Monday, May 17, 2021

What is the Longest Tiny Loop?

During lock-down many of us have become very bored walking, cycling and jogging around the same local streets over & over & over again. In order to avoid the Groundhog Day tedium of walking the same route day after day you could join the Long Tiny Loop challenge.

Long Tiny Loop is an international fitness challenge to find "the longest possible non-self-intersecting loop within the smallest possible region, without revisiting any streets or intersections". The explanation for Long Tiny Loop is a little complicated but I can assure you that once you explore the maps at the top of the competition leaderboard you will quickly understand the concept. Basically you need to create a long but compact route which doesn't require you having to travel over the same ground more than once.

Scores for Long Tiny Loop are based on the ratio of the length of a route to the total diameter of the area in which you traveled. To enter a route into the competition you will need a Strava account. However you can explore the interactive maps of the routes which other people have entered without an account. At the time of writing the leading route is a 107km route around the streets of Brooklyn. A route which has a 3.6km diameter and which doesn't once require a person to travel over a path already used.

Running Rivers to the Sea


River Runner is a fascinating map which uses U.S. watershed data to calculate the route that a drop of rain would take from any location in the United States to the ocean. The map uses information about America's river watersheds to create an animated map which visualizes the journey downstream from any location in the contiguous United States.

Click anywhere on River Runner's map of the United States and you can discover the path that a drop of water would take from that location to the distant ocean (although sometimes the final destination may be the Great Lakes or another large inland water feature). A small inset map will reveal the path that leads downstream from your selected location to the sea. The main larger map actually animates the route of this journey on top of Mapbox's 3D terrain. 

River Runner uses USGS data to to find the closest river/stream to the location that you select on the map. It then uses the USGS's national hydrology data to work out the downstream path from that location to the natural endpoint.Mapbox's map and 3D elevation data is then used to create an animated journey of this downstream route to the sea.

If you are interested in America's watersheds then you might also enjoy the USGS's Streamer map. The Streamer map allows you to trace rivers or streams upstream to their source or downstream to their final destinations in the USA. This interactive map can create very dramatic visualizations of river watersheds, particularly when you trace a river upstream to show all of its tributaries.

FernLeaf Interactive has also created an interactive map which allows you to view over 100,000 watershed regions. The map shows the topological relationships between the USGS level 12 hydrologic units for the entire United States.

The Watersheds Map allows you to visualize watershed regions throughout the USA. As you mouse-over the map it automatically updates to show upstream areas in red and downstream areas in blue. You can click on the map at anytime to freeze the map view (click on the map again to unfreeze & re-enable the dynamic loading of the watershed data).

Saturday, May 15, 2021


The controversial global addressing system what3words continues to encourage criticism and parody sites in equal measure. Some of the most popular parodies of what3words include what3emojis and my own WTF (what2figures). In the past there has also been what3pictures and what3pokemon (both of which no longer exist).

Another popular parody of what3words was what3fucks - which could identify any location on Earth using just three swear words. Unfortunately what3fucks no longer works. But don't be alarmed at the demise of what3fucks - because now you can use Four King Maps instead. 

Four King Maps is a brand new global addressing system which can create a unique four swear word address for any location in the UK & Ireland (ok - it isn't really global). Click on a location on Four King Maps and you will receive a unique sweary address for that location. For example enter the address -


into Four.King.Maps and you will be taken to the Houses of Parliament in London.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Sydney's Historic Estate Maps

Subplot is a new and experimental interactive map which allows you to find and view vintage estate maps owned by the State Library of New South Wales in Australia. Estate maps, also known as subdivision plans, were created by estate agents to promote and advertise new subdivisions and land for sale in Sydney and New South Wales. The library owns around 40,000 of these subdivision plans, dating from 1860 through to the 1930's. 

The library's estate maps provide a fascinating insight into the development of Sydney's suburbs & regional areas, how properties were valued, and how land was subdivided. The Subplot map presents the library's vintage subdivision plans overlaid on top of a modern map of New South Wales. The map includes a timeline feature which allows you to see when the estate maps were printed. This timeline also allows you to use Subplot to search the plans by both location and by date. 

If you click on one of the vintage subdivision plans you can apparently view the plan in its own maximum resolution zoomable interface. However for some reason clicking on individual subdivision maps didn't achieve anything for me when I was exploring the map. I suspect this is mainly because my aging laptop struggles with displaying WebGL content. 

You can learn more about how Subplot utilizes WebGL, turf.js and DeckGL on this Making Sub Plot article by DX Lab.

(keep an eye out for the 3D models of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House on the Subplot map)

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Make an Animated Journey Map is an incredibly easy to use tool for making animated journey maps. Using the tool you can create animated maps of a journey you have made (or plan to make) and then share the created map with your friends and family. 

You can create an animated journey map with in a matter of seconds. It is that easy to do. All you need to do is add a list of locations (in the order of your journey) and mult-dev will automatically create your animated journey map visiting each of your chosen locations in turn. If you want you can also share your mode of transport between locations and mult-dev will add an icon to each stage of your journey showing how you traveled (or plan to travel). 

When you have finished adding destinations to your map you can either download your journey as a video or share a link to your created map (although when I tried saving an animated journey map in FireFox I kept getting a video corrupted link).

mult-dev journey maps are displayed using a 3D globe. One consequence of this is that mult-dev is really only useful for animating long journeys between countries. Because of the maps' global scale it really isn't very effective in mapping short journeys. Therefore you would probably only use multi-dev to visualize and share a long journey, which encompasses trips to a number of different countries. For example a multi-dev map would be perfect for sharing the itinerary of a planned round-the-world trip.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Lightning Heat Map

I was aware that there are a lot less lightning strikes in the UK than in many other places in the world. However, until I looked at Vaisala's Interactive Global Lightning Density Map, I wasn't aware that Britain experienced less lightening than just about every other country in the world.

The Interactive Global Lightning Density Map shows the average lightning density in countries around the world.According to the map Cuba and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the two countries with the highest density of lightning strikes every year. If you zoom in on the USA on the map you can view the density of lightning strikes in America down to the county level.

If you want to know where lightning storms are occurring right now then you should have a look at LightningMaps or Blitzortung. Both these interactive maps plot lighting in real-time as it strikes in locations across the world. The lightning data for both these maps comes from Blitzortung, and is gathered from a community of weather stations reporting lightning storms around the globe.

The Sandwich Index

Sales of coffee and sandwiches might provide a reasonable guide as to how fast people are returning to the office. Bloomberg certainly think so. They have invented the Pret Index to measure the rate that people are returning to the workplace in the UK. As the UK emerges from lock-down Bloomberg is interested in observing how many people stop working from home and return to the office. In order to measure this Bloomberg is analyzing sales data from the Pret a Manger chain of sandwich shops. 

The Pret Index uses a baseline of average sales in a Pret a Manger restaurant from March 8th - the week before schools reopened in England. It then looks at how much sales have grown (or fallen) since that date and how close they are returning to the sales recorded in January 2020, before the start of the pandemic in the UK. Each 0.1 point on the Pret Index equals a 1% progress towards the January 2020 total of sales.

In Pret Sandwich Sales Show Office Workers Staying Home Bloomberg has created a story map to show where Pret sales are increasing and where they have seen little movement. In general it appears that Pret sales are increasing in major retail areas where shops have re-opened. However as yet there appears to be only the smallest of rises in commercial districts, suggesting that workers are not returning to the office in great numbers. 

Across the UK sales seem to be strongest in Yorkshire, which Bloomberg says is based on strong growth in the shopping centers of Leeds and York. Scotland, which has stronger lock-down rules than England, has seen very little growth on the Pret Index. 

Going forward Bloomberg says that they will be updating the Pret Index every week. Unfortunately the Pret Index, will obviously suffer from unforeseen changes in people's behavior when returning to work. For example many people returning to the office may avoid entering confined Pret a Manger's for their coffee and sandwiches. In the same way other measures may also prove problematic. For example analysis of public transit figures may prove a poor indicator of the numbers returning to the workplace if many commuters avoid packed trains and buses and find alternative means of transport.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Unconnected America

Now that we are hopefully approaching the end of the pandemic a lot of discussion has started about the future of work. A lot of commentators appear to think that working from home could be here to stay for many workers. For that to happen people need good access to broadband speeds. 

Unfortunately not everyone in the USA has access to broadband internet speeds. In This is a Map of America's Broadband Gap Verge has mapped counties where less than 15 percent of households have broadband speed.All the counties colored blue on this map have less than 15 percent of households with an internet speed over 25Mbps or above.You can also hover over individual counties on the map to view the percentage of households that have broadband speed. 

To create the map Verge used data from Microsoft. This data reveals that there are many counties where a large majority of counties don't have broadband speeds. For example in Lincoln County, Washington only five percent of households can access the internet at 25Mbps or above.

You can find out which companies offer broadband services in your area and the speeds that they offer using the FCC Broadband Map. Enter your address into the Federal Communications Commission's interactive map and you can view the names of all your local broadband providers and the upload and download speeds that they offer.

The FCC Broadband Map is color-coded to show the number of fixed residential broadband providers in each census block in the USA. If you click on a census block on the map you can view a list of the available broadband providers, the technology they offer (cable, ADSL or satellite) and their upload and download speeds (which I assume are self-reported by the companies and not the actual speeds experienced by consumers).

The Night Trains of Europe

Over the last decade there has been a dramatic reduction in Europe's night-train services. Bloomberg says that this is a trend that is set to end. Because of the huge ecological cost of flying Europe is once again encouraging people to replace plane journeys with the train. To support these rail journeys new night-train routes are once again being opened in Europe.

A train journey from Paris to Vienna produces one tenth of the emissions of the same journey by plane. Countries such as France and Austria have introduced financial penalties for short-haul flights in order to make flying less attractive to customers. In order to encourage passengers to take the train instead of the plane new night-time train routes are also being opened across Europe.

Bloomberg's Europe Asks Travelers to Ditch Planes for Night Trains looks at some of the new night-train routes being developed. As you scroll through the article an interactive map updates to show some of the planned and existing night-train routes across Europe. 

While Bloomberg's article provides an interesting overview of some of the new night-train routes being planned in Europe it doesn't provide information on the existing night-train coverage across the continent. The formidable Night Train's website is a useful resource if you want to plan a night-train journey anywhere across the globe.

Night Train's Europe page includes an interactive map of Europe's Night-Train routes in 2020. You can use this map to plan a train journey from Lisbon to Moscow or from Edinburgh to Rome (although some of these journeys may take you more than one night of travel).

Monday, May 10, 2021

Population Transfers

In the last few weeks an old interactive map by Slate has become very popular again. Slate's Equal Population Mapper allows you to compare the populations of select cities and counties with other locations in the United States. 

The Equal Population Mapper lets you click anywhere on a map of the United States and view a circular region of equal population to New York around the selected area. It really is a very effective tool to visualize the population density of New York in comparison to other regions of the US. The map isn't restricted to only visualizing the population of New York. You can also use the map to view the populations of Los Angeles County, Wyoming, New Jersey, Texas and the coastal areas of the United States overlaid on other areas of the country. 

Inspired by Slate's map the State of NYC also allows you to visualize the population of New York by showing you how large an area an equal sized population would be elsewhere in the USA. Every time you refresh State of NYC it will show you the populations of New York City, Los Angeles County, Harris County (Texas), Cook County (Illinois) and Maricopa County (Arizona) by highlighting counties with similar populations elsewhere in the country. You just need to refresh the page to view these populations visualized on different locations.

The Building Heights of Beijing

Wendy Shijia has created an interesting building height map of Beijing. Wendy's The Height of Central Beijing colors individual buildings in the Chinese capital based on the number of levels they have.

Unlike many other cities around the world Central Beijing actually has shorter buildings in its center, with its taller buildings concentrated outside of the city center. This is mainly because the map is centered on Beijing's historic Forbidden City, which dates back to the Ming Dynasty, and which was built long before the current craze for ultra tall buildings. 

Another interesting visualization which allows you to explore city building height data is the Rendering OSM Objects in Mapbox GL interactive map. This map includes a dynamic histogram which tells you how many buildings of each height there are within the current map view.

Drag this map around and the histogram will automatically update to show you the number of buildings of different heights in the map view. A small inset map also provides a 3D view of all the shown buildings which provides a neat overview of where the buildings of different heights are actually situated.

There are many reasons why you might want to show the number of buildings by height in a defined area. For example, many residents in my neighborhood are currently fighting a planning application for the development of a tall block of apartments. This map could be used to show the current number of local buildings of different building heights. It could help to highlight how a taller building would look very out of place in a neighborhood which is predominantly constructed of much shorter buildings.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

The Growth of a Ukrainian Town

For centuries the town of Khmelnytskyi was just a normal small Ukrainian town. 200 years ago the town consisted of a mere nine streets. Now the city of Khmelnytskyi has thousands of streets and is the administrative center for the whole Khmelnytskyi Raion (district). 

You can learn more about how the city of Khmelnytski grew from such humble beginnings to become a major city in this Khmelnytskyi - History of the City story map. Unfortunately for non-Ukrainian speakers the map is entirely in Ukrainian (and at least for me doesn't work with Chrome's automatic translate tool on desktop or tablet). However if you interested in story maps then this history of Khmelnytski is worth exploring anyway - because it is a fantastic example of a story map created with Leaflet.js.

As you scroll through the text of Khmelnytskyi - History of the City the map automatically updates to visualize the historical developments in the city as they happen. This includes adding and removing lines and polygons to the map to highlight certain streets and areas of the city as they are mentioned. It also includes adding and removing historical vintage map overlays to the modern map to show how the city appeared during different periods of its development. Certain words in the text are highlighted in color. These words are automatic links which relate to features highlighted on the map. Hover over a date in the text and a map from that date will be overlain on the map. However over a place-name and it will be highlighted on the map.

If you want to create a similar story map using Leaflet.js you night also be interested in exploring my own Measles in Europe story map. My map includes similar scroll based actions, where the map moves and updates as you scroll through the text. It also includes highlighted text which also can be hovered over to highlight features on the map. Feel free to re-use and adapt my story map as you see fit. The code for the map can be viewed, adapted and copied on Glitch.

Friday, May 07, 2021

How Your Neighbors Voted

America is a politically divided country. This divide is perhaps most apparent in where we live. Most Americans live in neighborhoods populated by people with very similar political views. You can find out if you live in a political bubble in the New York Times' Do You Live in a Political Bubble.

Enter your address into the NYT's interactive data visualization and you can view a dot map showing how your thousand closest neighbors voted in the the 2020 American election. Continue scrolling and the visualization will tell you the percentage of your neighbors who voted for the least popular party. 

You may or may not live in a political bubble but many American's do live in neighborhoods which are very partisan in their politics. As you continue scrolling through the NYT's Do You Live in a Political Bubble you are shown maps of the most Democratic (Bay Area) and Republican (Gillette, Wyo) areas in the country. According to the NYT about one in five Republicans, and two in five Democrats live in neighborhoods where over 75% of their neighbors share their political affiliation.


This isn't the first time that the New York Times has examined the political divide in the United States using data from the 2020 election. In A Close-Up Picture of Partisan Segregation, Among 180 Million Voters the NYT used a series of static maps to show where voters support the Republican and Democratic parties in major U.S. cities. These maps reveal how Democrats and Republicans live separated from each other, often in completely separate neighborhoods. The NYT analysis shows that even in neighborhoods with both Republican and Democratic supporters people still tend to live closer to people who vote the same way as them. 

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Vaccination Rates & Active Cases

McKinsey & Company has released a bivarate map which visualizes both the percentage of the population in every county who have received a Covid-19 vaccination and the number of active cases of Covid-19 in each county. Because McKinsey's Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution map is a bivarate choropleth visualization it should help reveal if vaccinating people against Covid-19 is helping to reduce the numbers of people becoming infected from the the virus.

A bivarate map visualizes two (or more) variables on one map by using different colors to represents relationships between the variables. On McKinsey's map the color blue represents a county with a high vaccination rate and also a high number of active coronavirus cases. The color red represents counties with a low percentage of the population vaccinated but with a high rate of coronavirus. Therefore we would expect to see a lot of blue colored counties if vaccinations weren't working in reducing the spread of Covid-19. 

The turquoise color on the map shows counties with high vaccination rates and low numbers of active Covid-19 cases. If vaccinations work we should begin to see more and more counties colored turquoise as the majority of their population becomes vaccinated. McKinsey's Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution visualization includes a bivarate chart which also makes clear that a huge number of the counties in the United States with a large number of active coronavirus cases are also the counties with lower levels of vaccinations.

From Bohemia to the Czech Republic

The Czech Historical Atlas is a fantastic old-fashioned country atlas updated for the digital age. By describing the atlas as 'old fashioned' I really mean this in a positive way - because the Czech Historical Atlas reminds me of the many much loved hefty atlases which adorn my book shelves. Atlases which are full of maps visualizing geopolitical, social, religious and economic data. The kind of atlas which you I could study for hours. 

The Czech Historical Atlas is available as a printed book but it can also be browsed as a modern interactive map portal. This 'electronic map portal' contains over 160 maps exploring all aspects of Czech history and modern life. The Atlas is organized into different chapters which allow you to explore the history of the Czech Republic from medieval times right up until the modern day. 

The chapters contained in the Czech Historical Atlas include (but aren't restricted to) Borders and Territories, Religion and Faith and War Conflicts and their Consequences. All of these chapters are presented in the manner of separate story maps, with explanatory text accompanied and illustrated by a host of interactive maps. As well as exploring the maps as they occur within each chapter of the Atlas you can also take a closer look at each map and compare it with other maps in the Maps Compare section of the Atlas.

The Maps Compare section of the atlas allows you to choose any two of the 160 maps in the collection to compare them side-by-side. This allows you to compare two different selected topics to help discover and reveal parallels and connections in the historical development of the Czech Republic. 

If you have any interest in the history of the Czech Republic or are just a fan of maps and atlases then the Czech Historical Atlas is for you. The interactive online version of the atlas is available in both English and Czech.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Small Multiple Maps with OSM

I decided to make a birthday card today for a friend who is a big fan of motor sports and whose birthday happens to fall this year on the same day as the Spanish Grand Prix. I'm not overly pleased with the result (I'm no designer) but the process could be quite useful for creating small multiple posters. For example a poster showing the plans of all the Grand Prix circuits.

1. taginfo

OpenStreetMap is often the best source for geographical data. I didn't already know the tag used for motor racing circuits on OpenStreetMap. I therefore used taginfo to discover the correct tag (highway=raceway). As well as letting you find the tags used for geographic entities on OpenStreetMap taginfo also includes a link to query a tag on Overpass Turbo.

2. Overpass Turbo

If you click on the Overpass Turbo link on taginfo it will take you to Overpass Turbo with the correct query already written for you. In this case the query is:

// gather results
  // query part for: “highway=raceway”
// print results
out body;
out skel qt;

Go to the location of any motor racing circuit in the world in Overpass Turbo and run this query and you can download the GeoJSON data for the circuit.


The data I downloaded of the Spanish Grand Prix circuit from Overpass Turbo included a number of other polylines which aren't related to the actual circuit used in the Grand Prix. I therefore needed to clean-up the data using

Opening the GeoJSON data in allows you to delete any polylines which you don't need. If you click on a line or polygon in you can just select the 'delete' option to remove the feature. I did this to remove all the track lines not associated with the Spanish Grand Prix track. I then saved the edited data as another GeoJSON file. 

4. Mapbox Studio

I uploaded my saved GeoJSON file of the Spanish Grand Prix track into Mapbox Studio. In Mapbox Studio you can view and style your geographical data. This allowed me to increase the size of the circuit line from 1px to 5px. In Mapbox Studio I was also able to hide all the other map layers to leave just my Spanish Grand Prix track on a white background (which I then copied and pasted into Photoshop).


This is how I created my Spanish Grand Prix birthday card. Now to complete a small multiple poster of all the 2021 Formula 1 Grand Prix circuits I just need to do this another 22 times to get the data of all 23 Grand Prix circuits in this year's season of races.

The Brussels Melting Pot

20% of all migrants in the world live in just 20 cities. One of those cities is Brussels. In fact Brussels has the second  highest percentage of foreign born residents of all the cities in the world - after Dubai. 

Brussels has 2.1 million inhabitants. Around 6 in every 10 of them were born abroad. About 184 different nationalities make up the population of Brussels. Like in many cities people of the same nationality often live in the same neighborhoods and communities. You can explore where Brussels' foreign born communities live in the Brussels - A Lovely Melting Pot data visualization. 

Brussels - A Lovely Melting Pot includes a number of small multiple dot maps showing the geographical distribution of some of the different nationalities living in the city. The interactive data visualization also includes a single dot map showing all the nationalities on one map. This combined map shows that the foreign nationals living in southeast Brussels are mainly from the other EU countries. African foreign nationals tend to live in the northwest of the city and Turkish foreign nationals live in the north. 

Brussels - A Lovely Melting Pot doesn't include any economic data. It would be interesting to compare the geographical distribution of foreign nationals with economic indicators, such as average incomes and property prices. While looking at the overall distribution of where different nationalities live in Brussels I can't help making some assumptions about where the city's richest and poorest neighborhoods are located.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

The World Justified

The World, Justified is a work of art by the Brazilian artists Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain. The artwork portrays the world in four different ways. A traditional looking map uses horizontal lines to represent all the areas of the world. The other three representations justify these same horizontal lines in different ways - so that in one view of the world all the lines are centered, in one view they are all left-aligned and in the other they are all right-aligned.

Nicolas Lambert has now created an interactive version of The World Justified.Nicloas's version of the map represents the land using small dots. Using the map you can view these dots in four different ways: as a geographical atlas, as centered, as left-aligned or as right-aligned.

Viewing the land mass of the world justified in these three unusual ways provides an interesting view into where the world's land masses lie. It certainly helps reveal the top heavy (if you think of north as being up) nature of the globe, with far more land in the northern hemisphere than in the south. Now Nicolass just needs to add the option to view the world's land mass justified to the top of the page and to the bottom. This will help reveal how much land is in the east and how much is in the west.

The Valencia Building Age Map

Dr. Dominic Royé has created a building age map of the Spanish city of Valencia. He has also written a handy tutorial on how the map was created using the R Programming language for statistical computing and graphics. In Visualize Urban Growth you can not only play with an interactive building age map of Valencia but you can also learn how to create your very own building age map.

The article includes an interactive Valencia Building Age map, which uses Leaflet.js. On this map individual buildings in Valencia are colored according to the decade of their construction.Like many building age maps of European cities there is a fairly clear geographical pattern to the age of Valencia's buildings, with the oldest buildings being densest in the city center and the age of buildings generally becoming younger as you move out towards the suburbs.

You can explore how other cities around the world have developed over time using their own building age maps. Here are a few building age maps for other cities around the world:

Monday, May 03, 2021

How Climate Change will Affect You

Climate change is set to change life in America for ever. Even under the most optimistic scenarios the habitable zone (where temperature and precipitation are most suitable for human habitation) is set to shift drastically northwards in the next 30 years. Under this scenario much of the south and southwest of the country will experience extreme heat for most of the year. 

You can discover how climate change will affect your county using ProPublica's new interactive data visualization of how global heating will change the climate of the United States. In New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States ProPublica has used the latest climate change data to forecast and map temperature and precipitation levels in the USA in 30 years time.

If you enter your county into the ProPublica interactive you can view how global heating will affect your environment.The article includes maps which show the forecasts for extreme 'wet bulb' days, large wildfires, rising sea levels, farm crop yields and the economic damage expected from global heating. The maps all highlight and provide the forecast data for your entered county. The article also includes a table which ranks the most at-risk counties in the U.S. from the forecast levels of global heating.

Curate a Street View Art Gallery

One of the very many things that I miss during this global epidemic is being able to visit museums and art galleries. Wouldn't it be nice if we could turn our city streets into one huge al-fresco art gallery, with great works of art displayed outside where we could view them in relative safety? Unfortunately I don't think that the world's museums are going to risk exposing their priceless artworks to the elements.

Thanks to Street Galleries, you can create your own virtual outdoors art gallery. Street Galleries is a Google Arts & Culture project which allows you to decorate cities around the world on Google Maps Street View with works of art from some of the world's leading museums.

You can choose from one of ten locations in a number of the world's major cities. Once you have chosen a location, you can begin adding paintings to the Street View of that location. Pick a painting from the Google Arts & Culture digital collections and you can hang it anywhere within your Street View panorama. You can move the painting anywhere in the Street View, allowing you to hang the picture on a building, on the road or even hanging in mid-air.

Decorating city Street View scenes with your favorite paintings is a lot of fun. You can also explore the Street Galleries created by other people. My one quibble with Street Galleries is that you are limited to only ten locations around the world. It would be so much more fun if you could actually decorate your own neighborhood on Street View with fantastic works of art.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

How the US Post Office Conquered America


In 1899 there were five times as many post offices in the United States as there are McDonald's restaurants today. Digital Historian Professor Cameron Blevins has released a new historical account of how the American government rolled out the world’s largest communications network and in the process built the infrastructure that enabled it to exert its coercive power over the newly plundered land of the American west. Blevin's new book Paper Trails: The US Post and the Making of the American West recounts the extraordinary expansion of the U.S. Post during the Nineteenth Century and how this allowed it to exert the power of the state over the newly colonized western half of the United States.

The Gossamer Network is the companion website to Cameron Blevins 'Paper Trails' historical tome. The Gossamer Network is a mapped visualization of the US Post Office data which informs Blevin's history of the American West. As you progress through the Gossamer Network story map you can view visualizations of the incredible spread of Post Offices across the United States in just one generation (see animated map above).

As you continue through the Gossamer Network the huge network of newly established Post Offices is compared to the thinly spread military, judiciary and treasury infrastructures in Nineteenth Century America. The Gossamer Network also provides an incredible detailed examination of how the Post Office network actually spread across the west over the course of the second half of the Nineteenth Century.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Melting Glaciers

One of the most visible effects of global heating is the extraordinary reduction in the size of the world's glaciers. Because of the rise in temperatures around the world glaciers are melting at an increasing rate, which could have a dramatic effect on the planet. Melting glaciers contribute 20% of global sea level rise and around a quarter of the world's population depends on water released from glaciers. 

The Guardian newspaper has created a very effective animated visualization which shows the extent that 90 of the world's largest glaciers have shrunk in size over the last 40 years. In Visualised: glaciers then and now The Guardian uses an animated small multiple visualization to show the size of 90 glaciers today compared to the size of the same glaciers 40 years ago. The 90 small maps of individual glaciers clearly shows the dramatic effect that global heating has had in just 40 years on the size of glaciers around the world.

One of the most beautiful and effective visualizations of glacial retreat is Timelines. Artist Fabian Oefner has created two outstandingly beautiful images from the heartbreaking effects that global heating is having on the world's glaciers. Using historical data of glacial retreat Oefner has released two interactive photographs which visualize how Switzerland's Rhône and Trift Glaciers have shrunk in size over the last 140 years.

Timelines by Fabian Oefner consists of two interactive nighttime photographs - one of the Rhône Glacier and one of the Trift Glacier. Superimposed over the image of each glacier are lines which show the glacier's maximum extent for each year. Both of the photographs are interactive. If you move your mouse over either photo the lines are added or removed from the image by year. The effect is an astonishingly beautiful but extremely worrying visualization of how each glacier has shrunk over the years.

To create these interactive images of glacial retreat historical data was used to plot the maximum expansion of each glacier during each year between 1874 and 2017. Drones were then flown along the line of maximum expansion for each year. These drones flew at night - lit up by LED lights. The artist Oefner then photographed the LED line of maximum expansion created by the drone for each year from a vantage point high on a mountain top above the glacier.

The result is two extraordinarily beautiful images of the dreadful results of global heating.

In 2017 the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger visualized the extent of Switzerland's shrinking glaciers over the last 160 years. In So Schmolzen die Schweizer Gletscher in 160 Jahren Weg the paper produced a series of multiple maps visualizing the change in size of the country's 38 largest glaciers. Tages Anzeiger reports that the Rhône Glacier has shrunk by 4.7 km² or about 23.4% in size over the last 160 years. Over the same period of time the Trift glacier has shrunk by -4.6 km² or around -23.8% in size.

CBC News' How a melting glacier could redefine the Alberta–B.C. border uses a 3d map of the Haig glacier to show how the glacier is retreating and causing a shift in the border between B.C. and Alberta.

Disappearing Glaciers is an Esri StoryMap designed to highlight the alarming speed at which glaciers are disappearing around the world. This map looks at recent aerial imagery of six different glaciers.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The True Cost of Living Map

HowMuch's True cost of living in the United States interactive map can tell you how much it costs to live in American neighborhoods based on your own personal needs. Using the map you can discover where you can (and cannot) afford to live in America's major towns and cities.

Enter a city into HowMuch's cost of living interactive and you can view a map visualizing how much it costs to live in each of the city's neighborhoods. Your personal cost of living will obviously depend on factors such as the size of your family, your income, occupation, and even your food preferences. The cost of living map therefore includes a number of filters which allows you to customize the neighborhood cost of living ratings to match your own circumstances. 

After you have entered your income (and other  cost of living factors) the map will color neighborhoods based on whether you can afford to live there are not. The areas colored red on the map are neighborhoods where you would have to increase your income in order to be able to afford to live there. You can hover over individual neighborhoods on the map to view exactly how much more you would have to earn to be able to afford to live there or (if you are lucky) how much money you will have left living in the neighborhood after your costs of living have been deducted.

MegaCity Fourteen

The world's 100 most populous cities are responsible for around one-fifth of the world's carbon emissions. The MIT Technology Review argues that if we want to tackle global heating we must address the carbon emissions of the world's largest cities. In fact they say by reducing the emissions in just a few of the wealthy megacities in the northern hemisphere we can go a long way to slowing down or halting climate change.

In How Megacities Could Lead the Fight Against Climate Change MIT Technology Review has created a scrollytelling story map which looks at the growth of megacities around the world and visualizes the carbon footprint of the world's most populous cities. Megacities are cities with a population of at least 10 million. There are currently 34 megacities around the world. The United Nations says that by 2035 there will be 14 more.

The MIT story map shows how the megacities in the northern hemisphere have a far larger carbon footprint per capita than those in the south. However it is the poorer southern megacities who will be less able to cope with the effects of climate change. The richer megacities will also be effected by climate change but have more money to pay the costs of climate change. They also have the resources to begin the fight against climate change. 

The MIT Tecnology Review argues that the "concentration of wealth and technology" in rich megacitties means that they are in a unique position to lead the way in combating climate change. Because these megacities are responsible for such a large percentage of the world's carbon emissions they could also have a huge impact in reducing the global carbon footprint.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Are these Trump or Biden neighborhoods?

The New York Times has created a fascinating quiz which requires you to identify whether a neighborhood voted for Trump or Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election solely from looking at how the area looks on Google Maps Street View. The Trump-Biden Geography Quiz shows you a series of random neighborhoods on Street View and asks you to simply guess if most people voted for Biden or Trump.

The NYT quiz is very simple to play. For each question you are shown the Street View image of a neighborhood. You can rotate around the 360 degree panorama to get a good look at the street and its houses. Purely on this evidence you need to then guess whether in the 2020 election most people voted for the Democrat or Republican presidential candidate.

During my limited time playing the game I managed to guess over 80% of the neighborhoods correctly. I'm not alone in being able to guess most neighborhoods correctly. After each question you are told how many players answered the neighborhoods correctly. For most neighborhoods the majority of readers are able to tell purely from the Street View imagery whether a neighborhood voted for Trump or Biden. 

My answers were mainly guided by how urban or rural a neighborhood appears on Google Maps and also on how affluent the neighborhood seems. It would be interesting to know how other players decide on which neighborhoods voted Republican or Democratic.

England's Most Popular Drugs

The most popular illegal drug in London (after cannabis) is cocaine. In fact cocaine is the drug of choice for much of the southeast of England, except for Hertfordshire (heroin) and the Thames Valley (anabolic steroids). In South Wales benzodiazepines are the most popular drug (after cannabis), while in much of the north of England amphetamines are very popular.

The Most Popular Drugs Map uses Home Office data on the most seized drugs to map the most popular drug (after cannabis) in each region of England & Wales. Like a lot of these 'most popular' maps the map actually doesn't actually show the most popular thing but the second most popular thing in each region. This is because cannabis is the most seized drug in every region of England & Wales and the map wouldn't be very interesting without showing some regional differences.

As well as revealing an interesting amphetamine - cocaine divide between north and south England I find the map interesting in how it is being used by the Reach company of regional newspapers. I have linked to the map on the Yorkshire Live website but I could have linked to copies of the map on hundreds of different local newspaper websites. Reach PLC, who publish 240 regional newspapers in the UK, produce a lot of these faux local data visualizations across their stable of regional papers. By creating an 'interesting' national map they can post the same article across the whole stable of regional newspapers simply by changing a few words in the accompanying article (pulling out the local data to give the article that local focus).

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Winners & Losers of the 2020 Census

Texas has gained two seats in the House of Representatives as a result of the 2020 census. California, New York and five other states have lost seats. 

The 2020 Census Population Counts for Apportionment have now been released by the US Census Bureau. Every ten years the results of the U.S. census are used to calculate the number of seats that each state will have in the House of Representatives. Based on the population counts from the census each state is awarded seats in the House. Due to the changes in each state's population some states will gain seats and some will lose.

You can view how each state has been affected by the 2020 census on the Census Bureau's Historical Apportionment Data Map. The map colors each state to show whether the state has gained or lost seats or whether they have kept the same number of seats in the House of Representatives. The yellow colored states have all lost seats. The Census Bureau's map also allows you to view the apportionment map for every U.S census since 1910 so you can see the number of seats each state has had in the House for every decade in the last 110 years.  

You can explore the data further and view more visualizations of the census population data on the Census Bureau's 2020 Census Apportionment Results page.

Mapping the Cost of Road Accidents

Stefan Lehmkühler, a city activist currently ruuning for a seat in the Berlin House of Representatives, has mapped out the costs of road accidents in Berlin. 

The German Federal Highway Research Institute has calculated the costs of different types of road accident. For example a crash leading to a fatality is assumed to cost around 1,121,888 euros, while an accident leading to a minor injury is assumed to cost around 4,959 euros.Using these costs and accident data from the Berlin police on the location of traffic accidents in the city for 2018-2019 Lehmkühler has been able to evaluate how much each segment of road has cost the city as a direct result of road accidents. 

The Accident Cost Density Map (Unfallkostendichte Karte) colors Berlin's roads based on the costs incurred on each section from traffic accidents.Mapping the accident cost of each section of road is an interesting approach to mapping traffic accidents. Instead of highlighting the roads with the most traffic accidents it should reveal the sections of roads which have had the most severe and deadly accidents. In other words the map shows where the most serious accidents have happened per meter of street. 

For the map to really make a difference to the severity of road accidents then the Berlin House of Representatives really needs to be made responsible for the costs of these accidents. If the map was used as an annual auditing tool of costs, which the House of Representatives was then forced to pay, the city authorities might be inspired to more quickly act to reduce accidents. Impose a financial penalty on the council (make them pay for the true costs of road accidents) and I bet they would quickly introduce a whole host of traffic safety measures and quickly work to make the city more pedestrian and bike friendly.

Via: Der Tagesspiegel

Monday, April 26, 2021

Mapping World Obesity

According to data from the World Obesity Federation around 23.29% of American boys are obese. This means that the USA ranks as 12th in the list of countries with the highest percentage of obese male children. The Cook Islands rank first in this list, with 33.3% of boys in the Cook Islands diagnosed as obese.

The World Obesity Federation is a not-for-profit organization which represents and links scientific, medical and research communities from obesity associations around the world. The Federation's main goal is to halt the rise of global obesity. It works to achieve this through research and education, which can be used by governments and health authorities around the world to help manage and prevent obesity. 

The World Obesity Federation data on global obesity levels can be accessed in a number of ways, including on the WOF Interactive Map This interactive globe allows you to explore and compare the obesity data of countries around the world. You can select to view adult (male & female) and children (male & female) obesity rates of countries via a choropleth layer. You can also click on individual countries to view the male and female, adult and children obesity data for the selected country.

The globe also allows you to view other data relevant to obesity rates. These other data sets include data on different types of food consumption, diabetes prevalence and obesity rates by socio-economic status. 

A study published in 2019 predicted that by the end of this decade half of all adult Americans will be obese. Already there are ten states in the U.S. with obesity levels over 45%, including Mississippi (the state with the highest obesity rate). Half of the adult population in Mississippi are obese. Based on the rate of increase in obesity rates over the last few decades by the year 2030 50% of all adult Americans will be obese.

Time has used data from the 2019 study to map the state obesity rates for 2000, 2010, 2019 and the projected obesity rate for 2030. The data for these four maps comes from the study Projected U.S. State-Level Prevalence of Adult Obesity and Severe Obesity, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Time maps show the obesity levels in each state for the last three decades and the projected obesity rate in each state for the end of this new decade.

In Half of the U.S. Population Will Be Obese by 2030 Time has used the Datawrapper platform to create interactive maps of U.S. obesity rates. For some strange & perverse reason Time has only posted screenshots of these interactive maps (including the zoom buttons). So although the maps were originally interactive (and still look interactive) they are only presented as static maps in the article (with no link to the original interactive maps). This means that if you want to explore the actual obesity rates for different states you will need to read the original study on the New England Journal of Medicine.

Anti-Fascist Heroes

In Italy the 25th of April is Liberation Day. A national holiday is held on this day to celebrate the anniversary of Italy's liberation from Mussolini's fascist regime and of the occupation of Italy by Nazi Germany during World War II.

To commemorate Liberation Day mad-scientist has created an interactive map which highlights all the streets in Italy which have been named for Partisan heroes of the resistance. If you hover over any of the streets colored red on the Roads of the Resistance map the name of the street will be shown in the map sidebar. If you click on a street then an information window will open providing a preview of the individual's Wikipedia entry. 

The Roads of the Resistance map was partly inspired by Geochicas' Calles de las Mujeres analysis of the disparity in the number of streets named for men compared to those named for women.On the Calles de las Mujeres map individual roads are colored either blue or yellow to show whether they were named for either men or women. A doughnut chart also displays the percentage of the streets (with people's names) named for men compared to the percentage of streets named for women

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Ever Given Stuck in the Thames

Insizeor is a fun (but inaccurate) tool for exploring the size of things on an interactive map. I used Insizeor to create the map above showing the Ever Given container ship struck in the River Thames in London. 

Insizeor claims to show "any image to scale on top of an aerial map." Using Insizeor you can upload any image on top of a satellite map. You can then move that image to any other location on Earth to get a rough comparison of your uploaded image with any location on Earth. 

I say a 'rough idea' because unfortunately Insizor actually doesn't actually show images to scale. Like some of the other map comparison tools that have been released in the last few weeks (e.g.  the Bill Gates' Land Ownership interactive map) Insizeor makes the mistake of not compensating for the distortions that map projections cause.

You can see the problems with Insizor in action by loading an image of Wales onto Insizor. Enter the URL - - into Insizeor. Then scale the loaded image of Wales to 238,000 metres and press 'Enter'. Now move Wales up and down on the map to compare the size of Wales with the size of other countries.

You might notice that when you move the image of Wales around on the map that it stays the same size. Insizeor does not resize the image of Wales when it is moved to compensate for the distortions of the Web Mercator projection. This means that once you move Wales north or south it is no longer scaled at 238,000 metres.

In comparison have a look at The True Size Of map instead.This interactive map allows you to select any country on Earth and drag it around a world map to see how it compares in size with any other country or countries.Select any country on this map and move it north and south on the map. You should notice that when you move countries on The True Size Of map they grow bigger and smaller automatically. This is because The True Size Of map automatically compensates for the distortions of the map projection used. Although the countries appear to become bigger and smaller as you drag them around the map they are in fact remaining at the same scale in comparison to their current location on the map and the other countries on the map. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Manhattan, Texas

Stamen Design has been inspired by the recently popular map Ever Given Every Where interactive map to create their own size comparison map. Ever Given Every Where allows you to superimpose an image of the Ever Given container ship on top of any other location on Earth. The map enables anyone to compare the size of the ship (famous for becoming stuck in the Suez Canal) by comparing it to any location that they are familiar with. 

Stamen's new scale-a-tron map lets you draw any shape on an interactive map and then move that shape anywhere else on Earth. For example in the map above I have moved Manhattan to Dallas, Texas. Of course I am not restricted to Texas. If I want I can use scale-o-tron to compare Manhattan with San Francisco, Paris, Rome or any other city in the world. 

There has been a little trend for creating size comparison maps recently. Last week the Bill Gates' Land Ownership interactive map claimed to show how much land Bill Gates owns in America. The map displays a large square which it claims is 242,000 acres in size. Unfortunately the Bill Gates Land Ownership map does not resize itself when it is moved on the map to compensate for the distortions of the Web Mercator projection. This means that once you move the square north or south it no longer shows 240,000 square acres.

Stamen has not made the same mistake with scale-o-tron. Any shape that you draw on this map will automatically resize itself when you move it on the map to compensate for the distortions of the map projection. scale-o-tron is therefore very useful for demonstrating how much the continent of Africa is distorted by the Mercator map projection (see screenshot above).

If you can't be bothered to draw the outlines of countries yourself then you can use The True Size Of comparison map instead.This interactive map allows you to select any country on Earth and drag it around a world map to see how it compares in size with any other country or countries.The True Size Of is also a very useful map to use if you want to demonstrate the distortions caused by the Web Mercator projection.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Commuting by Doughnut

Jobs in the Netherlands is a mapped visualization showing where people commute to and from in the Netherlands. The map uses flow lines and doughnut charts to plot data from the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) to visualize where workers in major towns have commuted from. 

The doughnut charts placed over each town shown the percentage of workers in the town who commute in from other towns and cities (and the number who commute internally within the town or city). The flow lines between towns also show the number of workers who are commuting between the two towns. If you click on a doughnut chart you can view the actual numbers of people who commute internally within the town and the number who commute in from neighboring towns and cities.

The data appears to be from December 2019 - so from just before the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak. The map therefore provides an important historical visualization of commuting in the Netherlands before the global outbreak. It will be really interesting to see a similar visualization in the future - to observe if the coronavirus has had a permanent effect on the number of  commuting and the number of people working from home. For example this map shows that before the epidemic 11,300 people commuted from Utrecht to work in Amsterdam. I wonder how many people will be doing that same journey every day in 2025?

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Roads Kill

According to the World Health Organisation by 2030 road deaths are set to become the fifth leading cause of death in the developed world. The Pulitzer Center's Roads Kill interactive map visualizes the number of people killed by roads in countries around the world.

The Roads Kill map provides a choropleth view showing the number of people killed on roads in each country (per 100,000 people). This choropleth view reveals that there are some stark differences in the number of people killed on roads in different countries around the world. Some of these stark differences are highlighted and picked out when you click on the information button. 

If you click on the 'i' button the Pulitzer Center takes you on a guided tour of some of the interesting stories revealed by the road deaths data. For example Norway and Sweden have very low rates of road deaths (2.7 & 2.8 respectively). By contrast the United States has a very high rate - especially when compared to other wealthy countries (12.4 per 100,000 people). If you want you can ignore the guided tour and explore the map for yourself. If you hover over a country then you can view not only the rate of road deaths in that country but the percentage killed in cars, on motorbikes, on cycles and while walking.

One Continent is Not Like the Others

On this global map of Covid-19 vaccinations one continent stands out as being not like the others. While good progress is being made to vaccinate the populations of many countries around the world the situation in Africa is a damning indictment of the greed of the pharmaceutical companies and the selfish stance of so called 'first world countries'.

Bloomberg's Vaccination Tracker map shows that people lucky enough to live in one of the richest countries of the world are much more likely to have been vaccinated than someone living in a poorer country. According to Bloomberg "countries with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated 25 times faster than those with the lowest". If you live in an African country then your chances of getting vaccinated are even lower.

Bloomberg reports that around 15.9 million vaccination doses are being administered around the world every single day. So far around 6% of the global population have been vaccinated. Very few of those people live in Africa. Hover over a country on Bloomberg's interactive Vaccination Tracker map and you can see what percentage of the country has been vaccinated against Covid-19. For example in South Africa, one of the richest African countries, just 0.5% of the population has been vaccinated. In the USA 33.3% of the population has been vaccinated.

The president of South Africa says that there is a "vaccine apartheid", because the majority of the world's vaccinations have been given to the rich and just 0.2% of the world's vaccination supplies have been given to low-income countries. Of the pharmaceutical companies only AstraZeneca are providing vaccines at cost price. The rest see Covid-19 as a way to make huge profits. However the main problem is actually one of supply. The simple fact is that western 'first world' governments are hoarding supplies of Covid-19 vaccines. 

The result of this hoarding is that Covid-19 will probably continue to surge in countries with low vaccination numbers (for example the recent astronomical rise of cases in India). This will lead to further mutations of the virus. Some of these mutations will be more resistant to Covid vaccinations. Therefore the richer countries of the world are not only showing staggering levels of selfishness by hoarding vaccination supplies they are also shooting themselves in the foot.

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.