Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Crowdsourced Mapping Helps Fight Ebola

Ten years ago this month Google acquired a mapping company called Where 2 Technologies and began to create Google Maps. Despite the tremendous growth of Google Maps over the last 10 years, there are still areas that are poorly mapped. When Doctors Without Borders wanted maps of the areas in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia that are most affected by Ebola, they turned to OpenStreetMap, a worldwide, crowdsourced mapping project. A recent article from Fast Company Labs details how the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) has gotten volunteers to quickly map cities like Gueckedou in Guinea. This image compares the level of detail between the two mapping services.
http://www.fastcolabs.com/3037350/elasticity/inside-the-crowdsourced-map-project-that-is-helping-contain-the-ebola-epidemic
OpenStreetMap is on the left, Google Maps on the right. The limitations of this blog page make this hard to see so I manipulated the images to compare them up and down.
Andrew Buck, A volunteer with HOT is quoted in the fastcolabs article as saying that Google's business model is selling advertising and “Starbucks isn't paying for Google to advertise over there so there's very little incentive for Google to improve its maps.”  

In fairness to Google, the OpenStreetMap for Gueckedou much less detailed than Google before the HOT team got mapping.
Since March the team has mapped over 8 million objects. The article has a nice animation showing the edits made in West Africa in the last six months. I was not able to it reproduce here but you can see it on their page.

OpenStreetMap has helped relief efforts by identifying unknown villages, sorting out similar village names, coordinating logistics and allowing relief workers to predict the paths used by infected persons and therefore areas that are more likely to be in need of aid.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Flying Map Cancels Soccer Game

A drone carrying a flag that features a map of "Greater Albania" flew over the pitch in Belgrade during the Serbia vs. Albania Euro 2016 qualifying match. One of the Serbian players pulled the flag down, resulting in brawls among the players and fans and the game was subsequently canceled.
http://www.dw.de/albanian-pms-brother-arrested-as-euro-qualifier-with-serbia-abandoned/a-17996531
My quick assumption was that this was a map showing Albania united with Kosovo, an independent republic still claimed by Serbia. However, the shape is completely different. After some digging I came across a map of Greater Albania that explains the shape.
http://www.novinite.com/articles/122305/%27Greater+Albania%27+Enjoys+Massive+Support+in+Kosovo,+Albania,+Macedonia
Not only do the Greater Albania supporters want Kosovo but also large chunks of Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece. Good luck with that!

More details on the soccer (football) story here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Melbourne After Dark

The International Cartographic Association (ICA)'s Commission on Map Design has been posting a map every day this year to highlight examples of great map design. Here is just one of the many maps worth highlighting - there may be more to come as time allows. This is a 1979 map by Cartographics International showing what establishments were open at night in Melbourne, Australia. These color choices were designed to be read at night under the street lights, while also creating a night-time look.
http://mapdesign.icaci.org/2014/06/mapcarte-176365-melbourne-after-dark-by-cartographics-international-1979/
The detail provided on the ICA page shows a happening neighborhood full of places to eat, "massage parlour/health studios" (pink lanterns) and coffee shops. The full map has a couple of areas blown up and pulled to the side, the lower left one appears to be a red light district. The bottom of the map shows some nightlife images that add to the exciting and vaguely sinister feel of the map.
http://mapdesign.icaci.org/2014/06/mapcarte-176365-melbourne-after-dark-by-cartographics-international-1979/
For a good writeup and the original images take a look at the ICA's page from June 25th.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Draining California

National Geographic has an article about the California drought in the October issue called When the Snows Fail. The magazine comes with a fantastic pull-out map showing the natural and manipulated ways that water flows out of the Sierra Nevada into the Central Valley, the heartland of US agriculture.
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The printed map sprawls across several flaps and shows a broad view of the entire regional water system in a way that can't possibly (or legally) be shown here. The image above gives an idea of much of what is shown on the map including aqueducts  (light blue lines), agricultural areas in green, dams, reservoirs (with information about  percentage above or below capacity) and various other bits of textual information.

Their web site has an interactive graphic that captures some of the map's information. Click on the second tab for the graphic, the first one is the article. The graphics do a nice job of showing the flow of water from the headwaters of the Rubicon River, near Lake Tahoe, into reservoirs, lakes, the American and then Sacramento Rivers. Three years of drought have left dry shorelines, lower volumes of surface water and increased use of wells causing subsidence of the land. 
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/west-snow-fail/
The interactive web graphics are very well done, but also are a good illustration of how computer images still cannot provide the awe inspired by a large paper map. I highly recommend getting a hold of the magazine and taking a look at the full "centerfold."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Perils of Ancient and Modern Travel

An ongoing series of articles in National Geographic detail Paul Salopek's walk to trace the spread of humans throughout the world. In the most recent installment, he walks across the Hejaz of western Saudi Arabia, visiting ancient wells - the blue symbols on the map.
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/07/hejaz-desert/route-map
These wells were located a days walk away so that travelers would be able to traverse the desert region. Knowing the location of the wells was a matter of life and death.

And now for something completely different - a ridiculous comparison!

Today's electric car pioneers face a similar difficulty. Routes must be carefully planned around the location of charging stations. A recent article in the Mercury News details the first cross country trip in a Tesla by John Glenney. The article includes this map of their charging stations.
http://www.mercurynews.com/portlet/article/html/imageDisplay.jsp?contentItemRelationshipId=5692710
Tesla has a network of charging stations located close enough (about 265 miles per charge) to be able to travel certain routes across the USA. During Glenney's trip the Hagerstown, Maryland facility was not ready. He had a stressful trip from Newark, Delaware to Somerset in western Pennsylvania, arriving with only 11 miles left on his charge.

As the Tesla network expands, trip planning will gradually become less important as it has in Saudi Arabia, where drivers can find bottled water at gas stations. The wells now sit abandoned as traffic rushes past and planes fly overhead.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scotland's Independence Vote In Maps

Tomorrow Scotland votes on independence. I don't have a "dog in this fight" though there is a "Duggy Dog" starring in a pro-independence video.
This map does a nice job of illustrating the political situation in service of the Yes campaign.
http://wingsland.podgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/advertdraft2b.jpg
The Yes campaign also has a video titled Scottish Weather Forecaster Loses It Live On Air with some good map content. Here are a couple of still frames.
On the "No" side there's this map from The Economist full of typically snooty Economist cliches.
http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02192/the-economist_2192486a.jpg
We get it. They're a buncha moochers!

Finally, there's the cover of The Battle for Britain by David Torrance...
https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/the-battle-for-britain-paperback
... and its copycat images.
http://www.zazzle.com/scottish_independence_cut_here_map_postcard-239672291035838057
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/05/01/301204/scots-indep-end-of-uk-as-power-mps/



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Franklin Expedition Ship Found

The Canadian Government announced today that they have found one of the two ships from the ill fated Franklin Expedition of 1845. While searching for the Northwest Passage, the expedition's ships became trapped in ice and the crew was never found. Sonar images from the waters of Victoria Strait, just off King William Island, show a wrecked ship on the ocean floor.  
http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/culture/franklin/index.aspx
The wreck location is approximately at the northern ship on this Parks Canada map. The map is nice but could use a "leader line" to connect the inset to the main part of the map, otherwise you might think the area is in Saskatchewan.

These quotes from CBC detail how Inuit hunters of the 1840s helped direct the search:
 "The beauty of where they found it is it's proof positive of Inuit oral history," CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge, who has covered the Franklin search for many years, said Tuesday.

"The Inuit have said for generations that one of their hunters saw a ship in that part of the passage, abandoned and ended up wrecking…. It's exactly where this guy said it was."

Canadian Geographic has a nice detailed map of the search area. It's not completely clear from the articles and announcement exactly where this find is but it appears to be very close, if not in the area outlined below.
http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/franklin-expedition/assets/victoria-strait-expedition-map/