Monday, February 18, 2019

Should Your Maps Talk?


Back in 2014 I used the fairly new (at the time) Web Speech API to create a simple Speaking Map. That map used reverse geocoding to speak the address of a location every time someone clicked on the map.

What I neglected to add to my Speaking Map was jokes. Which is where Alex wins out. Alex is a talking map which can understand a number of different spoken commands. You can ask Alex to zoom in and out on the map or to switch between aerial and topographical map layers. You can even tell Alex a location and it will center the map on that area. Alex's best feature, however, is its ability to tell Dad jokes. Ask Alex to tell you a joke and you can hear a really bad cartographically themed joke.

In the Maps Mania post accompanying my 2014 Speaking Map I mentioned how the Web Speech API could be used with driving directions to provide a simple navigation application. You could also use the Web Speech API in data visualizations to narrate some of the important facts that you want to impart with your visualization.

The Flourish visualization tool recently added a new feature they call 'Talkies' which allows you to add sound recordings to data visualizations. You can read more about Talkies in the blog post Why data visualisation needs a play button. Of course instead of using sound recordings you could use the Web Speech API instead. At the moment the artificial voices of the Web Speech API might be too annoying to use for narrating stories with maps. As the voices become more natural sounding this will probably change and Web Speech narration could become another valuable tool to add to your story maps and map data visualizations.

Earth's Light Mountains


Last year Jacob Wasilkowski released an interactive map which visualized Nasa’s nighttime lights data as as elevation data. In other words the Earth at Night map shows light pollution around the world in 3D as mountains of light.

NASA's so called Black Marble map is made by combining the best cloud-free satellite images of every land mass area of the Earth. The result is a map which shows the distribution of artificial lights around the world. Jacob has used NASA's data on light pollution to create an interactive map of the world which shows the brightest areas as high peaks and the darkest regions as valleys and plains.

Jacob has now released a 'how to' guide explaining how he created the map. Obviously converting NASA's light pollution map into a 3D elevation map includes a number of steps. One of these steps was to use chroma.js to convert every light pixel on the Black Marble map into a number range, which could then be used to visualize the luminosity values as elevation heights.

Using the metaphor of elevation is becoming a popular method of visualizing data on 3D maps. We've seen this most recently on the Pudding's Human Terrain interactive map. The Pudding's map shows population density across the globe using 3D population pyramids. The taller a pyramid block on the Pudding map then the higher the population.

The UK Child Poverty Map


In some areas of the UK over half of all children are now living in poverty. The levels of child poverty are highest in some of the UK's largest cities, particularly in London, Birmingham and Manchester. For example, in London's Bethnal Green 54.18% of children are living in poverty and in Birmingham's Ladywood neighborhood 53.06% of children are growing up in poverty.

The End Child Poverty coalition has released a new Child Poverty map of the UK. The map shows the level of child poverty in every parliamentary constituency in the UK. The darkest colored areas on the map are those with the highest levels of child poverty. You can hover over individual constituencies to view the number of children in the area growing up in child poverty and what percentage that is of the local child population.

OpenDataCommunities has mapped England's Index of Income Deprivation 2015. This map includes an option to view the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI). This allows you to view the proportion of children under the age of 16 that live in low income households as calculated by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

I 💛💗💖 Maps


I saw a few Valentines Day themed maps this week. None of them were that interesting. I did end up writing about Esri's map of Britain's Most Romantic Roads but that was really only because I wanted to explore the toponym of the 168 Love Lanes on Esri's map - the original meaning of which is maybe not quite as romantic as Esri imagines (John Stow in 1598 said London's 'Love Lane' was "so called of Wantons". In other words Love Lane in London got its name from the prostitutes who worked there).

The only interesting Valentines Day maps released this week were the Cordiform Map Projections 💛💗💖 posted to Observable. This Observable Notebook shows you how to make heart-shaped or cordiform Stab-Werner map projections. These equal-area map projections are heart-shaped, so the perfect map projection for Valentines Day. The Cordiform Map Projections 💛💗💖 post on Observable includes links to two vintage maps which also use a Werner projection.

Amazon's Lord of the Rings Map


Amazon is busy creating a Lord of the Rings Prime Video series. Little is known about the television series, as of yet, but there is a Lord of Rings on Prime official Twitter account. On Wednesday that account made it's first Tweet, which was a short Tolkien quote,


Yesterday that Tweet was followed up with a link to an Amazon Prime interactive map of Middle Earth. The Amazon Prime map is a neat representation of Middle Earth, although it doesn't contain any place-name labels. The map does include a few fantasy map staples, such as a vintage looking compass rose, tattered edges and fold marks. There is also a download link which allows you to save the map as an image file.

This blank interactive map of Middle-Earth is an interesting marketing ploy, which is obviously little more than a teaser for the Amazon Prime television series. If you are a real fan of Tolkien's novels then you will probably have more fun exploring the interactive maps created by the LOTR Project. These include interactive maps of both Beleriand and Middle Earth.

The LOTR Project interactive maps include place-name labels and lots of optional layers which allow you to overlay time-lines, route and events from Tolkein's novels directly on top of the interactive maps.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Do You Speak the Queen's English?


The most popular interactive page on the New York Times website in 2013 was How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk. This interactive feature asked readers to answer questions about the words they use and how they pronounce them. From the answers given to these language questions the NYT was able to create an interactive map showing where the reader was from in the United States.

Now the New York Times has released a similar interactive feature which can tell Irish and British readers where they are from. If you answer 25 questions about the words you use and how you say them then the NYT will create a heat map identifying where it thinks you were raised. The newspaper will also show you a heat map after every single question you answer showing you where your answer is most and least common.

The British-Irish Dialect Quiz just about managed to identify where I was raised (pictured in the map above). I grew-up just within the southern tip of the NYT's heat map generated from my answers. However I have spent most of my adult life in London which could be why it thinks I'm from a little further north. than my childhood home.

America's 2018 Oil Spills


On average there were around 11 oils spills a month in the United States during 2018. The largest oil spill was in April in Superior, Wisconsin. 11 people were injured in the incident when a storage tank exploded.

You can view all the 137 oil spills that occurred in the United States during 2018 on Resource Watch's interactive map. The 2018 Oil Spills Map uses data from NOAA to plot the location of every one of the 137 oil spills reported in 2018. Louisiana was the state with the most oil spills last year. There were 52 spills in Louisiana (or close offshore) in 2018. Texas was the second highest with 13 spills and Alaska was third with 10 spills. The Resource Watch report into 2018's oil spills includes details on each of America's largest oil spills in 2018.


If you want to know where the US's oil wells are actually located then you can explore the Washington Post's United States of Oil and Gas map. The Washington Post map (shown above) shows oil wells in green and natural gas wells in pink.

In total there are more than 900,000 active oil and gas wells in the USA. The Washington Post article accompanying the map explores the boom in oil and gas production in the United States since 2010. The article includes a number of other maps and visualizations showing where this oil and gas boom has occurred.

The Resource Watch oil spill map shows a large cluster of spills in the Gulf of Mexico. The Washington Post reports that since 2003 "natural gas production in the gulf has declined more than 70 percent". Despite this decline the dangers of offshore drilling means the Gulf of Mexico is still a hot-spot on the oil spill map.

Mapping Asia's Most Powerful Countries


According to the Lowy Institute the USA is the most powerful country in Asia. I'm not sure I agree that the United States is in Asia but I'm not going to argue that it exercises a lot of influence in the continent. According to the Institute's Asia Power Index the next most powerful country in Asia is China.

The Asia Power Index ranks 25 Asian countries and territories in terms of their power using eight different measures and 114 indicators. You can explore all the country rankings on the Asia Power Index Interactive map. The main eight measures of power visualized on the map are: economic, military, diplomatic influence, cultural influence, future trends, resilience, economic relationships and defense networks.

If you select one of these main power measures then the large country markers are resized to show each country's score. The map side-panel also lists all the countries by their rankings. Each of the main measures of power includes a number of individual sub-measures which you can also view on the map. For example the military capability measure includes sub-measures which allow you to see how the 25 different Asian countries rank for defense spending, armed forces, weapons & platforms, signature capabilities and Asian military posture.


Even though the Asian Power Index shows the USA as the most powerful country in Asia it is China that tops its rankings for future trends. China also tops the rankings for the measures for diplomatic influence and economic relationships. One of the reasons why China is now exercising so much influence in Asia is because of its investment in the region.

China has provided over $1.9 billion in aid to Pacific Island countries in the last ten years. You can view how much Pacific Island countries have received in aid from China on another interactive map from the Lowy Institute. Chinese Aid in the Pacific provides information on Chinese aid projects in the Pacific islands region since 2006.

The map uses scaled markers to indicate the amount of Chinese aid received by each Pacific Island country. The map sidebar also allows you to filter the amount of aid provided by type of aid and by the sector funded. If you zoom in on the map you can view details on the individual projects which have been funded by the Chinese, including details on the amount of aid provided and a description of each funded project.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Best Brewery Road Trip Ever


If you are tired of the usual bog standard Saturday night pub crawl and you want to take on something a little more ambitious then you need Flowing Data's Brewery Road Trip. This map provides you with the shortest possible route that takes in all the best American breweries.

If you undertake this mega journey then you will visit all 71 American breweries in RateBeer's list of the top 100 breweries in the world. The route was calculated using Randy Olsen's algorithm that has been used many times to create optimal road trip maps for many different themes. Here are a few more optimal road trips that you might want to consider:

The Optimal Road Trip Across the U.S.
The Optimal Road Trip Across Europe.
The Optimal Road Trip of U.S. National Parks

If you are interested in how these optimal trips are calculated then there is a detailed explanation provided with Randy Olsen's Optimal Road Trip Across the U.S..

A Strip Map of Mars


In 1675 John Ogilby published Britannia, a series of strip maps of roads in England and Wales. In 2019 the New York Times also published a strip map. Only this strip map shows the journey of a robot on Mars.

On Wednesday NASA announced that the Mars Opportunity rover was no longer working. In June Opportunity went into hibernation during a dust storm on Mars. It was hoped that after the atmosphere cleared Opportunity would reboot and continue working. However after months of waiting yesterday NASA announced that the Opportunity mission was over.

The NYT's NASA’s Opportunity Rover Dies on Mars includes a fantastic strip map which allows you to follow the journey of the Mars rover from its landing in Eagle Crater in 2014 to its final resting place in Perseverance Valley. As you scroll down on the NYT visualization you follow Opportunity's path using fantastic satellite imagery of the red planet. You can explore the 28 miles that Opportunity traveled in a few seconds. Opportunity took 5,111 Martian days to travel that distance. It is definitely worth taking a few minutes yourself to explore the wonderful aerial imagery in the NYT's strip map of Opportunity's exploration of Mars.

Some other examples of interactive strip maps include Propublica's Killing the Colorado, a journey down the endangered Colorado river, and the New York Times' A Rogue State Along Two Rivers. A Rogue State Along Two Rivers explores the rise of ISIS by following the paths of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.