Sierra Leone is the roundest country

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Gonzalo Ciruelos set out to discover which country was the roundest in shape.

We can define roundness in many ways. For example, as you may know, the circle is the shape that given a fixed perimeter maximizes the area. This definition has many problems. One of the problems is that countries generally have chaotic perimeters (also known as borders), so they tend to be much longer than they seem to be.

For that reason, we have to define roundness some other way. We represent countries as a plane region, i.e., a compact set C⊂R2C⊂R2. I will define its roundness as

That's about where I tune out! Turns out the answer is Sierra Leone. Click through to see lots of mathy thingies on the screen, the runners-up, the least round countries, and the source code. Read the rest

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

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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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Interactive map of Game of Thrones

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Quartermaester is a "speculative" but extremely complete interactive map of Westeros and Essos, the two continents across which Game of Thrones' action sprawls. Character paths and noble constituencies are among the available overlays—surprisingly useful for anyone trying to get the complex series in mental order. Note: it follows the books, not the show.

Update: I just bought this collection of poster-sized maps (HD scans are here) for $25. Far more delicious detail of the Thrones world, if not of the characters themselves. Read the rest

Strangely satisfying realtime lightning strike map

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The Blitzortung live lightning map shows the world's storms and strikes in real time, with a little click played every time heaven and earth become one. You can zoom right down to the state level; it's an indoors day in Ukraine and Greece. Read the rest

Map of North America drawn in Tolkein's style

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

Most world maps wipe out much of Oceania

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"The truncated continent," Oceania is bisected if not plainly obliterated by most world maps, straddling the edges and hidden under captions and legends. Lightly populated as Pacific islands are, when it comes to climate change, the omission is a cruel one.

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Make custom maps with Mapchart

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Mapchart makes it possible to create maps of the world, of Europe, of the Americas and elsewhere with custom colors, captions and descriptions. For example, here is a map of America that I have made. Read the rest

Animated map shows two centuries of US immigration

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It looks like Wargames but with Skittles: colored balls representing immigrants arcing through low orbit to land somewhere within the United States of America—Oklahoma, by the looks of it. Creator Max Galka writes that it covers 1820 to 2013 and that each dot represents 10,000 people. Read the rest

Haptic sneakers give you turn-by-turn directions through vibrations in your feet

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Low-cost carrier Easyjet has prototyped "Sneakairs," a pair of shoes that have small vibrating motors and Bluetooth links; they work in concert with your mobile phone's mapping app, buzzing left or right when it's time to turn, and twice if you've gone the wrong way. Read the rest

Interactive map of submarine cables

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How does the internet get routed to Greenland? Just how many cables snake their way through the waters of the Caribbean? Submarine Cable Map is exactly that, but it's beautiful and interactive too. [via Internet is Beautiful] Read the rest

University of Oxford acquires rare map of Middle-earth annotated by Tolkien

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The Bodleian Libraries at Oxford acquired a recently-discovered map of Middle-earth annotated by JRR Tolkien, "which reveals his remarkable vision of the creatures, topography and heraldry of his imagined world where The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place. The annotated map went unseen for decades until October 2015 when Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford put the map on display and offered it for sale."

(Thanks, Gary Price!) Read the rest

Mapbox: up-to-date satellite imagery

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Google Maps and similar services are most useful, but who has the most recent space footage of your neighborhood? Check out mapbox, a Landsat viewer that tells you when the satellite image you're looking at was taken, and when a new snap is scheduled. The zoom level really isn't useful for anything at a life-lived level – with the exception of recent weather, disasters, etc – but all services should expose metadata like this. Read the rest

More Google Earth anomalies

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Artist Clement Valla collects the most remarkable machine-vision nightmares and curiosities from Google Earth, a world whose parallels to our own become uncannier with each sweep of the satellites and Googlecars. [Previously. via] Read the rest

Tube map of "lost" London

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London is a ghost of all the things that were once there, and The Lost London Tube Map shows off some of the most famous forgotten landmarks. Biscuit Town and Bedlam are long gone, but others (like Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens) are still around to be rediscovered.

Some losses are definitely for the best. Few would welcome back the public horror of Tyburn gallows, or the miserable Marshalsea Prison. Other losses are a cause of some regret: Euston Arch and the Astoria, for example. Imagine a city where Whitehall Palace still stands, and Old London Bridge yet straddles the Thames. Of course, we're barely scratching the surface. We've not included the Overground or DLR, and have limited the scope to (roughly) zone 1. A whole heap of buildings such as Watkin's Folly and the White City Olympic stadium are left out, and we don't have room to include all the important stuff lost from central London.

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A Europe of city-states

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This neat map presents Europe not as a collection of countries but as a diagram of its largest cities; the accompanying post argues that large cities effectively transcend their host nations and will become the 21st century's geopolitical order.
not all urban areas are growing at the same speed — or are growing at all. All of Italy's and Greece's urban centres are losing inhabitants, as are the Ruhr and Katowice, Ostrava and Bucharest. Biggest winners? Istanbul and Ankara, plus two other Turkish cities, and Brussels and Amsterdam — all gaining more than 2 percent p.a. Growing more modestly, at 1 percent, are the English and Scandinavian cities
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_applyChinaLocationShift: In China, national security means that all the maps are wrong

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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

The Eastern Question follows a 9-11 trail of hatred going back thousands of years

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

After the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, Ted Danforth, the owner of a print shop in lower Manhattan, wondered why. Why did these attacks happen? Who is Osama bin Laden and why did he hate America? What was the history leading up to this tragedy and what about the future of the world as we know it? Through extensive research, Danforth discovered the answers were not so simple. One answer led to many more questions and Danforth soon discovered that the trail of hate, revenge, partnerships, mistrust, conquests and cultural differences went back thousands of years.

To try to make some sense of this long history of conflict, Danforth created The Eastern Question, a soft cover coffee table sized book containing text and over 108 hand-drawn watercolor maps and illustrations. The information is dense but Danforth uses metaphors and easy-to-follow stories that help explain the "Geopolitical Dynamics” of Eastern and Western history starting from AD 565.

The Eastern Question will no doubt appeal to the historian, but with drawings and maps reminiscent of cartoons from The New Yorker, non-historians can pick up some great information too. – Carole Rosner

The Eastern Question by Ted Danforth Anekdota 2015, 264 pages, 8.4 x 11 x 1 inches (softcover) $30 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

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