to work on their zombie-survival skills."

I wrote up David's earlier (and just plain wonderful) effort last year; this is a great-looking Kickstarter.

Zombie-Based Learning comic books: Dead Reckon (Thanks, David!)

Artist finds the faces lurking in maps


Artist Ed Fairburn selective colors in maps, revealing faces lurking in potentia in their many lines, contours and shapes. He sells prints. These are gorgeous. Shown here: Paris.

Ed Fairburn (via Neatorama)

Realtime map of anonymous edits to Wikipedia


Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi's "Wikipedia Recent Changes Map" plots anonymous edits to Wikipedia on a world-map in realtime, based on the location of the user (only anonymous users are identified by IP address, so they're the only ones whose locations can be estimated). It's a hypnotic view into Wikipedia's casual users and vandals, as well as unobservant users like (I often forget that I'm logged out until after my edit, and have to go back and add an attribution).

When an unregistered user makes a contribution to Wikipedia, he or she is identified by his or her IP address. These IP addresses are translated to the contributor’s approximate geographic location. A study by Fabian Kaelin in 2011 noted that unregistered users make approximately 20% of the edits on English Wikipedia [edit: likely closer to 15%, according to more recent statistics], so Wikipedia’s stream of recent changes includes many other edits that are not shown on this map.

You may see some users add non-productive or disruptive content to Wikipedia. A survey in 2007 indicated that unregistered users are less likely to make productive edits to the encyclopedia. Do not fear: improper edits can be removed or corrected by other users, including you!

This map listens to live feeds of Wikipedia revisions, broadcast using wikimon. We built the map using a few nice libraries and services, including d3, DataMaps, and freegeoip.net. This project was inspired by WikipediaVision’s (almost) real-time edit visualization.

Wikipedia Recent Changes Map

"Lost" continent found under Indian ocean

Lemuria found, reports Sid Perkins: "The drowned remnants of an ancient microcontinent may lie scattered beneath the waters between Madagascar and India, a new study suggests." [Nature]

Visit beautiful Cape Goodenough

Or as I like to call it, Cape Fuckthiswearegoinghome.

Sadly, Antarctica's Cape Goodenough (pictured here on National Geographic's Political Map of the World) was not named by a less-then-intrepid band of explorers who decided that seeing the coastline of Antarctica was plenty of adventure for them, thankyouverymuch.

Instead, it's named for William Goodenough, admiral in the British Royal Navy. Yes. Admiral Goodenough. I'm sure the troops were enthused.

But wait, there's more. In the 1930s and 1940s, the admiral was apparently involved in the creation of comfortable, dormitory-style housing for international post-graduate students in London. Today, the buildings are known as ... Goodenough College.

Pacific island does not exist

Sandy Island, a 20-mile strip of land in the Pacific between Australia and New Caledonia, easily found on Google Maps and many other charts, does not exist. The ocean at that point is in fact 4,620ft deep.

That's what they're saying, anyway.

LocalWiki Antarctica, a crowdsourced map of the icy southern continent

LocalWiki's Philip Neustrom says,

My non-profit, LocalWiki, has been working on this really incredible project to help document the continent of Antarctica. Most notable, at least right now, is this custom map we've pieced together from very-hard-to-find NASA aerial imagery and coastline datasets. It's probably the most beautiful thing I've ever worked on.

Check out the LocalWiki for Antarctica. The project "aims to document the full extent of human involvement on the continent," and for now is focused on a two-mile region surrounding Palmer Station.

Making Inaccessible Island a little more accessible

This is a detail from one of the regularly updated maps that researchers in Antarctica use when they want to leave McMurdo Station and travel across the continent's sea ice. It shows the well-traveled routes across McMurdo Sound, ice thickness measurements taken at various points along the road, and hazards like large cracks in the ice.

Towards the north end of the Sound, you can see an island labeled, "Inaccessible Island". I asked Henry Kaiser — a musician and filmmaker who has spent the last decade working with scientists on the frozen continent — about why that island was inaccessible. After all, I didn't see any major cracks or hazards around it. Seems like you could traverse the ice to the island just fine.

Turns out, I was misunderstanding. Inaccessible isn't a designation. Inaccessible is the island's official name. Even though it's not. Inaccessible, I mean. Named by Robert Scott, it's part of a chain of islands that all represent the remains of an ancient volcanic crater. The name apparently comes from the fact that Inaccessible Island is incredibly steep, so while you can reach it, getting onto the damn thing seems to be a lot harder.

Inaccessible Island in McMurdo Sound is not to be confused with the Inaccessible Island that is located in the south Atlantic about halfway between South America and Africa; nor with the Inaccessible Islands, an entire group of islands located between the tip of South America and tip of the Antarctic peninsula; nor with Inexpressible Island, an Antarctic island where part of Scott's crew on his second expedition was forced to spend the winter of 1912 living in a cave and eating penguins.

Read about Inaccessible Island (the one in McMurdo Sound) in the report of Robert Scott's first expedition to Antarctica, published in 1907.

Martian Mt. Sharp vs. Mt. McKinley

Philip Bump put together this great comparison of Earth's Mt. McKinley and Mars' Mt. Sharp (as photographed by the Curiosity rover).

Officially, it's Aeolis Mons, and it stands 18,000 feet above the crater floor. Here's how that compares to Mount McKinley, America's tallest peak at 20,320 feet. The sea levels / floor levels are roughly comparable. But this is just an approximation. Do not make wagers based on this.

Via pbump.net

Vote for your favorite "Earth as Art" satellite photo, in U.S. Geological Survey poll

Today is the final day for voting in the USGS "Earth as Art" image project. To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Landsat Program on July 23, 2012, the federal agency seeks your help in selecting the 5 coolest images from more than 120 scenes.

For 40 years Landsat satellites have been acquiring images of the land cover of the planet. The satellites have given us spectacular views of mountains, valleys, coastal areas, islands, volcanic fields, forests, and patterns on the landscape. By highlighting some of those features and creatively crafting the colors we have developed a series of "Earth as Art" perspectives that reveal the artistic side of Landsat. The Top 5 "Earth as Art" images will be announced on July 23 in Washington, D.C., at a special event commemorating the launch of the first Landsat satellite.

Vote here, by end of day today.

Image above, from the Landsat collection: Akpatok Island lies in Ungava Bay in northern Quebec, Canada. Accessible only by air, Akpatok Island rises out of the water as sheer cliffs that soar 500 to 800 feet (150 to 243m) above the sea surface. The island is an important sanctuary for cliff-nesting seabirds. Numerous ice floes around the island attract walrus and whales, making Akpatok a traditional hunting ground for native Inuit people.

(Thanks, Miles O'Brien!)