Monday, January 2, 2012

Mapping out the new year

Here are four great map articles to start off your New Year:

  1. In Slate Magazine, Seth Stevenson's article is an homage to a gorgeous new wall map of the U.S.A.: The Greatest Paper Map of the United States You’ll Ever See.
    the big mapmaking corporations of the world employ type-positioning software, placing their map labels (names of cities, rivers, etc.) according to an algorithm. For example, preferred placement for city labels is generally to the upper right of the dot that indicates location. But if this spot is already occupied—by the label for a river, say, or by a state boundary line—the city label might be shifted over a few millimeters. Sometimes a town might get deleted entirely in favor of a highway shield or a time zone marker.


    But Imus—a 35-year veteran of cartography who’s designed every kind of map for every kind of client—did it all by himself. He used a computer (not a pencil and paper), but absolutely nothing was left to computer-assisted happenstance. Imus spent eons tweaking label positions. Slaving over font types, kerning, letter thicknesses. Scrutinizing levels of blackness.

  2. In Cartastrophe, Daniel Huffman offers his critique of Rick Aschmann's complex and sophisticated dialect map: North American English Dialects, Based on Pronunciation Patterns. Huffman's conclusion:
    The more complexity you can show, the richer the story and the more versatile the product. The map quickly begins to be more than the sum of its parts. Putting two thematic layers on a map gives you three data sets — one each for the layers, plus allowing you to visualize the relationship between the two layers. One plus one equals three. But all of this is worthless if it becomes so complex as to be unclear. A map with one clear data set is worth more than a map with fifteen data sets you can’t read.
  3. Over at BldgBlog, Geoff Manaugh offers an intriguing look at the complexities of collecting mapping data on ice floes: Ice Island Infrastructure.
    In other words, they want to turn icebergs into floating science research stations, mapping earthquakes at sea.


    While the authors compare this, briefly, to using buoys—and, thus, this method is not all that different from any other free-floating oceanographic instrumentation system—the transformation of icebergs into scientifically useful platforms is a compelling example of how a natural phenomenon can become infrastructure with even the smallest addition of equipment. The iceberg has literally been instrumentalized: a temporary archipelago, too short-lived to appear on maps, turned into a scientific instrument.

  4. Lastly, since so many of us nowadays think that mapping begins and ends with Google Maps on your smartphone: Galaxy Nexus Power Analysis: Why chargers can't keep up with navigation. (Plus, black screens draw less power than white... sometimes!).
    After personally experiencing having my phone end up LESS charged than I started out with on a 1 hour trip with navigation on while plugged in, I decided to run some tests.

    The first was to see how much power the Galaxy Nexus could draw from the USB connection. This turns out to be about 4.5W. (0.9A at 5V)


    Now the real test... Google Maps.

    This varied a LOT. Minimum was 4W with some steady peaks of 5.1W!

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