Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Mapping Reddit

The Map of Reddit is an interactive map which organizes and plots subreddits based on their similarity. Subreddits are individual subject forums on the social news forum Reddit. On this map individual subreddits are positioned near each other based on how many users leave comments on both subreddits. The proximity of subredddits on the map is therefore based on the shared interests of Reddit users. 

If you zoom out on the map you can view a number of 'countries' where similar themed subreddits have been grouped together. The largest of these 'countries; include 'Television', 'Gaming' and 'Programming'. You can also search the Map of Reddit for individual subreddits (for example if you like maps then try searching for 'mapporn'). This will allow you to see what other subreddits are liked by users of your searched Reddit forum.

The Map of Reddit is very similar to a map developed by Randal Olson in 2014. The Reddit World Map also represents every subreddit as a dot and organizes them based on how many Reddit users comment or post on two different subreddits.

Subreddits on this map which have many connections are mapped in red and those with few connections are mapped in blue. By grouping the subreddits by user activity clear communities of Reddit users emerge on the map. In fact the blog post introducing the map includes an interesting static version of the map where the continents of Reddit are picked out on the map.

EarthPorn - The Prettiest Places on Earth

EarthPorn is a forum on Reddit dedicated to beautiful images of natural landscapes. People across the world submit photographs of beautiful locations to the EarthPorn subreddit. Chris Linderman wonders whether it is possible to use the popularity of locations which have lots of photographs taken of them on EarthPorn (and other subreddits) to determine where 'beautiful' landscapes can be found around the globe. 

Chris's EarthPorn is an interactive map which visualizes where the most photographs have been submitted to four subreddits (EarthPorn, travel, CityPorn, and MostBeautiful). The brighter a hexagon appears on the map then the more photographs of that area have been submitted to Reddit. As Chris acknowledges himself because Reddit is primarily an English language forum the map might be biased towards locations where English is spoken.

EarthPorn may not be entirely accurate as a visualization of where the most beautiful places around the world can be found. However the EarthPorn map is a great way to search for beautiful photos of locations which have been posted to Reddit. Click on a hexagon on the map and you can view the top rated photographs posted to Reddit from that area. 

You can also explore popular locations with photographers around the whole world on the Geotaggers Atlas. The Geotaggers Atlas is a series of fascinating maps showing the paths taken by Flickr photographers between separate photographs, based on the time stamps and locations of the photos. Using the maps you can discover not only the most popular places photographed by Flickr users but the paths the photographers have taken around those cities.

For years Eric Fischer of Mapbox has been extracting location data from Flickr photos and mapping not just where those photos are taken but the routes that the photographers have taken between pictures. Using the Flickr search API Eric is able to retrieve photo geo-tags and draw lines between all the photos in a sequence.

The red lines on the map show where a photographer traveled at a speed between 7 and 19 mph, based on the time stamps and locations of the pictures. As you can see on the map (above) the river Seine stands out in Paris - perhaps as a result of ferry passengers happily traveling up & down the river snapping the sights of Paris.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Trees, Bees and Tardigrades

There is now a reasonably long history of scientists using the Leaflet.js mapping library as a way to present and view microscopic images. In the past Leaflet has been used as a tool for visualizing high-resolution images of cells, tiny insects, pathobins and extremophile microbes. You can now add gigapixel images of tree rings to that list.

The University of Minnesota's DendroElevator is a platform for curating, analyzing and visualizing gigabyte sized images of tree rings. The Leaflet based visualization tool developed by DendroElevator can be used to present megapixel images of tree rings with tools for tree-ring measurement, dating, and annotation. 

Dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) has important applications across many different branches of science, from studying the history of climate change to authenticating archaeological objects. The University of Minnesota has used DendroElevator to curate and visualize thousands of its own tree-ring samples. They have also open-soucred the leaflet-treering code so that other institutions can implement their own tree-ring measurement, dating, and annotation platforms.

British photographer Levon Biss has also used the Leaflet mapping library to map migapixel images. In his case Leaflet is being used to showcase his beautiful extreme close-up photographs of insects. His Microsculpture website allows you to view high resolution photos of insect specimens from Oxford University Museum of Natural History in exquisitely fine detail using the Leaflet zooming and panning tools.

Each insect's completed image map consists of around 8,000 individual photographs (the large scale photographic prints are up to 3m high), captured using optical microscopes. The Leaflet mapping library really allows the user to fully explore these high resolution photos by zooming in close on the insects. The map scale in the top right-hand corner of the map provides a useful guide to the size of the insects as you zoom in & out on the images.


The Cell Image Library is a database of cell images from a wide variety of organisms. The images in the library are used to help demonstrate cellular architecture and their functions and to help advance research on cellular activity.

Each of the cell images in the Cell Image Library database can be viewed in microscopic detail on its own interactive map. If you click on the 'Open detailed viewer' link on a cell's individual entry in the database you can then explore the cell in more detail using a Leaflet map. This map allows you to zoom in and out of the cell image and pan around, just as you can with an online interactive map. The Leaflet powered cell viewer also allows you to adjust the contrast and brightness of the image and to add annotations to parts of the cell.

In 2019 Ariel Waldman led an expedition to Antarctica to film the extremophile microbes living under the Antarctic ice. The expedition found microbes living in glaciers, under the sea ice, next to frozen lakes, and in subglacial ponds.

You can explore some of the microbes found in Antarctica on Life Under the Ice. Life Under the Ice uses the Leaflet mapping platform to present microscopic videos of the microbes discovered in Antarctica. If you click on the 'What's this' button you can discover more about the microbe in the current map view, including where the microbe was discovered, its size and its level of magnification on the map.

360 Cave View

The Sơn Đoòng cave in Vietnam is one of the world's largest caves. Sơn Đoòng's main cave passage is the largest known cave passage in the world. The cross-section of the cave is twice as wide as that of the next largest cave passage. The cave is also home to some of the tallest known stalagmites in the world, which are up to 70m tall.

National Geographic has released a fantastic virtual tour of the Sơn Đoòng cave which allows you to explore this huge cave from home. In Sơn Đoòng 360 you can explore the cave system using connected 360 degree panoramic imagery. These panoramic images were captured in very high resolution so they allow you to zoom in and view the cave in very close detail. Arrows within each image allow you to navigate your way through the Sơn Đoòng cave. A small inset map also allows you to quickly jump to different sections within the cave system. 

Each of the many panoramic images in the Sơn Đoòng 360 tour is accompanied by its own sound recording. These sound recordings really help to convey some of the wonder which must be felt when exploring the world's largest cave in person. 

If you are still feeling intrepid after exploring the world's largest cave then you might also like to virtually climb some of the world's tallest mountains in Climbing Mountains in Street View.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Space Junk Mapping

There are thousands of man-made objects in orbit around the earth. These objects include both operating and obsolete man-made satellites. There are also thousands of pieces of debris floating around the Earth resulting from collisions and the launch debris from the rockets which were used to launch these satellites into orbit.

What Goes Up takes you on a guided tour of the history of the Earth's conquest of near space, from the oldest object still in orbit (the Vanguard 1 satellite launched in 1958), through the start of the construction of the International Space Station in the late 1990's, to the current mass space littering by Elon Musk. 

The interactive 3D map which accompanies this guided tour shows the location of all these thousands of objects currently orbiting the Earth. If you mouse-over any of the satellites shown on this map you can view details on when it was launched and by which country. You can also discover what type of satellite it is.

Satellites is another visualization of the man-made debris which is currently floating in orbit around planet Earth. This 3D globe shows 10,000 orbiting objects that are tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.

There are currently more than 20,000 objects, mostly rocket bodies, debris, and satellites in orbit about our planet. This map simulates around 10,000 of those objects orbiting the Earth based on real data. Three different types of man-made object are shown on the map, these are designated as Payload, Debris or Rocket Body. These three different types of object are represented on the map by different shapes. If you select an object on the map you can also see what type of object it is and more details from its entry on the Space Track database.

You can learn more about how all this debris ended up orbiting the Earth on the Story of Space Debris. The Story of Space Debris visualizes the history of space debris accumulating around the Earth since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957. The rocket that launched Sputnik was the first ever piece of space debris. There are now over 20,000 man-made objects currently orbiting the Earth.

The visualization shows all these man-made objects orbiting an interactive 3D globe. The Story of Space Debris starts in 1957 with that Russian launch of Sputnik 1. If you use the forward buttons you can progress chronologically through the history of the space program and watch as the space debris quickly accumulates in orbit around planet Earth.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Mapping Medieval Trading Routes

During the Middle-Ages a number of trade guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe formed a commercial and defensive confederation in order to help ensure safer trade. The Hanseatic League grew from a loose collaboration of a few North German towns in the late 1100s to dominate trade in Northern Europe and the Baltic for the next three centuries.

You can learn more about the trade routes and main roads of late medieval and early modern northern Europe on Viabundus, an interactive map of medieval Northern Europe.The Viabundus interactive map uses historical atlases and records to reconstruct "a map of pre-modern European transport and mobility". This map helps reveal the trade routes that were used by the Hanseatic League to carry goods by both road and by navigable rivers.

The Viabundus map provides both information about the large market towns of Northern Europe, and the factors (such as tolls, fairs and markets) which promoted and affected trade between them. The map also includes a route calculator which can be used to discover what routes travelers and traders were likely to have taken to travel between two different pre-modern European towns.

If you select a town on the map you can view information such as the town's estimated population for different years and the existence of markets. You can also view details on the dates of any fairs in the town (and surrounding towns) and use the route calculator to view a route between the town and any other medieval town shown on the map.

If you want to learn more about travel in Europe before the Middle-Ages then you might be interested in the OmnesViae interactive map. OmnesViae: Itinerarium Romanum is a route planner that lets you navigate the Roman Empire using the roads and shipping lanes available to the ancient Romans.

OmnesViae is based on an ancient Roman map known as the 'Tabula Peutingeriana' and allows you to plan a route that contains all the main roads and cities of the Roman Empire. Routes generated by OmnesViae list the towns and cites and also the river crossings on your trip in the map sidebar and displays the actual route on top of a modern map of Europe.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Creating 3D Medieval Cities

Watabou's Medieval Fantasy City Generator is a fantastic tool for generating random maps of medieval towns.The generator allows you to magically create your very own random fantasy medieval map based on a number of customizable options.

I've featured the Medieval Fantasy City Generator on Maps Mania before in my round-up of Fantasy Map Generators. I'm returning to the generator today because I have just discovered that Watabou also allows you to create incredible 3D fly-throughs of your invented medieval cities. Once you have created a map using the Medieval Fantasy City Generator you can export the city as a JSON file (Settlement >.Export as > JSON).

Now if you open Watabou's City Viewer you can create a 3D version of your medieval city map. Just select 'Load JSON' and City Viewer will automatically create a 3D model of your medieval city. The 3D model includes two animated options. The 'rotation' view provides a bird's eye view of your city, while the 'fly-through' view provides an animated first person walk along your city's roads. 

City Viewer comes with a number of other options. One of these allows you to explore the city yourself (using your w,a,s,d and arrow keys). The 'style' option allows you to manually select the colors used for the walls, roofs, water, fields etc.

All I want now is a version of City Viewer that works with real geographical data - for example a GeoJSON file of neighborhood data exported from OpenStreetMap. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The United Gates of America

Apparently Bill Gates now owns almost 242,000 acres of land in the United States. That is a big chunk of land. In fact it is so big that it is a little hard to conceptualize. Which is where the Bill Gates' Land Ownership interactive map comes in. 

The map shows a 242,000 acre square situated over New York. This square is draggable so you can move it around the map and place it over a location that you are familiar with.

Being able to drag a 240,000 acre square onto a familiar location is a great way to be able to visualize and understand the size of the land owned by Bill Gates. Unfortunately that is not what this map does. When you move the square north or south on the map it does not resize to compensate for the distortions of the Web Mercator projection used by the map. This means that once you move the square north or south it no longer shows 240,000 square acres.

The Bill Gates' Land Ownership map was made with the Leaflet mapping library. It could therefore be made more accurate by using Webkid's Leaflet Truesize plugin. You can see how Leaflet Truesize works on the plugin's demo map. Move the shapes of India or Mexico around on this map and you can see how they appear to get bigger as you approach the poles. Although the shapes grow bigger on the map the area of land they represent on the map remains the same. They just grow bigger to compensate for the map projection used. Something that the Bill Gates' Land Ownership map currently doesn't do.

The Danish Map of Art

The National Gallery of Denmark (SMK) has released an interactive map which geolocates over 4,000 artworks. The Kunstens Danmarkskort allows you to find paintings which depict locations across the whole of Denmark. Click on any of the markers on the map and you can view how that location has been depicted by an artist who is featured in the National Gallery.

Using the map is a great way to explore the museum's works of art by location. My one quibble with the map is that despite using the Google Maps API the map has Google Street View disabled. While exploring the paintings on the map I would love to be able to open up Google's panoramic imagery to compare the artist's depiction of a scene with the modern view, as captured by Google. 

What I do really like about the map is that when you open an image you can zoom in and out and pan around to explore the chosen painting in close detail. I also like the fact that each image has its own unique URL which you can copy to share a direct link to the painting on the map.

Each painting on the map also includes a 'Suggest a new position' link. To geolocate the artworks the SMK used a Named Entity Extraction technique to find place-names within the titles of the museum's 250,000+ paintings. This method has led to a few errors - where paintings have been placed in the wrong position on the map. The SMK has been engaging with local Facebook groups and local newspapers in order to help find wrongly positioned artworks on the map and discover where they should be located. If you know that a painting is in the wrong location you can use the 'Suggest a new position' link to tell SMK where the painting should be located instead.

You may also like these interactive art maps:

Ukiyo-e Map - an interactive map of geo-located prints by the Japanese artist Hiroshige
Place to Paint - the interactive map for artists to share the locations where they paint and the artworks which they have created at those locations
Watercolor World- a global map of watercolours painted before 1900

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Where to Discover New Life

If you've ever dreamed of increasing the pool of knowledge by discovering a new species of animal then I have the map for you. The Map of Life's new Discovery Potential layer uses knowledge of the current known species existing in different habitats around the world to predict where new species might be discovered. 

The Discovery Potential map includes four different layers which visualize the potential of discovering new species of mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians around the world. In general tropical forests have the highest potential for the discovery of new animal species. Which is one of the reasons that it is important that we protect the rain forests of Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and Colombia from further deforestation. 

The Map of Life includes other map layers which help to show where in the world animal habitats most need protection. For example, the Map of Life's Biodiversity Patterns section provides heat maps showing species richness around the world for birds and mammals. These biodiversity maps also show areas where some form of conservation protection already exists. The maps can therefore be used to identify areas where species richness is at risk and where habitat conservation protection is lacking or failing. 

You can explore the diversity of an animal species in any country by selecting an area on the Map Of Life Regions map (in the USA and Canada you can explore down to state or province level). If you click on a country on the map you can view a breakdown of the number of bird, mammal and reptile species found in the selected country. If you select the Map of Life Species tab then you can view the a habitat range map for the selected species, showing the areas of the world where that species lives.