Monday, April 23, 2018

Where on Earth?


How well do you know the world? Could you guess the name of a major city purely from its Wikipedia entry and show where it is on a map of the world?

Play this game and you will find out.

WikiWhere is a fun geographical game which is designed to test how well you know the world's major cities and where they are located in the world. The game asks you to pinpoint the location of five major cities on an interactive 3d globe. However before you guess the location of each city you need to guess each one purely from its Wikipedia entry. You will get points for each answer based on how close you get to the city's real location and how many hints you use.

The game uses the CesiumJS interactive 3d globe library for the background map. The three hints for each city come from their entries on Wikipedia.

Urbano Monte’s Planisphere


In November 2017 the David Rumsey Map Collection at Stanford University obtained one of only two manuscript copies of Urbano Monte's Planisphere. This huge map is one of the earliest large complete maps of the world.

The original manuscript map is in the form of a 60 sheet atlas. Urbano Monte intended for the sheets to be joined together to create one very large 10 foot map. The David Rumsey Map Collection has achieved that goal by digitizing all 60 sheets and creating a digital interactive map of Urbano Monte's Planisphere.

Monte himself suggested that a central pivot be added to the center of the map so that users could rotate the map while exploring the atlas. The digital interactive version of the map does include a rotation button, which mean you can spin the map around its central pivot, as Urbano Monte intended.

Urbano Monte's Planisphere uses a north polar azimuthal projection. This projection places the North Pole at the center of the map. Modern users, more accustomed to Google Maps, are used to north being at the top of the map and might struggle with this projection. Luckily for them Visionscarto has used the map tiles from the David Rumsey interactive map to create a tool for viewing Urbano Monte's Planisphere using different map projections.

Urbano Monte World Map Reprojections. includes 21 different map projections. It even includes everyone's favorite Mercator projection, which means you can make direct comparisons with Google Maps if you so wish.

Damming the Balkans


The Balkans are home to Europe's last great wild rivers. But not for much longer. 3,000 dam projects are about to devastate the natural habitats and surrounding landscapes of Europe's last untamed waterways.

Save the Blue Heart of Europe is a campaign to raise awareness of the ecological damage being done to Balkan rivers and their environments and to petition international banks to stop funding the destruction of Europe's last wild rivers. This campaign includes an interactive map showcasing some of the damage being done by hydropower dams. The interactive map shows the location of the 1,003 dams in the region, the 188 currently being built and the 2,798 proposed new dams.

If you scroll down while viewing the map you will be taken on a tour of the region and its rivers. For example the map zooms-in on the Vjosa river, in Albania, where 38 hydropower dams have been proposed. The map also highlights some of the other natural environments in the region which are now in danger from the construction of new dams.


Around the world more and more rivers are being dammed. Decades of dam building has lead to the global impoverishment in the health of the world's river basins, poor water quality and low biodiversity.

International Rivers has released an interactive map which illustrates the effect of dams on the health of rivers around the world. The State of the World’s Rivers maps nearly 6,000 dams in the world's 50 major river basins, and ranks their ecological health according to indicators of river fragmentation, water quality and biodiversity.

Using the map you can explore how individual river basins rank in terms of fragmentation, biodiversity, and water quality. You can also explore ten of the world's most significant river basins in more depth. Each of these ten detailed explorations examines the threats from dam building on the health of the affected river and the immediate environment.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Where's Napoleon?


That Napoleon can be a tricky little blighter to track down. One day he might be marching on Moscow, while the next he's attacking the British at Waterloo. If you want to know where Napoleon is on any particular then you need Hit the Road with Napoleon.

Hit the Road with Napoleon is a handy little tool for anybody who struggles with working out where Napoleon was on any day in history. To use the tool simply enter in a date and Napoleon's location on that day will be shown on a Google Map.

Of course on some days Napoleon moved around a bit. For example, on 18th June 1815 Napoleon seemed to spend a lot of time running around in the fields outside the town of Waterloo in what is now Belgium. If you look up that day on Hit the Road with Napoleon then the general's movements for the whole day are shown as a track on the interactive map.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Ottawa's Bike Maps


Bike Ottawa has been promoting cycling in the Capital Region since 1984. It advocates for cycling as a safe, fun, and environmentally friendly form of transportation in the city.

As part of its advocacy for cycling Bike Ottawa has released a number of interactive maps. The maps were created by the organization's Data Group and look at the safety of cycling in Ottawa, bike routing and cycling times. Bike Ottawa's Interactive Bike Maps initially consists of four different interactive maps:
  • The Ottawa Cycling Stress Map
  • Ottawa Cycling Directions
  • Ottawa Cycling Isochrones
  • Ottawa Collisions
The Ottawa Cycling Stress Map colors the city's roads based on the level of traffic stress. The map grades each section of road based on how safe cyclists feel cycling there. The Ottawa Cycling Directions uses the data from the Cycling Stress Map to provide you with cycling directions based on your personal levels of comfort when cycling.

The Ottawa Cycling Isochrones map shows you how far you can cycle in the city, from any location, in a given amount of time. The Ottawa Collisions map plots where pedestrians and cyclists have been injured by cars in the city. The map can help you identify and avoid collision hot-spots in the city.

Mapping Every Air Raid on Yemen


In March 2015 a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen. Since then there has been more than more than 16,000 air raids on the country. At least one third of these have been targeted at civilian residential areas. During the air raids on Yemen at least 1,600 schools have been partially or totally destroyed and several UNESCO heritage sites have also been destroyed.

Al Jazeera has mapped all 16,000 of Saudi Arabia's air raids on Yemen. The interactive map in Death From Above shows all air raids carried out by the Saudi led coalition since March 2015. The map includes a timeline control which allows you to see where and when air raids have been targeted in Yemen by month. As you progress through the timeline a running total keeps track of the total number of air raids launched. The bar chart below the map shows the total number of air raids directed at individual cities over the course of the timeline.

The data for the map comes from numerous sources, including official records, local and international news agencies, reports by international human rights groups and reports from national and international NGOs.

Britain from Above


I've spent most of the morning scouring vintage aerial views of the East End of London looking for my house. It isn't easy. Back in the day the East End used to be full of these huge buildings that the locals called factories. The factories have now all gone. So the East End of today looks hugely different from the air than it did 80 years ago.

The aerial photographs that I've been looking at were all taken by Aerofilms Ltd. Aerofilms Ltd was a commercial aerial photography company founded in 1919. The company was established to take photographs of Britain from airplanes for surveying and mapping purposes. One of its clients was the Ordnance Survey, the UK's national mapping agency.

In June 2007 the millions of aerial photographs taken by Aerofilms were sold to English Heritage in partnership with The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Since 2007 this partnership has been busy mapping the locations in all those historical aerial views of Britain.

The result is Britain from Above. Using Britain from Above's interactive map you can search and view Aerofilms' vintage aerial views of Britain by location. Search the map by postcode or name and you can view all the historical photos of a location captured by Aerofilms in the Twentieth Century. You can even buy prints of any of the views that your like.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Solving the Traveling Salesman Problem


Shiny Salesman is a tool for solving the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP). The TSP asks: "What is the shortest possible route taking in a number of specified locations and returning to the starting location?"

The Shiny Salesman tool allows you to choose a number of different locations to include in the TSP. You can then solve the problem using your own simulated annealing parameters. You can even watch as the map runs through the number of iterations that you select. Shiny Salesman also create a graph showing the evolution of the current tour distance so you can see how many iterations it took to find the optimal route.

If you want to see the TSP applied to a real-world problem then you might like Randy Olson's Optimal Road Trip of U.S. National Parks.

The Map of British Rock


In the 1960's the UK invented rock music. To fully appreciate this genre of music you really need a thorough knowledge of British geography. British rock is firmly rooted in the psychogeography of UK towns and cities. To understand the music you have to know the towns and cities mentioned in the lyrics of the Great British rock bands. So let's take a tour of the UK and visit some of the places immortalized by the giants of British rock - such as The Proclaimers.

We begin our musical journey with a 500 mile hike from the lowlands of Scotland. The seminal Scottish rock band The Proclaimers famously sang that they would walk 500 miles. So we start our tour in Leith and from there we will walk 500 miles.

Luckily for us Cartonerd has mapped out a 500 mile radius around Leith so we know how far to walk. In I Would Map 500 Miles Carrtonerd has placed a circle showing where you could get to if you walked 500 miles from Leith. He has also placed another circle 500 miles further out just in case you want to walk 500 more.


About 75 miles out of Leith we arrive at the border of England. This part of England is known as 'The North'. The North is pretty grim and this grimness has had an obvious effect on the rock bands that emanate from this region.

The dourness of the north was famously celebrated by the KLF in their song 'It's Grim Up North'. In the song they recognize the unattractive, forbidding nature of 69 northern towns and cities. CityMetric has thankfully mapped out all 69 locations for us in Literally just a map of every town in the lyrics to ‘It’s Grim Up North’ by the KLF.


One of the northern cities not mentioned in It's Grim Up North is Liverpool, which is of course the home of The Beatles. Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever is an Esri Story Map exploring the important locations which feature in the music of The Beatles. In particular it examines the geography of the 'most important single ever', the double 'A' side record Penny Lane - Strawberry Fields.

As you scroll through this Story Map you will discover the importance of a sense of place to the music of The Beatles and how the band influenced other 60's artists to write about locations important to their lives.The Story Map explores a number of geographical locations mentioned by The Beatles in their music. In particular the map zooms in on two locations in Liverpool, Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, and discusses the significance of these two locations to the childhoods of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.


No British music of note has ever been written south of Liverpool. Therefore we really don't need to walk 500 miles and will end our tour of British Rock in the dour north.  Let's now head off to tour north America instead.


Johnny Cash Has Been EVERYWHERE (Man)! - a map of every location mentioned in Johnny Cash's version of the Geoff Mack song 'I've Been Everywhere'
Looking for a Place to Happen - a tour around Canada and the locations mentioned in the songs of the Tragically Hip
Canadian Geographic: On the Coast - a map featuring Canadian locations that are mentioned in song lyrics


If you want a real map of British Rock then the best I can offer you is The Big British Music Map. This word map of famous UK bands and musical artists shows the most famous artists associated with the various regions and towns of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If you select an artist on the map you can listen to their most iconic song. You can also view information about the artist's net worth and charting history.

The association of artists to specific locations on the map can be a little tenuous. The map says that the artists are "attached to specific locations". This attachment seems to be a combination of artists having either been born at a location or having lived there. For example Fatboy Slim is shown on the map in Brighton. He wasn't born in Brighton but does now live there. Sting on the other hand is located on the map in Newcastle. Sting doesn't live there now but he was born near by.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

San Francisco is on Shaky Ground


The New York Times carried a worrying story yesterday about San Francisco's gamble with building skyscrapers on land prone to earthquakes. The city loves to gamble so much that they are even building the tallest skyscrapers in the areas of the city where the ground is most at risk of liquefaction.

As you would expect the Times' story is illustrated with its customary impressive mapped visualizations. I particularly like the image transition near the beginning of the Times' San Francisco's Big Seismic Gamble. In 1906 an airship took a spectacular aerial photo of the city showing the damage caused by the recent earthquake and fire. As you scroll down the page the 1906 image of San Francisco seamlessly transitions into a modern illustration of the city from the exact same position. The modern illustration shows all the skyscrapers now built on top of the areas of the city devastated by the 1906 earthquake.

Another effective visualization in the story is a map of all the buildings in the city more than 240 tall overlaid on top of a choropleth layer showing the areas of the city at risk from liquefaction. A final map shows the areas of San Francisco which are expected to experience strong shaking during a big earthquake.