Friday, February 23, 2024

Four Seasons in One Map

a timelapse photograph of the San Francisco peaks over the course of a year

Chronolog is an interactive map of timelapse photographs designed to help monitor the environment. It is a citizen science project which encourages organizations and individuals to engage with nature while recording and monitoring the changing environment.

The Chronolog map allows you to explore timelapse photos of nature which have been captured around the USA (and one or two in other countries). These timelapses can be explored by location via the map or by category (wetlands, national park, forests, rivers etc) via the timelapse tags.

When an organization signs up to Chronlog they receive a camera bracket which can be used to ensure that all the timelapse photographs taken of a location are aligned with each other. Registered users also receive a sign which can be posted up next to the camera bracket. This sign explains the bracket's purpose and provides instructions on how to use it to contribute to the timelapse images from that location.

a timelapse of satellite images showing mining in Alberta, Canada

Changes to the environment over time can also be captured from space. This animated timelapse image shows the environmental impact of mining in Alberta, Canada from 1984 to 2022. The animation was created using Google Earth Timelapse.

Google's Timelapse site includes many other examples of timelapse images showing how the Earth has changed over time. It also gives you access to a global interactive map featuring historical satellite imagery from the past 37 years. It is therefore possible to use Google Earth Timelapse to create your own animated timelapse image for any location in the world.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Cyclotron

The West Midlands Cyclotron uses cycle counters installed on the roads in the West Midlands to provide a near real-time data visualization of the number of cyclists using individual roads in areas of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton (and many roads in between).

the LED inspired Cyclotron data dashboard

The most striking aspect of the Cyclotron is the design of the LED themed data dashboard. This dashboard takes its cue from the real-world digital cycle counters on the Bristol Road in Edgbaston. The actual data visualized on both the physical and Cyclotron displays comes from machine learning vision sensors placed on a number of roads by West Midlands and Birmingham City Councils. The Cyclotron uses this data to show the number of cyclists using each road by month, by day of the week and by hour of the day.

The Cyclotron map showing the location of cycle counters in the West Midlands

The Cyclotron also has an interactive mapped display. This map shows the location of the cycle counters around the West Midlands and also visualizes the number of cyclists counted by each counter over the last month. Clicking on a counter's marker on the map will enable you to view that road's near real-time (and historical) data on the Cyclotron LED data dashboard.

Via: the Quantum of Sollazzo newsletter

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The World's First OpenStreetMap

a zommed detail of Fra Mauro's 1450 World Map

The only thing I love more than exploring historical vintage maps of the world is exploring annotated, interactive versions of ancient world maps. Now thanks to the Museo Galileo I can browse an annotated version of the world's greatest medieval map - the Fra Mauro World Map.

The Annotated Fra Mauro World Map is an interactive zoomable version of the famous 1450 Venetian map of the world. The map includes interactive annotations which allow you view translations of the map's nearly 3,000 cartouches, over 1,000 named cities, and the place-names of thousands of rivers, mountains, seas and islands.

If you enjoy exploring annotated vintage maps then you will probably also love Historia Cartarum Annotated Claudius Map. Historia Cartarum's annotated version of Matthew Paris' 13th Century map of Britain includes interactive annotations of every place-name and transcription on the Claudius Map. The result is a fantastic tool for studying one of the earliest geographical representations of Britain.

A detail from Matthew Paris's Map of Britain

Fra Mauro's world map was created around 1450 by the Italian monk and cartographer Fra Mauro. His map is a circular planisphere with south orientated to the top of the map. Fra Mauro's map is one of the first European world maps to break from the tradition of Bible based cartography. In other words Fra Mauro's map favors geographical accuracy rather than religious beliefs and mythological stories.

Fra Mauro lived in the Republic of Venice. Venice had for centuries been an important center of trade between Europe and the Middle East and Africa. Before becoming a monk Fra Mauro had himself traveled as a merchant and a soldier. As a cartographer he was therefore able to draw from his own experience and from the many Arab traders and other world travelers passing through Venice. Instead of relying purely on traditional religious maps Fra Mauro could actually get first hand accounts from sailors, merchants and other travelers.

One area where Fra Mauro's break from the religious tradition of map making is apparent is in having south at the top. Placing south at the top was common in Arab maps of the time. In contrast, most European world maps had east at the top, mainly because east was the direction of the biblical Garden of Eden. Many European maps of the time also placed Jerusalem in the exact center of the map (and therefore the world). Fra Mauro's map also breaks with this tradition.

One result of Fra Mauro's more scientific approach to map making is that his map is the first European map to show Japan as an island and to show that it was possible to sail all the way around Africa.

Matthew Paris' Map of Britain is one of the first ever geographical maps of the British Isles. It was made by a 13th Century monk called (you guessed it) Matthew Paris. Paris' map was one of the first medieval maps to move away from a schematic plan (e.g. a strip map or route map) to instead attempt an accurate geographical representation (compare the Paris Map of Britain with Mathew Paris' own route itinerary maps outlining the journey from London to Palestine).

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Chain Restaurants of America

map showing the locations of McDonald's outlets in the USA
Map of McDonald's outlets in the USA

The Georgia Institute of Technology's Friendly Cities Lab has released a new interactive map which reveals which chain restaurants dominate which areas of the United States. The U.S. Chain and Independent Restaurants map shows the locations of over 700,000 restaurants across the country, organized by restaurant chain and by frequency. 

The map reveals that independent restaurants are more prevalent in areas "associated with dense pedestrian-friendly environments, highly educated populations, wealthy populations, racially diverse neighborhoods, and tourist areas." For example many East and West Coast cities have a high percentage of independent restaurants. 

According to the Institute's analysis of the map a number of different factors are associated with high rates of chain restaurants. In Restaurant Chainess the Lab states that " car-dependency, low walkability, high percentage voters for Donald Trump (2016), concentrations of college-age students, and nearness to highways were associated with high rates of chainness".

Using the map's drop-down menu you can filter the restaurants shown on the map by chain. For example the screenshot at the top of this post shows the distribution of McDonald's outlets across the US. According to Friendly Cities Lab McCities (cities with a high percentage of chain restaurants) "are prevalent in the Midwestern and the Southeastern United States."

map showing the share of commuters who commute by car in the U.S.

You may have noticed that the Lab suggests that a high percentage of chain restaurants is associated with a 'high percentage of voters for Donald Trump".  Last year The Washington Post's Department of Data also reported on this curious correlation between the number of chain restaurants in a state and the number of Trump voters. According to the Post the states with the highest percentage of Trump voters also have the most franchise foods.

The Department of Data obviously knows that correlation isn't causation and that a tendency to vote for delusional wannabe dictators is not a direct result of poor nutritional choices. They therefore went looking for correlations between chain restaurants and other data. 

In the article Places in America with the most chain restaurants the Washington Post has published a number of interactive maps. One of the most interesting of these is a map showing the percentage of workers who commute by motor vehicle in each U.S. county. This map shows that there is a strong correlation between the number of chain restaurants in a state and the number of people who commute by motor vehicle. 

The Post therefore concludes that Trump won more counties with a high number of chain restaurants because he 'won more of the places with the most car commuters' -  although ''We still aren’t sure why Trump won areas with more car commuters". 

Monday, February 19, 2024

AI Your Home on Street View

A Google Street View panorama altered by AI

Have you ever wanted to radically alter the ambiance of your neighborhood? Perhaps you've always dreamed of turning your sleepy suburban road into a bustling inner-city street. Or maybe you've always wanted to dig up your nearby traffic heavy roads and replace them with green fields and trees. Well now you can - at least virtually.

Panoramai is a new fun tool which allows you to grab Google Maps Street View panoramas from any location in the world and change their appearance based on your own AI prompts. For example the animated GIF above shows my childhood home re-imagined as a Vincent van Gogh painting, as a sc-fi landscape, a post-zombie apocalypse and under 3 feet of water.

The Street View of a London Street altered by AI to look more Dutch

You can also change the appearance of your home on Street View using the Netherlands Board of Tourism's Dutch Cycling Lifestyle map.

It is a matter of great sadness to the Dutch people that people in the rest of the world are not able to live in cycle-friendly environments. Therefore the Netherlands Board of Tourism decided to help the great car-worshiping unwashed picture the beauty of a car free environment. Enter your address into the Dutch Cycling Lifestyle and you can see how your street might look without that noisy road and those dirty cars.

Like Panoramia Dutch Cycling Lifestyle uses an AI to alter the Google Maps Street View image of your street - only in this case to make it a little more Dutch. The result is an imagined view of your road, looking a little greener and probably a lot more attractive.

A Street View panorama decorated with virtual works of art

Wait! There is even more fun to be had with Google Maps Street View. Thanks to Street Galleries, you can also create your own virtual outdoors art gallery with Street View. 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 around in the Street View, allowing you to hang the picture on a building, on the road or even just leave it hanging in mid-air.

Hat-tip: Webcurios

Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Right-Wing Terrorism Map

The RTV Map Tool is an interactive map showing incidents of right-wing terrorism and violence in Western Europe since 1990. It documents and shows the locations of 1,214 violent right-wing attacks in Europe. This includes acts of violence which led to 32 fatalities.

The map was created by the Center for Research on Extremism, at Oslo University, which studies right-wing extremism, hate crime and political violence.  The Center's RTV Trend Report 2023 (PDF) reveals that in 2022 (the year the 2023 report covers) there were less right-wing terrorism attacks in Western Europe than in any year since 2015. The report also states that in 2022 most "attacks targeted ethnic and religious minorities ... (however) 2022 also saw a small uptick in attacks against state institutions, particularly in Germany".

The RTV Map Tool allows you to explore the Center for Research on Extremism's data by location. The map includes a number of filter tools which also allow you to explore the data by date, number of people killed, number of people injured, weapon type, perpetrator type, and target groups.

In the United States you can explore the proliferation of 1,225 hate and anti-government extremist groups on the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hate Map. The map is updated annually and is based on research conducted by the SPLC into hate crimes and other forms of intolerance in the United States.

The Hate Map allows users to filter groups by ideology, such as white nationalist, neo-Nazi, anti-LGBTQ, or anti-immigrant. It also provides information about individual hate groups operating in the United States, including data on each group's location, activities, and leaders.

Friday, February 16, 2024

The Best Price Comparison Maps

 The Aldi Price Map

The Aldi Price Map shows the store price ticket of a range of products in US outlets of the popular budget supermarket (apparently the price data from European Aldi stores is not so readily accessible). 

The German supermarket chain Aldi is known for its low prices. The company now has over 2,000 stores in the United States, and in a recent poll was ranked the most popular grocery store in the country. Using the Aldi Price Map's drop-down menu you can select from a range of popular grocery products to view the current price of the product in Aldi stores across the United States. "Store pricing may change without notice and may differ from the information provided on this site".

The Big Mac Index

The Economist's Big Mac Index compares the purchasing power parity (PPP) between the currencies of different countries by examining the price of a Big Mac hamburger sold at McDonalds' restaurants in each country. The Index "is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the notion that in the long run exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a burger) in any two countries". 

It can also be used to find out the price of a Big Mac in countries around the world. 

The McCheapest Map by Pantry & Larder tracks and maps the cost of a Big Mac at every McDonalds in the United States. On this map every McDonalds' outlet is represented by a dot which is colored to show the cost of a Big Mac (green=cheaper and red=more expensive). The map can therefore be used to explore the purchasing power parity of the dollar in different areas of the United States. It can also show you where you can buy the cheapest Big Mac.
Pantry and Larder have also created a number of other popular price comparison maps. For example in the UK their How Cheap's Your Local 'Spoons map allows you to compare the prices of a huge number of alcoholic drinks in Wetherspoon pubs through the United Kingdom.

Another popular price comparison map from Pantry and Larder is Eggspensive, which compares the cost of a dozen eggs at every US Walmart.

Gas

Maps showing the price of a gallon of gas at local gas stations were once very popular. Now they are much harder to find. Sites such as GasBuddy and AAA do provide aggregated price maps which show the average price of a gallon of gas at the county or state level.

GasBuddy also allows you to search for the price of a gallon of gas at individual gas stations in different cities across the United States. It just takes a little work to select a state and your city. You then have the option to view the results of gas prices on a map by selecting the 'show map' option.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Alien Arrivals Nosedive in 2023!

Map of UFO Sightings in the US

Where have all the interstellar tourists gone? That's the question gripping the world after a bombshell report revealed a staggering 19% drop in alien visitation in 2023! Is this a sign of a permanent shift in galactic travel? Or can the Earth win back alien vacationers?

According to the National UFO Reporting Center sightings of little green tourists were down 19% in 2023 compared to 2022. Could it be that humanity's warmongering and environmental pillaging have finally driven the aliens away in disgust? Or maybe this sudden drop in alien tourism is a prelude to something far more sinister. Are the aliens simply regrouping, preparing for a full-scale invasion?

Side by side comparison of UFO sightings with a US population density map
US UFO Sightings map compared to a population density map from Visual Capitalist

Perhaps it is time someone took a deep-dive into the data to discover the real reasons for the alarming drop in alien probing in 2023. One common comment on the National UFO Reporting Center's map of UFO Sightings is that it closely resembles a population map of the United States. The implication of this criticism is that the National UFO Reporting Center map is much better at showing where people live in the US than it is at showing where aliens are actually visiting.

Thankfully Axios has gone to the trouble of normalizing the National UFO Reporting Center's data for 2000-2023 to create a Reported UFO sightings per 100k residents map at the county level. Now we can see where in the United States more UFO sightings are being made per person than in other areas of the country.

The Axios map reveals that the further west you travel in the United States then the more likely you are to be visited by aliens. Axios claims that their map 'roughly correlates to dark sky locations'. Unfortunately the Axios map also leaves us in the dark as to why alien sightings fell so dramatically last year compared to 2022.

(Someone at Axios also forgot to add the locations of all the airbases in the United States to the UFO sightings map. Not that I'm in any way suggesting that anyone is likely to mistake an aircraft for a flying saucer in the middle of the night).

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Sad State of Local News 2023

Northwestern University's The State of Local News Outlook is an interactive map which visualizes the number of surviving local newspapers in every county in the United States. On this local news map individual counties are clored to show whether the county has 0, 1 or 2 or more news outlets. The data shown on the map can also be filtered to show the number of local number of newspapers, the number of digital sites, ethnic outlets or public broadcasters.

The map is based on Northwestern University's latest annual census and report on the local news ecosystem, The State of Local News 2023. The report and the resulting map reveal that in 2023 there are now 204 counties in the US which have no newspapers, local digital sites, public radio newsrooms or ethnic publications. Another 228 counties are on the “Watch List”. These are counties that the report suggests are in danger of losing their one remaining local news source. The report also warns that "On the current trajectory, by the end of next year, the country will have lost a third of its newspapers since 2005".

According to the report geography appears to play a large role in determining where local news is thriving and where it is dying. In 'affluent cities and suburban areas' alternative news sources are emerging to fill some of the gaps left by closing local newspapers. Whereas those living in poorer, rural communities are more and more living in local news deserts. 

Wikipedia's List of Defunct Newspapers of the United States includes the names of over 1,000 newspapers which are no longer in print. Many of these papers collapsed decades ago. However a large proportion of these newspapers are victims of the accelerating loss of print newspapers over the last 20 years. The list only contains the most "notable names" of the thousands of newspapers that have closed in the US.

If you are interested in discovering which local newspapers are still active in your area then you can refer to the Newspaper Map. The map provides links to the websites of thousands of local newspapers around the world (although I'm not sure how well maintained the map is as some of the links appear to be broken). 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

OpenStreetMap Edits in Real Time

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a free, editable map of the whole world, built and maintained by a community of volunteers. It is often described as the Wikipedia of maps, to which anyone can contribute and update information. Very importantly all of the map data contributed to OpenStreetMap is open data, which anyone and everyone is free to use.

In a way maps have always been produced through collaboration. The cartographers of early Mappae Mundi created their world maps from geographical knowledge gained from the Bible, early explorers and the writings of even earlier cartographers such as Ptolemy. Early Portolan charts might also be said to be crowd-sourced, relying on the accumulated experience and shared knowledge of routes, landmarks, and hazards, acquired by generations of Mediterranean sailors.

What makes OpenStreetMap truly unique is both the global scale and immediacy of its underlying map data. It is a map which is constantly being updated in real-time all around the world by millions of volunteers with knowledge of their local areas. If you want to get an idea of the scale of OpenStreetMap's crowd-sourced reach then you can view these map edits happening in real-time on these two interactive maps:

Screenshot of Musical OSM showing real time edits of OpenStreetMap on a world map

Musical OSM allows you to not only view edits being made to OpenStreetMap but also allows you to listen to them being made in real-time. Whenever a new Open Street Map edit is committed then Musical OSM plays a relaxing chime sound and the location where the edit is being made is circled on the map. 

I don't think that the notes played by the map are affected by the actual geography of the edit, which is a bit of a shame. It would be fairly easy to equate specific notes to specific latitudes and different octaves to specific longitudes (or vice versa). This would obviously require a lot more recorded chime sounds but it would result in a real auralization of the edited map data. 

Screen recording showing real time edits of OpenStreetMap on a satellite map
OSMlab's Show Me The Way is another real-time visualization of OpenStreetMap's contributors in action. Using satellite imagery 'Show Me The Way' provides a captivating visualization of the ever improving OSM project, as it actually happens.

The OpenStreetMap Wiki lists two other real-time maps of OSM edits. But neither OpenStreetMap Live Edits or OSM in Realtime appear to be working at the time of writing.