Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Map with a Pearl Earring

Many museums and art galleries around the world now use interactive mapping interfaces to allow visitors to explore individual works of art online. Presenting paintings as zoomable images provides a unique perspective which gives the viewer the opportunity to study a work of art in impressively close detail.Using the navigating methods of panning and zooming (which users are familiar with from using Google Maps), art lovers can study a painting at their leisure.

The level of detail revealed by an interactive painting interface is only limited by the resolution of the image and the number of zoom levels provided by the interface. If the original painting has been photographed in megapixels then the interactive painting interface can allow the user to zoom in on the smallest strokes of the artist's brush.

The Girl With a Pearl Earring is one of Vermeer's most famous works. Last year The Mauritshuis art museum in the Netherlands asked Hirox Europe to photograph Vermeer's masterpiece at the level of 4.4-microns per pixel. Such a detailed image of the painting allows the museum to assess the surface condition of the painting, observe cracks in the paint, and help evaluate past restorations of the painting.

You can evaluate the painting for yourself on Hirox Europe's interactive map of The Girl With a Pearl Earring. This interactive map allows you to view the painting in unprecedented detail. Zoom in on the painting and you really can see individual the cracks in the paint. 

The image of the painting captured by Hirox Europe is about 10,118 megapixels. Ten areas of the painting were captured in even more detail using a Hirox 3D microscope. Using the Hirox interface you can explore these ten areas as a 3D map. Doing this reveals the topography of the painting so that you can actually see the height differences of the paint used on different areas of the portrait.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Covid City Exodus

In the last few weeks I have read a number of reports estimating that the population of London has fallen by as much as 300,000 during the Covid epidemic. Part of this fall can be blamed on Brexit (many foreign-born workers have left the UK during the last year) however it is also widely believed that the rise of home working has encouraged many people to move out of the capital.

When people are not so tied to the office they may have become less keen to pay the higher costs associated with living in a city. During lock-down the social and cultural benefits of large cities have also largely disappeared and may have made the idea of rural living far more attractive. But is there any evidence for the anecdotal stories that many people are abandoning city living. One place to look for this evidence could be in the changing cost of rental properties in both urban and suburban locations.

There is certainly some evidence of this exodus from cities in Apartment List's National Rent Report. The report explores how rental prices rose and fell in American cities during 2020. The report shows that some of America's most expensive rental cities have seen a sharp drop in rents, while more affordable cities have seen a modest increase in rental prices. 

The National Rent Report interactive map illustrates the large drop in rents in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. On the other hand a number of more traditionally affordable cities, such as Boise and Memphis have seen modest increases in rents over the duration of the Covid epidemic. 

AdvisorSmith has also been analyzing the trends in U.S. rents over the course of 2020. In Cities Where Rents Are Rising and Falling the Most the business insurance company lists and maps the ten cities where rents rose the most in 2020 and the ten cities where rents fell the most. 

San Francisco and Mountain View, California are both among the list of top 5 cities which have seen the largest fall in rents. Boston and New York are also in the top ten cities experiencing the largest rental decreases. AdvisorSmith note that these cities contain lots of professional and technical workers. Of whom many have taken to working from home during the epidemic.

It does appear from the rise and fall in city average rents that many people have taken the opportunity to move further from the office to somewhere with cheaper rents. It may not be as simple as saying that many people are moving out of cities because of Covid. Not all workers are able to work from home and not everybody can easily move homes. It will be interesting to note over the next few years whether working from home becomes more common and more widely accepted and whether this leads to a fall in the number of people living in our largest cities. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Global Shipping Traffic

VesselFinder is an interactive map which shows in real-time the live position of over 100,000 vessels around the world. The map uses AIS and satellite data to track and map the locations of boats and ships on both inland rivers and on the world's oceans & seas. 

On the maps different colored markers are used to show different types of marine vessels. Yellow markers show the locations of cargo ships, orange markers indicate tankers and purple markers show yachts. If you click on individual markers on the map you can often view detailed information about the selected vessel (purple yachts tend not to have any background information).

Looking at the VesselFinder map today you can clearly see there are a large number of yachts taking advantage of the trade-winds to make easterly crossings of the Atlantic (the line of purple vessels on the map above).


MarineTraffic is another popular interactive map which allows you to view the live position of ships around the world. The MarineTraffic live ship tracking map includes an option to view a density map of the world's shipping traffic. If you select the 'Density Maps' overlay on MarineTraffic you can view an overlay which shows the accumulated recorded data of all vessels on MarineTraffic over recent years. 

The density map (shown above) of global shipping reveals the world's major shipping lanes and also the areas of the world that the major shipping companies avoid. The reasons why some areas of the world's seas and oceans don't see as much traffic as others can vary from geo-political reasons to the dangers of piracy and local sailing conditions.

If you zoom in on the coastline of North Korea on MarineTraffic you can see that there don't seem to be many ships breaking the international trading sanctions. The coastline of Somalia is another area which often has less dense marine traffic than other coastlines. The reason that ships avoid Somalia is presumably to do with the dangers of piracy.

Bernie Sanders at the White House

Bernie sits outside the White House

A picture of Bernie Sanders sitting in a pair of mittens at President Joe Biden's inauguration quickly went viral yesterday. The picture shows Sanders sitting cross-legged and wrapped-up against the cold in the bleachers on Capitol Hill waiting for Biden to be sworn in.

While the fashionistas of social media focused on the stunning outfits worn by the likes of Lady Gaga and Michelle Obama some of us were more impressed by the casual attire modeled by Mr Sanders. Bernie's combination of an olive-colored winter jacket with brown and white knitted mittens was at once daring and inspired and ensured that the still glamorous elder statesman stole the show. 

Soon after Bernie's appearance at the inauguration a 'Bernie sits' meme suddenly started to flood social media. Pictures of Bernie sitting in his mittens were Photoshopped into different locations around the world. 

You can join in by creating your own memes with the Bernie Sits application. Just enter a location into Bernie Sits and the app will superimpose a picture of Bernie sitting in his woolly mittens on top of that location's Street View image from Google Maps.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Interactive Map of World Fiction

I am really interested in some of the attempts people have made to organize works of fiction into two dimensional mapped spaces. In November's #30DayMapChallenge I even created a very small Island of Fiction map demo myself to explore how fictional authors could be mapped onto the fictional territories of a fictional island. 

Most interactive maps of books that I have seen have used the idea of genres as the guiding taxonomic principle, determining where individual works of literature are placed on the fictional map. My own Island of Fiction map mapped fictional authors onto five genre states, 'Crime', 'Horror', 'Science-Fiction', 'Romance' and 'Fantasy'.

TheLibraryMap also uses the idea of fictional genres as its organizing principle. TheLibraryMap is an interactive map of over 100,000 books which are organized based on 'the genre and topics of each book'. On the map individual books are colored by 'genre and topics'. Unfortunately TheLibraryMap doesn't have a map key so you will need to guess which color represents which genre of literature. Individual books on the map are also sized differently - but again without a map key we are left to guess what the size of each circle represents (total sales maybe?).

TheLibraryMap provides no information on how each book was placed into its genre. Usually with such a large taxonomic interactive map entities are mapped using machine learning. But I have no idea if that is the case here. It would be really interesting to know more about how the books were organized on TheLibraryMap. It might explain for example how existential novels by Camus and Sartre end up sitting so near on the map to fantasy novels such as 'Throne of Glass' and 'Red Queen'. 

The HathiTrust Digital Map is a very similar interactive map which allows you to browse and explore the 14 million volumes in the HaithTrust's repository of digitized texts. This map not only provides a visual interface with which you can navigate the books in the HaithiTrust digital library it also includes a fascinating discussion about how the texts are organized on the map. A discussion which explores how organizing digital texts may require a whole new system of library classification.

The Library of Congress Classification system categorizes books into different broad subjects and then by sub-classes within each of these subjects. The HathiTrust Digital Map uses an entirely different method of classification. On this interactive maps texts are organized by the similarity in the vocabulary of individual texts.

The 'Read' section of the HathiTrust Digital Map takes you on a story map tour of some of the interesting patterns that have emerged by organizing this Digital Library by vocabulary similarity. The story map shows you how this classification system diverges or resembles subject based classification systems, such as the Library of Congress Classification system. It also explores some of the new 'clusters' of books that emerge when you classify by vocabulary similarity. New clusters of texts which have some syntactical similarity but which under a subject based classification system would be classified far apart.

This story map tour also provides a great illustration of how a digital map of a library can actually use a number of different library classification systems at the same time. On the HathiTrust Digital Map the texts are organized spatially by their similarity in vocabulary. However as you progress through the story map the texts are also organized by language and then by subject matter by applying different colors to the markers of books in different categories. In this way the map is able to pick out interesting clusters of texts which have similar vocabularies within subject classes, texts which have widely different vocabularies but are still in the same subject class or texts which have similar vocabularies but are in different subject classes.

The Distribution of Surnames

The German Surname Map is a fascinating tool for visualizing the geographical distribution of surnames in Germany. Enter a surname into the tool and you can view a map showing where people with that name are distributed throughout the country. 

If you enter the name Merkel into the map (the name of the German Chancellor) you will discover that it is a common surname in Germany, with quite an even distribution throughout the country. Angela Merkle was born in Hamburg. There appear to be quite a few Merkles in Hamburg, although the biggest concentration of the surname appears to be in some of the southern states.

In Germany you can also use GeoGen to view the geographical distribution of German surnames. The use of three dimensional stacks on this map helps to make it a little more clear where a particular surname has its highest concentration in the country.

Searching Merkel on GeoGen and the German Surname Map seems to suggest that the highest concentration of Merkels in Germany can be found in Baden-Baden. However as neither map uses place-name labels it isn't always easy to determine individual towns on either map (the highest concentration of Merkels may therefore be in one of Baden-Baden's closest neighboring towns). 

If you want to research the geographical distribution of surnames in other countries then you can use:

You can also explore the global distribution of your family name using Forebears. You can use Forebears to undertake a global search for your surname. If you enter a surname into Forebears it will tell you the meaning of your name and show you a map of the global distribution of your name. Beneath this generated map you can view a list showing the number of incidences of your surname recorded in each country around the world. It also shows the ratio of people with your surname in each country and the rank of your name in comparison to the incidence of all over surnames in each country.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Which Football Team Should I Support?

Back in 2015 an interactive map called Which Team Should I Support used a Voronoi layer to divide England and Wales into areas assigned to the closest English Premier League teams. This map could therefore be used to quickly see which football team's ground was closest to your home in England and Wales. 

That map is now very out of date (some of the teams on the map have since been relegated from the EPL and it omits teams who have since been promoted). The 2015 map also only included Premier League teams and of course many people in the UK live closer to football teams which are not in the EPL. 

Luckily Automatic Knowledge has just released three interactive Voronoi maps which show which football team people in the UK live nearest to: 

  • The Premier League map shows which EPL team you live closest to 
  • The Top Four Leagues map shows which English top 4 tier football team you live closest to 
  • The Tiers 1-8 map shows which team in the top 8 tiers of the English football leagues you are nearest to

Alasdair Rae has written up an interesting blog post about these three maps. In Which Football Team is Nearest Me Alasdair looks a little more closely at the Voronoi catchment areas of English football teams. In particular he has worked out the total number of people living in each of the Premier League team's Voronoi polygons and in each polygon for the top 8 tiers of English football. 

In terms of the EPL Southampton are the team with the most people living closest to their stadium. 12.6% of the English population live in the Southampton Voronoi polygon. At the other end of the league, Chelsea have the smallest number of people living closest to their stadium. Only 1.7% of people living in England live in the Chelsea Voronoi polygon.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Video Maps of the Attack on Washington

Last week Parler, the controversial social network much loved by QAnon morons and right-wing domestic terrorists, was hacked. Very poor security on the Parler website meant that hackers were able to download every message, photo, and video posted to the site. 

Using data from the Parler hack Kyle McDonald was able to create the Parler Video Uploads interactive map. Kyle's map shows the location of videos posted to Parler across the world. Click on a video's dot on the map and you can also read the date stamp of the video. This date information (taken from each video's Exif data) has enabled people to start mapping videos from the Capitol Building insurrection on January 6th.

For example Patri10ic's Y'all Qaeda interactive map actually allows you to watch videos posted on January 6th in and around the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.. These videos all seem to be hosted on YouTube, therefore it is possible Patr10tic created the map from trawling YouTube rather than from the actual Parler hack. 

The Washington Post has also used videos uploaded to social media by some of the right-wing traitors to create a truly harrowing account of the Capitol siege. A 15 minute video called 41 Minutes of Fear recounts and explains what actually happened during the siege. To make the video the Washington Post used video, facial recognition software, text messages, photographs and a digital 3D map of the Capitol Building to reconstruct the events of this fascist attack on American democracy.

41 Minutes of Fear uses video footage and plans of the Capitol Building to provide an historical record of the events inside the Capitol Building after the insurrectionists managed to bypass the amazingly lax police security at the Capitol.The video shows how lawmakers came within close contact of the angry mob and were incredibly lucky not to have been harmed by Trump's army of Anti-American Nazis.

The Relaxing World of Slow TV

Back in 2011 the Norwegian public service broadcasting company NRK broadcast live and non-stop the 134 hour long voyage of the cruise liner Hurtigruten, as it sailed around the Norwegian coastline. On the NRK website as well as watching the amazing live footage of the cruise you could also keep track of the position of the liner on a live real-time Google Map.

Slow television is the term used for these types of live 'marathon' television shows covering an ordinary event in its complete length. The Hurtigruten cruise wasn't the first 'slow television' broadcast by NRK (it had previously broadcast a number of films of complete train journeys). However the Hurtigruten broadcast in particular received a huge international following on the NRK website.

There is something extremely relaxing and meditative about most slow TV events. At a time when many of us are feeling more stressed and more confined than ever before I feel that watching slow TV can be an amazing way to unwind and adapt to the slower pace of life which Covid-19 is forcing upon so many of us.

If you need to relax then might I reccomend the Slow TV Map, a fantastic interactive map providing links to slow TV videos which have been filmed around the world. My smart TV is currently showing a ten hour hour long broadcast of a journey on the incredible Wuppertal Suspended Monorail in Germany. If suspended monorails aren't your cup of tea then you can use the Slow TV Map to discover calming videos of hikes in nature, beautiful car journeys, amazing train journeys, relaxing canal trips and aerial flights. The map even includes a filter control which allows you to filter the map to only show particular types of slow TV.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Make Your Own 3D Animated Map

Mapbox GL Director is a useful and fun tool for creating custom 3D map animations with Mapbox's new impressive 3D terrain features. The tool provides a very easy to use interface for creating custom map animations with Mapbox's 3D terrain, sky and camera features.

Mapbox GL Director consists of an intuitive interface which allows you to choose any location on Earth as the basis of your map animation.You can then choose two different camera angles of your selected location and Mapbox GL Director will create the HTML code for an animated fly-by between your two camera angles.

Mapbox GL Director includes a number of options which allow you to change the appearance of your animated map. You can adjust the level of the terrain exaggeration (to make hills appear larger or smaller). You can also adjust the direction and angle of sun-light (to change the terrain shadows). 

When you have finished creating your 3D animated fly-by you can download or cut-and-paste the HTML code which will create your own animated Mapbox map. In order to publish this map you will need your own Mapbox account token and you will also need to host the map yourself.

Mapbox GL Director exports the HTML and JavaScript code for your created map. It is therefore perhaps most useful for people who are already familiar with creating maps with Mapbox GL and just want an easy interface for quickly creating animated 3D maps. I can't help thinking that there would be a very large market for a Mapbox GL Director wizard which included an option to export custom user created animated 3D scenes as animated GIF's.