Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The World's Population in 3D

This 3D Map of world cities with a population over 100k visualizes the global population of the world's cities as 3D towers. Zoom in on Europe and you can see that London dominates western Europe, towering over Paris, Madrid, Berlin and Rome. 

The data for the map comes from this Wikipedia list of towns and cities with 100,000 or more inhabitants. Wherein lies the problem. The main problem with this Wikipedia list is that there is no universally agreed standard for defining city borders and boundaries. For example Greater London is around 1,569 km² while Paris is around 105.4 km². So the London tower on this interactive map encompasses the population of an area over ten times as large as the population represented by the Paris tower. No wonder the London tower dwarfs the Paris population tower.

In reality the population density in central Paris is far higher than that of inner London. Which is why it is much better to actually map population density rather than population totals. For example look at this population density map of Europe created by The Pudding. 

If you look at Europe on this map you can see that central Paris and Barcelona have much higher population densities than central London. Of course London makes up for this with the huge numbers of people living in the huge urban sprawl outside the city center. 

The Pudding's Human Terrain interactive map shows population density across the globe using 3D population pyramids. The taller a pyramid block on The Pudding map then the more people are living there. 

The data for the Human Terrain map comes from the Global Human Settlement Layer. This data from the European Commission looks at the population living within 1 km² areas, 'regardless of administrative boundaries'. It is therefore a much better guide of the actual population density within cities. 

The use of population pyramids is a well used and visually dramatic way to show population density. For example The Pudding's map is very similar to a WebGL powered map created by Topi Tjukanov to show the density of Europe's population.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The World's Most Impressive Mountain

Every schoolchild knows that Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. But is it the most impressive? 

Mount Everest has an elevation of 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) above sea level. However, if we measure the height of a mountain from its base to its peak, then the tallest mountain in the world is Mauna Kea, which is an inactive volcano on the island of Hawaii. Mauna Kea has an elevation of 4,207 meters (13,802 feet) above sea level, but its base is located on the ocean floor, which is about 6,000 meters (19,700 feet) below sea level - making it technically taller than Mount Everest.

While both Mount Everest and Mauna Kea are both obviously massive mountains they are not the most impressive. At least they are not the most impressive according to the website PeakJut. PeakJut measures 'impressiveness' based on two main factors. One of these factors is the height of a mountain above its surroundings. However PeakJut also factors in a mountain's steepness, or the rate that it rises above its surroundings.

"For instance, even though Mount Elbert in Colorado (elevation: 4399 m) has a higher elevation than Grand Teton in Wyoming (elevation: 4198 m), the latter is a far more dramatic peak, as it not only rises a greater height above its surroundings, but is also much steeper."

PeakJut has therefore invented the Jut score and ranked the impressiveness of over 200,000 mountains around the world. 'Jut' is an indicator of how sharply or impressively a mountain rises above its surroundings, factoring in both height and steepness. 

Share your location with PeakJut and it will show you the most impressive mountains closest to you, based on their Jut rankings. If you click on one of the suggested mountains you can view its location on an interactive map. This map highlights the selected mountain's peak and its base (or most impressive viewpoint). You are also given some important data, such as the mountain's elevation and 'Jut'. 

So which is the most impressive mountain in the world. Well, according to PeakJut, Annapurna Fang in Nepal has the highest Jut score. Nanga Parbat in Pakistan and Māchhāpuchchhre in Nepal come in a close second and third respectively.

If you want to find the least impressive 'peak' in the world then you might struggle to beat the peak with the highest Jut score near me. Here is the Street View of Beacon Hill, which at a tiny 27 meters has the highest Jut score in Southeast England. 

Monday, May 29, 2023

Stack Overflown

Nomic Atlas is an online tool for visualizing and exploring large datasets. It enables users to store, update and organize multi-million point datasets of unstructured text, images and embeddings. Atlas organizes the text and data into interactive maps which can then be explored in a web browser, using the map to run semantic searches of the uploaded data.

You can view an example of an interactive map created using Atlas in this Map of Stack Overflow Posts. This map organizes questions posted to Stack Overflow by frustrated programmers.The map visualizes the relationships between different topics on Stack Overflow. 

The map is created by using Vertex AI to generate embeddings of Stack Overflow posts. Embeddings are a type of representation that captures the meaning of a text. The map is then created by using the embeddings to calculate the similarity between different Stack Overflow posts. Because the map visualizes the relationships between different topics on Stack Overflow it can therefore be used to identify related topics, to find new topics to learn about, and to discover specific questions and answers posted on Stack Overflow.

If you like the Stack Overflow map then you might also like the Map of GitHub. The Map of GitHub is a network graph of over 400,000 GitHub projects. Each dot on this interactive map is a Github project, mapped based on the number of 'common stargazers'. 

This map of GitHub projects is made based on GitHub users use of stars to save or like a repository. In simple terms it connects two different repositories based on the number of users who have starred both repositories. In slightly more detailed terms it organizes a database of 350 million stars awarded to repositories between 2020 and the end of March 2023 using a Jaccard Similarity algorithm.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Bat Virus Jump Zones

Over a fifth of the human population lives in areas where there is a large risk that a bat bourne disease will spread to humans. Bats carry tens of thousands of viruses. For most of human history we have been in little danger from these viruses because of the minimal contact between bats and humans. Now, because of human incursions into bat habitats the dangers of a virus jumping from bats to humans is on the increase.

In the Bat Lands: Part 1 Reuters has created a map which shows the level of risk of a virus spreading from bats to humans across the whole world. As you progress through Reuter's article the map pans and zooms to identify areas in China, India Brazil and West Africa where Reuters believe there is a chance that a new global pandemic could be caused by a virus jumping from bats to humans. 

Reuter's five part series begins by looking at the history of bat-borne diseases, and how they have caused outbreaks such as Ebola and SARS. The series also examines the factors that are driving the destruction of bat habitats, such as deforestation, mining, and agriculture. Part 5 of the series looks at the challenges of preventing the next pandemic, and what can be done to reduce the risk. It concludes by calling for a new approach to conservation, one that takes into account the risk of pandemics.

Via: The Top 10 in Data Journalism - the Global Investigative Journalism Network's weekly round-up of the best data stories.

Friday, May 26, 2023

MapLibre Adds WebGL2 Support

MapLibre GL JS v3 has been released. Version 3 of the popular mapping library includes significant improvements to Terrain 3D, support for WebGL2, new styling options and improved performance.

MapLibre GL JS, a JavaScript mapping library that uses WebGL to render interactive maps from vector tiles and styles. MapLibre was founded in 2015 in reaction to the growing trend of proprietary mapping libraries and was originally intended to be a drop-in replacement for Mapbox GL.

Among the updates in the latest version of Maplibre GL is support for WebGL2. WebGL2 is a significant improvement over WebGL1 and provides a number of new features that can be used to improve performance and graphics quality. You can view a demo map created with MapLibre GL which uses WebGL2 to smoothly animate 3D towers in this map of Presidential Votes 2000-2016 (animated screenshot above).

Also See

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Discover Your Earthquake Risk

CNN has created an interactive map which reveals your risks from earthquake activity. Enter your address into the What's your earthquake risk interactive map and you can discover your earthquake hazard level based on data from the US Geological Survey.

CNN's map colors the United States based on seven different levels of earthquake risk. You can also click on a location on the map to reveal the hazard level at that location. The hazards are calculated based on the USGS's 2018 Long-term National Seismic Hazard Map. The USGS says that the hazard levels are "based on seismicity and fault-slip rates, and take into account the frequency of earthquakes of various magnitudes".

If you live outside the United States (or in the U.S.) you can use the Global Earthquake Model Foundation's earthquake hazard maps to assess your likely risk from seismic activity. The Global Earthquake Model Foundation is a non-profit organization working to assess and help manage the risk from earthquakes and seismic activity around the globe. Part of its mission is to assess and share open data on earthquake risks and hazards.

The Global Earthquake Model Foundation has released two interactive maps, the Global Seismic Risk Map and the Global Seismic Hazard Map, which can be used to explore the risk from earthquakes at locations around the world. The estimated hazards are based on the foundation's own OpenQuake engine, an open-source seismic hazard and risk model.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Germany - the Dirty Man of Europe

A new interactive map shows how CO2 emissions in Germany are once again on the increase. In the first two decades of this century Germany has produced the most carbon dioxide emissions of any country in the European Union. The main reason for this is that Germany is heavily reliant on coal for electricity generation. Germany aims to become carbon-neutral by 2045 however the war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on Germany's continuing reliance on coal power plants.

The EU Power Plant Emissions map uses the latest EU Emissions Trading System data to visualize the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by countries in the European Union (and also Switzerland, Norway, Iceland & Liechtenstein). The map shows that the highest levels of CO2 from power plants originate in Eastern European countries and Germany - with coal power plants being the major culprits.

If you hover over any of the power plants on the map you can view the levels of CO2 emitted by the plant in each year. If you hover over any of the coal power plants in Germany then you are likely to see a reduction in CO2 between 2017 and 2020. One reason for this increase is Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In an effort to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, Germany has temporarily reopened decommissioned and soon-to-be decommissioned coal power plants. This has resulted in the country once again increasing its CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Last year coal power plants were responsible for 60% of power sector emissions in the EU-ETS. Germany and Poland accounted for two thirds of all the CO2 emissions from coal power plants. 

Beyond Fossil Fuels has an interactive map showing the locations of coal power plants in Europe. On the map you can see that there are far more coal power plants in Eastern Europe (including Germany) than in the west of the continent. Beyond Fossil Fuels has also created an animated map which shows the amount of carbon dioxide from coal power plants produced by European countries since 2005.

From the animated map (shown above) you can see that most countries in Europe have actually significantly reduced the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by coal power plants. The major exceptions being Poland and Germany.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A Bird's Eye View of America

The Library of Congress owns a huge collection of panoramic bird's eye maps of American cities, most of which were published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. You can now browse and explore these vintage panoramic maps of American cities on the library's View from Above interactive map.

The map allows you to view over 1,500 panoramic maps of towns and cities across the United States. The location of the library's panoramic maps are shown using a clustered marker system. Simply click on a marker to view a listing of maps in that area. Selecting an individual map's marker will reveal a preview image of the map and links to see the fully digitized map on the Library of Congress website. You can also search for locations using the map's search bar.

All the maps in the Library of Congress can be used and viewed using their IIIF presentation manifest. This means that you can also create annotated interactive maps from any of the library's panoramic maps using the Leaflet-IIIF plug-in. 

Leaflet-IIIF is a simple to use plug-in for creating a Leaflet based browser for IIIF manifests or images shared using the IIIF Image API. Using this plug-in you can make interactive maps from tens of thousands of manuscripts, paintings and other images held by some of the best known global art galleries, museums and universities. And the Library of Congress. 

I used the Leaflet-IIIF plug-in to create a Leaflet.js map of one of the vintage panoramic maps from the Library of Congress. This Sherbrooke Panoramic Map shows an 1881 panoramic map of a southern Quebec city. I've even added some markers to identify some of the city's notable buildings on the map.

The Library of Congress also owns a lot of early bird's eye view panoramic photographs of American cities. You can find a lot of examples by searching the LOC website for Panoramic Photographs. These photots come from many sources, but some of the best are from the Detroit Publishing Company

When visiting cities the photographers of the Detroit Publishing Co would often find a high building from which to take a series of bird's eye view photographs. When stitched together these pictures can be made into one long panoramic image of the city. Which is what I did to create this interactive Leaflet panorama of Indianapolis in 1907.

I created this vintage panorama by stitching together four photographs from the Detroit Publishing Co. I used Microsoft's Image Composite Editor to create the panorama. To turn the panorama into an interactive map I adapted the Non-geographical Maps example from the Leaflet tutorials.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Explore the World with Shadows

Chee Aun's Deck.GL with Google Maps Photorealistic 3D Tiles Demo is a demonstration of Google's new 3D map tiles with a few added special effects. Using this map you can explore the world in 3D with building shadows, post-processing effects and an interesting ink effect.

This month Google released the new Photorealistic 3D Tiles option at its annual I/O conference. It allows developers to create 3D maps using a 3D Tiles renderer, such as CesiumJS or Using your choice of 3D Tiles renderer you can access Google's photorealistic tiles simply by specifying the Photorealistic 3D tileset URL.
Chee Aun's demo map uses the new 3D map tiles with deck,gl. It then uses's SunLight function to add shadows to the map's 3D buildings. The map includes a time of day slider which allows you to view how building shadows move over the course of the day. Chee's map also uses's PostProcessEffect function to brighten the colors of the 3D map tiles and to create a cool ink effect view.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Explore the World in 3D

San Francisco as seen using Google's new Photorealstic 3D Tiles

At Google I/O this year the Google Maps team unveiled the release of Photorealistic 3D Tiles. Google Maps' Photorealistic 3D Tiles are a new way to view the world in 3D. In essence the new tiles allow map developers to use Google Earth's 3D buildings and terrain in their interactive maps. The new 3D tiles are ideal for creating immersive 3D map experiences, such as virtual tours, architectural visualizations, and city planning applications. 

To use Google Maps Photorealistic 3D Tiles, you will need to use a 3D Tiles renderer, such as CesiumJS or Once you have chosen a renderer, you can begin accessing photorealistic tiles simply by specifying the Photorealistic 3D tileset URL. 

If you want to use Google's new 3D map tiles then you should check out the Map Tile API Documentation. You will also probably want to peruse the CesiumJS documentation as well.

If you want to see Google's new Photorealistic 3D Tiles in action then you can explore Carto's story map How important is vegetation for cities.This mapped visualization uses the new 3D tiles and to examine the social, environmental and economic benefits of green spaces in urban environments. 

If you want to see your own city in 3D then you should explore Map Channel's Street Earth Map. Map Channel's Street Earth Map is a relatively old project that originally synchronized a Google Earth 3D map witht a 2D Google Maps view. The map has now been updated to work with the new Photorealistic 3D Tiles. Using the map you can explore any location in the world with three different but synchronized map views from Google: Street View, Google Maps, and the new Photorealistic 3D view.

The new Photorealistic 3D Map Tiles are currently available in over 2,500 cities in 49 countries. So if you are unlucky there is a chance that you won't be able to view your home town in 3D just yet.

Friday, May 19, 2023

How big are London, New York & Tokyo?

Alasdair Rae has used the leaflet-truesize plug-in for the Leaflet mapping platform to create a map which allows you to compare the size of Greater London and the Tokyo metro area with any other location in the world. 

Alasdair's How big is Greater London map contains two draggable polygons. One polygon represents the size of Greater London (placed over London) the other is the size of the Tokyo metro area (placed over Tokyo). You can simply click and grab either of these polygons to drag it around the map and compare its size with any other global location.

The leaflet-truesize plug-in is a great tool for quickly creating a map visualization showing the geographical size of something. You can also use the Google Maps API's draggable polygons to create simple comparison maps.

Comparison maps such as:

How much of America does Bill Gates own?
How Big is Glastonbury?
How Big is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
How Big is Occupied Ukraine?

If you don't want to create your very own map you can use Hans Hack's Reprojector map instead to compare different geographical locations. The Reprojector mapping tool allows you to compare different areas with each other by moving GeoJSON shapes around. The tool is great for comparing two (or more) different geographic areas with each other.

The Reprojector tool allows you to upload any GeoJSON polygon onto an interactive map. This GeoJSON can be anything you want, including country or state borders. Once you have uploaded a polygon onto the Reprojector map you can move the shape around to overlay the polygon on any location in the world. When you are happy with the location of your polygon you can then download a GeoJSON file with the data to display your polygon in its new position.

You can see in the screenshot above an example where I positioned a GeoJSON polygon of Italy on top of the state of Texas. If you want to experiment with moving different country polygons around on the Reprojector map then you might find GeoJSON Maps of the Globe useful. This simple tool allows you to click on a country on an interactive map and then download it as a GeoJSON file (which you can then upload onto the Reprojector map).

Thursday, May 18, 2023

US Military Bases Around the World

The United States has over 800 military bases in more than 80 countries around the world. This makes the U.S. the largest operator of military bases in the world. These bases are used for a variety of purposes, including training, logistics, and intelligence gathering. They also play a role in projecting American power and influence around the globe.

World BEYOND War has created an interactive map that allows users to view the locations of 867 U.S. military bases in countries other than the United States. In the USA's Military Empire you can filter the military bases on the map by country, government type, opening date, number of personnel, or acres of land occupied. The yearly cost to the U.S. of its foreign military bases ranges from $100 – 250 billion. 

The largest number of U.S. military bases are located in Europe, with over 200 bases in Germany alone. Other major concentrations of U.S. bases are found in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Presently World Beyond War only maps U.S. foreign military outposts. However there are plans to add data on all foreign military bases maintained by all nations in future editions of the map.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Streets GL

Streets GL is a new real-time 3D map which shows buildings in 3D and building shadows in real-time, based on the actual time of day.  The map uses OpenStreetMap map and building height data. It also uses real-time flight data.

One of my favorite features of Streets GL is that you can view planes flying around the map in real-time. Zoom in on an airport on the map (such as Heathrow or JFK) and you actually see planes taking off and coming into land based on real air traffic data.

You can rotate the map and adjust the pitch of the map view using your right mouse button (press the 'i' button on the map to get a full list of the mouse and keyboard controls). You can also adjust the height of the map's viewpoint by clicking on the 'settings' button and adjusting the 'vertical field of view'.

You can view the Streets GL repository on GitHub to learn more about the map. According to the project's GitHub description Streets GL is written in TypeScript and uses the WebGL2 API.

Via: OSM Weekly

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

AI Street View

Today I have mainly been creating AI generated Street View scenes of historical locations. The result is AI Time Travel Street View, a little virtual world of 360 degree panoramas which you can wander around in while exploring Medieval France, Renaissance Venice and Victorian London (as dreamed by AI).

Navigating around AI Time Travel Street View is fairly intuitive. Just click on the arrow links in the images to wander around. If you wish to travel through time and space to a new era you just need to clcik on one of the buttons in the top-left corner of a panorama.

If you want to create your own AI 'Street View' panoramas then you can use Skybox AI. Just enter a prompt description of the scene you require and Skybox AI will generate a 360 degree panorama based on your prompt.

If you want to create your own virtual world you can use Panolens to link together a number of different panoramas (created by Skybox AI or any other panoramic software). You can cheat a little by just cloning the Glitch of my AI Time Travel Street View. Play around with this Glitch and you should be able to work out how to add your own panoramic images and how to create the links between two different panoramas.

Hat-trip to Map Channels, whose panoramas of Victorian London inspired me to create this Street View tour of imagined historical locations. 

Monday, May 15, 2023

The Map of GitHub

Every now and again I search GitHub for map and IIIF projects. I find that a quick search of GitHub repositories is a handy way to get an overview of new (and old) areas that the developer community is currently working on. 

My searching of GitHub has now become a lot easier thanks to the Map of GitHub. The Map of GitHub is a network graph of over 400,000 GitHub projects. Each dot on this interactive map is a Github project, mapped based on the number of 'common stargazers'.

This map of GitHub projects is made based on GitHub users use of stars to save or like a repository. In simple terms it connects two different repositories based on the number of users who have starred both repositories. In more detailed terms it organizes a database of 350 million stars awarded to repositories between 2020 and the end of March 2023 using a Jaccard Similarity algorithm. 

When zoomed out on the map all the repositories are organized into 'countries'. The names for each "country" were hand-picked by the map's creator, Andrei Kashcha, with a little help from ChatGPT. As you zoom in on the map more 'region' labels will appear on the map. For example you can find 'Maplands' if you zoom in on 'AILandia' in the top-right corner of the map. 

If you right-click on a country or region label you can choose to view the largest projects in that area. For example the largest GitHub repositories in Mapland include Mapbox, turf.js and (presumably size is determined here by the number of stars given to a repository). If you click on the name of an individual repository lines appear on the map showing the starred connections between the different repositories. Information about the selected project is also displayed in the map sidebar.

If you like the Maps of Github then you might also like Andrei's Map of Reddit, an interactive map which organizes and plots subreddits based on their similarity.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

The Great Amazonian Indigenous Land Grab

A new investigation by InfoAmazonia shows how over 38,000 hectares of Indigenous land in the Amazon has been stolen and developed into farmland between 2018 and 2021. In Expansion of pastures in indigenous lands triples in 4 years and threatens isolated peoples of the Amazon InfoAmazonia use a series of maps to show where rainforest has been deforested and turned into pasture for grazing cattle.

Under Brazil's constitution it is illegal to raise cattle on indigenous land. However as InfoAmazonia's maps show there is an extensive ongoing landgrab occurring on indigenous land, which is resulting in illegal deforestation and cattle ranching. The InfoAmazonia maps show the borders of indigenous lands in the Amazon and the areas within these borders which have been turned into new pasture land since 2018.

As you progress through the InfoAmazonia article a Mapbox Story Map is used to visualize the extent to which new pastures have been illegally created in a number of indigenous areas. The article also goes on to point out that illegal deforestation and cattle raising is not only limited to indigenous lands but is also rampant outside these so-called protected areas.

Via: Global Investigative Journalism Network

Friday, May 12, 2023

The Folk Music of the World

Carnegie Hall's Musical Explorers Around the World Map allows you to discover and listen to folk music from all corners of the globe. Using the map you can directly listen to bluegrass music from Appalachia, mbira music from Zimbabwe, calypso from Trinidad & Tabago, and lots of other amazing performances of traditional music in countries around the world.

If you click on a marker on the Musical Explorers Around the World Map you can listen to a sound recording of a folk song from that part of the world. You can also watch a video recorded by the musician, in which they introduce themselves and the music that they sing and play. You will also find links to lesson plans related to the selected music tradition. 

As well as being an interacgtive map Carnegie Hall's Musical Explorers Around the World is also a free curriculum designed to connect students in grades K–2 to rich and diverse musical communities around the world. The lessons in the curriculum introduce students to the music traditions of many different cultures while building and reinforcing fundamental music skills, such as listening, singing, and moving to music. 

Each unit includes a variety of resources for teachers and students, including: lesson plans, actual music recordings of the songs, sheet music, activity sheets and other supplemental materials.The program also culminates in an interactive concert experience, during which students celebrate what they've learned by singing and dancing along with their new favorite artists.

Also See

The Global Jukebox - interactive map of folk music recorded around the world from the Alan Lomax Collection 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Mapping Russian Military Facilities in Crimea

Ukrainian journalists working for Radio Liberty have released an interactive map which shows the locations of more than 200 military facilities located in Crimea. The map shows over 200 Russian military locations in Crimea categorized into 10 different categories, documented using Planet Labs satellite imagery and terrestrial photography.

Ukraine is soon expected to launch a counteroffensive against Russian troops in Ukraine. Crimea itself is probably not a realistic objective in Ukraine's forthcoming counterstrike. However as Russia is using Crimea as a staging area for its operations in southern Ukraine all Russian military locations in Crimea are likely to be attractive targets for long-range Ukrainian missiles. 

The new Map of Military Facilities of Crimea reveals the locations of Russian military test sites, fuel depots, ammunition warehouses, radar and air defense systems, airfields, unit headquarters, and the bases of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. You can select to view any of these categories of Russian military sites on the interactive map. If you then click on a map marker you can read a short synopsis of the site and view any available satellite imagery and / or photographs of the location.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Mythical Creatures of the World

The Mythical Creatures of the World interactive map allows you to learn more about some of the strange and wonderful monsters that exist in cultures around the world. Mythical creatures appear in the folklore of nearly every culture. Some, like Scotland's Loch Ness Monster or Tibet's Abononimable Snowman, you have probably heard of before. Many of the monsters on this map, however, you have probably never heard and they have consequently never featured in your nightmares before. Until now!

This interactive map of the world's most terrifying creatures was made almost entirely by Artificial Intelligence, with only a little help from me. The data for the map came from Map Channel's new AI Search Map. I typed in 'Mythical Creatures' into AI Search Map and asked it to search the whole world. The result was this map of mythical creatures

I grabbed the KML created by that AI Search Map and then used this KML to GeoJSON Converter to turn it into a GeoJSON file. This GeoJSON file I then converted to a map tileset using Mapbox Studio. The image for each creature featured on the map was generated using Bing's AI Image Creator. The information text for each creature was produced by Google's Bard AI

Using AI to create the data, text and images for the map saved me hours of time. In fact the whole Mythical Creatures of the World map only took me about three hours to make from start to finish. Most of this time was actually spent manually entering prompts into Image Creator and Bard. Automating this process would mean that I could actually create a map like Mythical Creatures of the World in a matter of seconds.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

AI Map Search Finds Atlantis

Google Maps is very good at finding your nearest pizza restaurants or cafes. It is not so useful if you want to find a list of the winners of the ugliest building awards or the steepest streets in San Francisco.

AI Search Map by Map Channels is a new interactive map which allows you to search for any term at any location. The map uses ChatGPT to find the most accurate and relevant search results based on your map search needs. It is fantastic at fulfilling all the off-kilter location search queries that Google Maps currently struggles with. 

If you want some ideas of the sort of things that you can search for using AI Search Map here are just a few examples of searches carried out by AI Search Map:

You really can search for nearly anything. You are only restricted by your own imagination and the global crowd knowledge of ChatGPT.

Map Channels has to pay ChatGPT every time that you use AI Search Map. Therefore use of AI Search Map is restricted to registered users (it is free to subscribe). Registered users get 3 free searches per day. Site supporters (paying members) can make 20 searches per day.

All the results of a search carried out on AI Search Map can be downloaded in KML format. AI Search Map is therefore a great resource for finding data for your own interactive maps. You can use it to find data which you can then display and visualize using any of the popular interactive JavaScript mapping libraries.

BTW - AI Search Map locates Atlantis off the coast of the Madeira islands in the Atlantic. Obviously this is unlikely to be the real location of the mythical city of Atlantis. It is therefore worth remembering that AI search is still in its infancy and may contain errors (as can any internet search results).

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Cinematic 3D Space Simulations

Online astronomy has now entered the space age. Thanks to advances in online 3D modeling articles on the web can now be illustrated with amazing cinematic 3D animations.

One recent example of this can be viewed in Le Figaro's article Starship, to the Moon, Mars and Beyond .... This introduction to Space X's Starship rocket is accompanied by a fantastic 3D simulation of an actual Starship launch. 

SpaceX's Starship spacecraft is a fully reusable two-stage-to-orbit heavy-lift launch vehicle. It is intended to be the successor to the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles, and will be capable of carrying both crew and cargo to Earth orbit and, as the Le Figaro article suggests, to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Le Figaro's 3D animation shows the launch of a Starship and the relanding of both the 'Super Heavy' rocket booster and the second-stage 'Starship' rocket.  

Another great example of astronomical 3D modeling is RTBF's How the James Webb Telescope Opens the Gateway to the Stars, which includes a truly impressive 3D animated illustration of NASA's newest space telescope. As you scroll through the beginning of this online article a 3D model illustrates how the telescope's solar panels, heat shield and 6.5m diameter mirror were unfurled in space. Information windows are also used in this 3D simulation to explain the purpose of each of these components and to explain how the telescope actually works. 

ZDF's Mission Artemis also includes some amazing 3D illustrated animations. ZDF's interactive introduction to the Artemis mission includes 3D models of the Earth, the Moon, Mars and even the Gateway Space Station.

NASA's Artemis program will build a Lunar Gateway space station which could be used to establish a permanent home base on the Moon and to launch human missions to Mars. The Lunar Gatway Station will be the first space station in orbit around the moon. It will serve as a communication hub, science laboratory, and habitation module for astronauts. The station will also be used as the staging point for human missions to the Moon and hopefully in the future as a staging point for NASA's Deep Space Transport manned missions to Mars.

ZDF's introduction to the Artemis program includes an animated 3D simulation of an Orion transport module docking with the Lunar Gateway Station. It also shows the location of the Shakleton Crater at the Moon's South Pole, where a future Moon base station could be built.

Germany's Zeit newspaper has also created an amazing 3D space simulation to model and illustrate the destruction of the Iridium-33 satellite in 2009.

On Feb 10th 2009 a malfunctioning Soviet-era satellite smashed into Iridium-33 at ten times the speed of a flying bullet. The crash shattered both satellites and turned them into two clouds of debris containing more than 1,700 pieces of space junk. Even now, 13 years later, that debris is still orbiting the Earth, and makes up just a tiny part of the garbage that is now littering Earth's near space.

The 3D modelled simulation in the article Space Junk: Our Garbage is Space is used to help illustrate the growing problem of space debris and the danger that it creates to other space missions. The article also includes a 3D visualization of the millions of pieces of space debris now in low Earth orbit, in medium Earth orbit and further out in geo-stationary orbit around the Earth.

Saturday, May 06, 2023

The Rise & Fall of the Irish Railway

Irish Railway Stations 1834-2000 is a simple interactive map which plots all the Irish train stations which are / were open for every year from 1834 to 2000. By scrolling through all 166 years on the map you get a great overview of the rise and fall of the railway in Ireland.

The first railway line opened in Ireland was the Dublin and Kingstown Railway (D&KR), which ran between Westland Row in Dublin and Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire), a distance of 10 km (6 mi). It was opened on 17 December 1834. In 1839 a second railway line, the Ulster Railway, opened between Belfast Great Victoria Street and Lisburn. 

If you use the map's timeline to progress through the years from 1834 you can see how the railway spread across Ireland, largely emanating out from the initial lines built in Dublin and Belfast. For almost a century after 1834 the railway in Ireland continued to grow, reaching out to all parts of the island of Ireland. 

When you reach the late 1930's on the map you can begin to see railway stations disappearing off the map. The Great Depression and the rise of the motor car obviously had an effect of freight and passenger traffic resulting in the closure of a number of stations. In the 1950s and 1960s you can begin to see the closure of many branch lines on the map. This significant reduction in the rail network in Ireland means that even in the 21st Century the Irish rail network consists of only around 1,698 miles, or around half of the 3,480 miles of line that existed in the early 20th Century.

Also See

A Journey Through the History of Swiss Railways - mapping 175 years of Swiss rail
Zeitlinie Vienna - Vienna's tram network since 1865
Zeitlinie Graz - an animated map of Graz's tram network since 1878
Citylines - mapping transit systems around the world over time

Friday, May 05, 2023

The First Images from EUMETSAT MTG-I1

The first high quality image from Europe's newest weather satellite has been released. 

The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) operates a fleet of satellites with which it monitors weather, climate, and the environment from space. EUMETSAT's newest satellite, Meteosat Third Generation – Imager 1 (Meteosat-12) was launched in December 2022 and is designed to provide continuous, high-quality imagery and sounding data for weather forecasting, climate monitoring, and environmental protection.

Meteosat-12 is in stationary orbit with a permenant view over Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It captures new imagery every ten minutes. The first of these images can now be seen on the EUMETSAT website (including the 24 hour animation shown above). Another satellite is due to be launched in 2026, which will enable EUMETSAT to capture new imagery every 2.5 minutes.

EUMETSAT will continie to test Meteosat-12 and ground systems over the course of 2023. Later this year the images will be produced every 10 minutes and will be released operationally for use in weather forecasts. The images should then also appear in EUMETView, which provides public access to EUMETSAT satellite imagery. Using the EUMETView interactive map you can search for and browse European satellite imagery by date. It is also possible to create animations from the imagery for any selected time period.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Trees are Moving North

In the last few years, in response to global heating and climate change, a number of interactive maps have been created which attempt to show how temperatures in your home town will change over the course of the 21st Century. The traumatic climate changes that we are beginning to experience will have a huge impact on our local ecosystems, effecting the natural habitats of our native flora and fauna.

The Washington Post has decided to map out how global heating will affect the habitat ranges of trees in the United States. As the United States warms the ranges of tree species in the U.S. are beginning to drift northwards. In Trees are moving north from global warming the Post has created a series of maps which show the future growing ranges of American trees.

The Post's article starts with an animated map which shows how plant hardiness zones are likely to drift northwards over the course of this century. As these zones move north the habitats of individual tree species will also migrate northwards. The Post article includes an interactive map which allows you to enter the name of a species of tree to view how its growing habitat is likely to change over the course of the next 80 years. In most cases the southern edges of a species' hardiness zone will become inhabitable due to global heating and the species will become more suited to more northern latitudes.

Animal species are also at risk from global heating. Two-thirds of birds in North America are at risk of extinction from global heating. That is 389 different species of birds. Conservation group Audobon has mapped out the North American habitats of 604 different species of birds. They then applied the latest climate models to these habitats to project how these habitats will be affected by global heating.

Survival by Degrees: 389 Species on the Brink includes a number of different maps which allow you to find out which birds are at risk in each state and the predicted climate effects on each species of bird. The individual maps for each bird species show the current habitat range of the species. These maps allow you to view how the bird's range will be affected by different global heating scenarios. Under each of these scenarios the map shows where range will be lost and gained and provides an overall vulnerability status for the species.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Exploring Mars in 3D

Traveling along the bottom of the Mamers Vallis canyon on Mars

Imagine being able to drive through the Mamers Vallis canyon on Mars, traveling along the canyon floor while marveling at the canyon walls which were formed 3.8 billion years ago. Better still don't imagine it. Instead use AreoBrowser to actually explore Mars in 3D. 

The AreoBrowser allows you to explore over 2000 Martian locations in full 3D. The map uses data from the HiRISE camera (on-board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) and the HRSC (on-board ESA’s Mars Express) to create full 3D terrain model of locations visited by NASA's Mars rovers on the red planet.

To explore the 3D terrain models on AreoBrowser select the 3D Models option on the site's home page. You can then browse through and explore in 3D any of the current 2,204 locations featured on AreoBrowser. While in one of the 3D terrain models you can navigate by using your keyboard arrow keys to move the camera. You can rotate the camera by holding your mouse's right-hand button. Zoom in and out using your '+' or '-' keys or by using a mouse scroll wheel. 

You can find many other interactive maps of the red planet (including Caltech's recent Global CTX Mosaic of Mars) interactive by checking out the Mars tag on Maps Mania.

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

The Map of 52,000 Books

A Visual Book Recommender is an interactive map of 51,847 books organized by similarity. Using the map you can discover new books to read by searching for your favorite books and exploring other 'similar' nearby books.

Books are shown on the map using their cover sleeves. If you click on a book's cover on the map an information window will open containing a short introduction to the novel's plot. The map also comes with a handy search option which allows you to enter the title of a book and zoom to that book's location on the map. All the nearby books on the map are then likely to be fairly 'similar'.

It is also possible to search the map by genre. The map's creator has also made a handy genre map which allows you to select individual genres (e.g. Sci-Fi, Crime, Romance etc) to see where these types of books are clustered on the map.

The map was created from scraping book reviews. Books are clustered on the map based on reviewers liking the same books. For example if lots of reviewers liked book A and book B then those two books are very likely to appear near each other on the map. The actual clustering algorithm is a lot more complicated than that and is explained in a lot more detail in a 'technical details' section beneath the map. 

In 2019 The Pudding created a very similar interactive map from the covers of 5,000 books. However on The Pudding's map all the books were arranged by their visual similarity. 

All 5,000 books mapped on 11 Years of Top-Selling Book Covers, Arranged by Visual Similarity have appeared on the New York Times' 'Best Selling' or 'Also Selling' lists since June 2008. Color seems to play a very prominent role in determining 'visual similarity' in the machine algorithm used by The Pudding. If you zoom out so that you can see all 5,000 book covers you can see that a lot of the grouping and organization appears to be strongly influenced by the dominant color of each book. 

The Pudding's map comes with a number of filters which allow you to explore the book covers by genre and by visual motif. The visual motif filter allows you to highlight on the map images which contain 'faces', 'landscapes', 'smiles' etc. Therefore the motif filter provides another way to explore the book covers by visual similarity.
An Ocean of Books is an interactive map of over 100,000 authors and 145,162 books. On this map every island is an author and every city is a book. If you search the interactive map for your favorite writers you can find other writers that you may enjoy based on how near they appear on the map to your favorites.

The size of an author's island on An Ocean of Books is determined by the amount written about them on the internet. The more times they are mentioned on the world wide web then the bigger their island on the map. The position of the islands and the proximity of authors to each other is determined by the number of connections between them on the internet. If two authors are mentioned in lots of the same articles on the web then the closer they will be on An Ocean of Books.

The connections between authors and therefore their proximity on the map is determined by a machine learning algorithm. If you select an author's name on the map then you can read a short biography. If you zoom in on an author's island then all the writer's books will appear as cities on the map. Click on a book's title and you can read a short introduction to the selected book.

Monday, May 01, 2023

Where Students Travel to Study Abroad

The European Commission's Erasmus programme allows university students across Europe to study abroad as part of a continent-wide student exchange scheme. Under the programme students can study at a foreign university for up to one year of their undergraduate studies. Over the years more than 9 million European students have used the scheme to travel and study abroad.

The Erasmus Network interactive flow map visualizes where 3.3 million students have studied abroad as part of the Erasmus programme from 2008 to 2020. If you enter a city or town into the map you can view where students from the city have traveled to and from as part of Erasmus. For example if you enter Paris you can view a flow map showing where in Europe students from Paris have studied abroad and where exchange students studying in Paris have traveled from (London, Berlin and Madrid appear to be the most popular destinations for students from Paris). The map also includes a timeline option which allows you to filter the map by a specific period of time. 

Because of how the data is collected by Erasmus the map only shows travel between towns and cities rather than individual universities. This means, for example, that it is not possible to view a flow map for any of the individual universities in London. You can only explore where students studying in London as a whole have traveled to and from. 

The Erasmus Network map was created using FlowmapBlue. FlowmapBlue is a great tool for creating interactive flow-maps. To create a flow-map with FlowmapBlue you just need to save your data to a Google Spreadsheet. FlowmapBlue will then automatically create a flow-map from the data in your spreadsheet.

Many universities make a huge amount of money from enrolling and teaching students from overseas. In the USA a very large number of overseas students come from China. India sends the second largest number of students to study in America.

UNESCO's Global Flow of Tertiary-Level Students is an interactive map which visualizes the flow of students around the world. The map allows you to view the number of overseas students studying in every country around the world and where those students come from. It also allows you to see the most popular destinations for students from each country choosing to study abroad.

China exports by far the most students of any country in the world. The USA is the most popular destination for Chinese students studying abroad (309,837 students). Australia (128,498) is the next most popular country for overseas students from China, followed by the United Kingdom (89,318) and Japan (76,537).

According to the map nearly 73,000 Americans choose to study abroad. The most popular destination for Americans studying abroad is the United Kingdom (15,654), followed by Mexico (11,109), Canada (8,355) and Grenada (4,855). 

Without wishing to upset Grenadians I was a little surprised that Grenada was such a popular choice for Americans studying abroad. I therefore Googled "Why do Americans study in Grenada?". Although I couldn't find a direct answer to the question I did receive a lot of results about studying for a medical degree in Grenada. It is therefore possible that Grenada is a popular choice for students who wish to become doctors but who might struggle to be accepted at one of the U.S.'s hugely competitive medical schools.