Posts Tagged ‘Geography’

Food Photos: Around The World In 80 Diets

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

npr_around_world_diets

[Editor’s note: A new coffee table photo book from Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio. “Menzel’s photographs are accompanied by D’Aluisio’s text, which delineates each diet but also gives cultural context.” Above, a camel broker in Egypt. Thanks Aly!]

Republished from NPR.

How many calories do you consume in a day? Is it more or less than the recommended 2,000? How does it compare to the butter-rich 4,900 of a Tibetan monk — or the scant 800 of a Maasai herder in Kenya? These are the questions asked by photographer Peter Menzel and his wife, Faith D’Aluisio, in their new book, What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets.

“I want people to understand their own diets better — and their own chemistry and their own biology,” Menzell tells NPR’s Michele Norris. “And make better decisions for themselves.” To do that, he and D’Aluisio decided to lay it all out. Literally.

Continue reading at NPR . . .

The Variety of American Grids (Greater Greater Washington)

Friday, June 4th, 2010

[Editor’s note: Geeky urban geography with map diagrams! See related post discussing cultural background for US grids and the example block sizes in the Washington DC metro.]

Republished from Greater Greater Washington.
By Daniel Nairn   •   May 31, 2010 9:54 am

I wanted a nerdy planning-related poster for my wall (other than the periodic table of city planning), so I made one this week. I scoured Google Earth and measured that quintessentially American grid in about a hundred downtowns around the country.

Of course, there are variations in block proportions within downtowns, but I tried to pick cities that had more uniformity than average to come up with a single prototype. (Washington, DC has very little uniformity.)


Click for the poster-quality version (large PDF).

Exploring these grid proportions messed with my preconceptions. I assumed the more western and newer cities would have larger grids than the more eastern and older cities, but no obvious pattern is discernible to me. Mobile, AL, settled by French colonists in the early 18th century, Tulsa, OK, a 19th century farming town, and Anchorage, AK, a 20th century frontier town, all share the same 300′ x 300′ internal block (street widths vary a little). What compelled the early settlers of these towns to choose, say, 220′ over 440′ lengths? I can’t say I have any idea right now.

Manhattan is also a curious story. According to Witold Rybczynski, the expanding nation unequivocally chose the 1811 Commissioner’s Grid of New York City over L’Enfant’s baroque-influenced plan for Washington, DC as the model for new towns. While this is surely true, it begs the question: why are New York’s long and skinny blocks not found anywhere else in the country? You would think at least one group of western settlers would seek to emulate their home town of New York more exactly.

I’m leaving aside the interesting value questions around block size. Ever since Jacobs, conventional wisdom has held that smaller blocks are preferable for walkability, but urban designer Fannis Grammenos challenges the grid somewhat in a Planetizen post.

read-write mapping: NACIS Conference Keynote by Michal Migurski of Stamen Design

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

[Editor's note: I'm just getting back from the annual NACIS conference and decompressing from backpacking, family and friends in the Golden State. Our great keynote speaker this year was Michal Migurski of Stamen Design who talked up the OpenStreetMap project. Mike has also been kind enough to help out with the Natural Earth Data site which will go live in another couple weeks once Tom and I have polished the data. Without further ado, the keynote...]

Republished from tecznotes.

[clip] I used the opportunity to talk about the fascinating OpenStreetMap project, specifically the ways in which it’s useful to a cartography audience and how that audience could benefit the project. This last thing in particular is what I closed with: I think the online face of OSM’s rendered tiles could use serious input from the NACIS community, particularly at the kinds of medium scales where the highly-detailed data blurs into “features”. Much of this happens by-hand in tools like Adobe Illustrator from what I can tell, a very different workflow from the industrial automation offered by my favorite stand-by, Mapnik.

This is a talk about a new awareness of maps and geography, and a change in attitudes toward maps.

I’m going start with a small detour here to tell you about an online phenomenon that’s going on four or so years now, called Unboxing. Unboxing is a kind of geek striptease, described in one site’s tagline as a “vicarious thrill from opening new gear”.

Unboxing is a response to the meticulous packaging of modern electronics gear, most notably Apple’s range of iPods, iPhones, and Mac computers – careful design is invested in the packaging, and careful appreciation is invested in its removal.

Why unboxing? Two aspects of the trend seem relevant here.

First, it’s a new kind of visibility into the fan club culture around popular electronics, allowing users to elevate their own appreciation of a mass-market good into a social experience. I remember bicycling past the Apple Store and the Cingular store on San Francisco’s Market St. on the day the iPhone was released. There were enormous lines in front of each, and as customers picked up their new iPhones they’d walk out the door, break into a jog, and high-five the remainder of the line. The division between fan and star here evaporates.

Second, the delivery mechanism for this fan-produced culture tends to be online sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube. Both are examples of the phenomenon of the “Read Write Web”, the now-familiar pattern of web-based communities formed around the creation and sharing of social objects like photos and videos.

One effect of these online communities is a new and durable awareness of the process behind creative production. Pages on Flickr or YouTube follow a pattern you’re probably familiar with: title in the upper-left, main “thing” just below that, and to the right at the same level of importance, the person who made it for you. Responsibility and provenance along with all the messiness and point-of-view are built-in assumptions.

In the world of text, we see this same pattern on Wikipedia.

This is the History Flow project from Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viegas at IBM, which shows edits to a single Wikipedia article over time as threads and contributions from a group of editors.

Like this one, each article has been beaten into shape over time by a group of people following loose rules of cooperation, so each page has an associated “Talk” page where you can peek into the arguments and negotiations connected to the particular set of facts represented there. You can see the sausage being made. You can also cause the sausage to be made, as we saw with Stephen Colbert’s parody of consensual reality he called “wikiality” and used to make occasional, abusive, hilarious forays into Wikipedia.

This is where we segue into geography.

Around 2004 or so, UK developer Steve Coast started a project called OpenStreetMap, the Wiki world map. Steve was connecting a few emerging threads: the falling cost of GPS hardware since it was made available for civilian use in 1996, the dismal copyright layer wrapped around Ordnance Survey maps, and the lack of a viable crappy-but-free alternative in the UK. It’s hard to overstate how crazy this idea was at the time; everyone knows that collecting worldwide geographic data at the street level is a massive undertaking, out of reach of an enthusiast community like the OSM of the time.

What was the state of online mapping at the time? Not terrible, but not great.

Continue reading at tecznotes  . . .

Humboldt’s Gift (Economist)

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

greenview[Editor’s note: My alma mater and home county in California (others) are named after the famous German naturalist, apt for a school with strong Geography program.]

Republished from the Economist.

Alexander von Humboldt pioneered the science now used to study climate change

AMID this year’s flurry of scientific jubilees, one seems to have passed largely unnoticed. On May 6th admirers celebrated the 150th anniversary of the death of Alexander von Humboldt, a Prussian naturalist and geographer. He may no longer be as famous as some of his contemporaries, yet Humboldt’s work sheds a clear light on the great challenges the world faces today from climate change.

Humboldt cut a remarkable figure. He traveled widely, making scientific notes of his many geographical, zoological and botanical discoveries, and formulating theories to explain the relationships he observed. Humboldt noticed, for example, that volcanoes form in chains and speculated that these might coincide with subterranean fissures, more than a century before plate tectonics became widely accepted. Broadly educated, cosmopolitan and a polyglot, he championed the study of how living things were related to their physical surroundings. Charles Darwin described him as “the greatest traveling scientist who ever lived” and later added, “I have always admired him; now I worship him.”

Continue reading at the Economist . . .

Geography Map T-Shirts for Xmas (Kelso)

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Yes, Xmas is upon us. Here are some nifty tshirt designs worthy to gift from Threadless and Busted Tees.

We are Just Pixels After All – Robots populate the continents

We Are The People Of The World – Timezones and their cities

Follow It – Subway style map of the heart and it’s ventricles, atriums, aortic and pulmonic connections.

Also, Busted-Tees has whole Geography section but they lean more verbal silly.

Here’s a sample: California: Earthquakes, Not My Fault.

Map Reveals the Secrets Behind Place Names (Der Spiegel)

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

[Editor’s note: Got topophilia? If you, too, are in love with placenames and their deeper meanings, this pair of maps from Kalimedia is for you. Thanks Lynda!]

Republished from Der Spiegel. By Charles Hawley on Nov. 20, 2008.

If you’ve got a date in New York, she’ll be waiting in New Wild Boar City, according to a new etymological map of the world.

It is difficult to find anyone these days who is not familiar with Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastical world of orcs, hobbits and dwarves. A whole generation of film-goers is familiar with such place names like “Dead Marshes” and “Mount Doom.”

But this peculiar nomenclature isn’t unique to Middle Earth. In fact, such names are everywhere. In France, for example, youl’ll find the City of Boatmen. The Caucasus plays host to the Land of the Fire Keepers. And who hasn’t dreamed of vacationing in the Land of Calves? But to get to these places, you’ll need a new map, which should be hitting bookstores in the Great Land of the Tattooed — Great Britain — by the end of the month.

PHOTO GALLERY: AN ETYMOLOGIST’S VIEW OF THE WORLD


Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (6 Photos)

Called the “Atlas of True Names,” the new map traces the etymological roots of European and global place names and then translates them into English. The “City of Boatmen” is also known as Paris. Should you travel to the Land of the Fire Keepers, you’d find yourself in Azerbaijan. And Italy comes from the Latin word vitulus, which means “calf.”

“We wanted to let the Earth tells its own story,” Stephan Hormes, who produced the maps together with his wife Silke Peust, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “The names give you an insight into what the people saw when they first looked at a place, almost with the eyes of children. Through the maps, we wanted to show what they saw.”

Where Rough Grass Grows

Hormes and Peust, both cartographers, call their mini-company Kalimedia, and got their start last summer with German language versions of three maps — one of Germany, one of Europe and one of the world. Their product sold well, encouraging them to put out the two fold-out English maps now available. The first shipment is currently on the way to a distributor in the UK. A Spanish version and a French version are in the works.

Peust and Hormes did much of their etymological research by plowing through stodgy reference works and endless Web sites related to the origins of place names. “It is very interesting to read what people have found out,” Hormes says, “but you have to keep flipping the pages. I am a cartographer and it’s my job to put as much information as possible in a single image.”

The result looks exactly like what one has come to expect from a map — except that it’s not always easy to know what one is looking at. That dot on the East Coast of the US looks like it should be New York, but it’s labelled “New Wild Boar Village.” (York, in England, derives from the Old English eofor for wild boar and the Latin vicus, for village.) Up the coast into Canada, one finds “Remote Corner Where Rough Grass Grows” in place of Halifax. To keep map readers from thorough confusion, there is an index on the back with all place names, both current and etymological.

Hormes admits that the inspiration for the maps really does come from a childhood obsession with “The Lord of the Rings.” “The names (in Middle Earth) are so clear that every kid understands them,” he says, but once he and his wife began their research, “it became a trip through peoples and language.”

But Tolkien fans won’t be disappointed with the new maps. The Mediterranean, for example, is hard to miss in the “Atlas of True Names.” It’s called the Sea of the Middle Earth.

RELATED SPIEGEL ONLINE LINKS
Photo Gallery: An Etymologist’s View of the World

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
Kalimedia — Atlas of True Names

The World, Justified (Strange Maps)

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

[Editor’s note: Fun take on what the world would look like if all the land masses were jammed together and justified like text in a paragraph: left, center, and right. Thanks Noel!]

Republished from Strange Maps.

Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain are a pair of young Brazilian artists, working in their home country and in France. Some of their work explores fonts and maps. Typography meets cartography in this little work, entitled ‘The World, Justified’.

It shows the world we live in as only one of four possibilities, the others being a left-aligned, centred and right-aligned world. Our world is a justified one, i.e. aligned with both left and right margins.

One could make all sorts of geophilosophical comments about these alternate possibilities. Or about the fact that the world we live in is neither left, right nor centre, but ‘justified’. Could it really be that, as Voltaire’s Candide asserted, tout va pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles (’Everything is for the best in the best of possible worlds’)?

Many thanks to Eric Angelini for sending in this map, found in its original context at the aforementioned artists’ website, detanicolain.com (click on the red line).

USPS Eames Stamps (Door 16)

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

[Editor’s note: My local post office seems to be out of these awesome stamps celebrating Charles and Ray Eames. I also include here the video they produced called “Powers of 10“. This is a must see film explaining the concept of scale in visual terms, starting with a couple picnicking on the Chicago lakeshore, zooming out progressively to the starts (10 to the positive exponent), and then in to the subatomic level (10 to the negative exponent).]

Republished from Door Sixteen. ( 1 | 2 )

These stamps were designed by the remarkable Derry Noyes, who design many of the stamps for the US Post Office. The first inklings of this possibility were 10 or 12 years ago when we (I am wearing my Eames Office hat here) first answered a request for research images.

There is a wonderful familial connection there, as Derry is the daughter of Eli Noyes, who was an extremely close friend of Charles and Ray’s and the director of design at IBM.

Slowly over this time period it blossomed to a full on set of 16 stamps to celebrate the richness of Charles and Ray’s work. We see the Eames House, La Chaise, the Lounge Chair, Crosspatch, House of Cards, the film Tops and more.

Just think: How many Toys are on stamps? How many short films? This is just a great thing.

Lump Together and Like It (Economist)

Friday, November 14th, 2008

[Editor's note: Returning from traveling in China, cities, growth, and urban geography are on my mind. Enjoy this article from the Economist about a rapidly urbanizing world populous, and how that is not necessarily a bad thing for poverty and wealth.]

Reprinted from The Economist print edition. Nov 6th 2008.

The problems—and benefits—of urbanisation on a vast scale

IN JANUARY this year a vast number of would-be travellers were stranded at railway stations and on roads in China, after an unusually heavy snowfall blanketed the south of the country just before the country’s new-year festivities. What amazed the world (in addition to the unusual sight of a prime minister apologising for his government’s slowness) was the unprecedented scale of the disruption: an estimated 200m people were on the move.

Governments in many poor countries react with a shudder to this sort of news item—and indeed to any news that seems to expose the fragility of newly urbanised economies. Most of those frustrated Chinese travellers were migrant workers going from cities to their families in the countryside or vice versa. Movement on such a scale seems inevitable, given the sort of urbanisation China and others have experienced: over the past 30 years, the world’s urban population has risen from 1.6 billion to 3.3 billion, and over the next 30 years cities in the developing world are set to grow by an extra 2 billion. But many governments have become doubtful of their ability to cope with urbanisation on such an enormous scale; some have concluded that they ought to slow the process down in order to minimise social upheaval. This view owes as much to anti-urban bias as it does to sober analysis.

In 2005, more than half the poor countries surveyed by the UN Population Division said they wanted to reduce internal migration to rein in urban growth. The food crisis of the past 18 months has sharpened worries about how to feed the teeming slums. This week the UN’s secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, warned the biennial World Urban Forum meeting in Nanjing that 2 billion could be living in slums in the year 2030 and that “urban areas consume most of the world’s energy and are generating the bulk of our waste.”

Such fears of urban over-concentration are reflected in the policies of many different countries. Saudi Arabia is spending billions on new super-cities to ease the growth of Jeddah and Riyadh. Egypt is building 20 new cities to divert people away from Cairo. It plans 45 more. And attempts by poor countries to alter the course of urbanisation have a long pedigree in the rich world. In the 1950s and 1960s, Britain and France built lots of new towns to counter-balance their capitals’ dominance.

Yet new research published by the World Bank in its annual flagship World Development Report* suggests that pessimism over the future of huge cities is wildly overdone. The bank argues that third-world cities grow so big and so fast precisely because they generate vast economic advantages, and that these gains may be increasing. Slowing urbanisation down, or pushing it towards places not linked with world markets, is costly and futile, the bank says. At a time of contagion and bail-outs, the research also reaffirms the unfashionable view that the basic facts of geography—where people live and work, how they get around—matter as much as financial and fiscal policies. (The award of this year’s Nobel prize for economics to Paul Krugman of Princeton University for his work on the location of economic activity was another reflection of that view.)

The bank’s research yields lots of new insights. It argues, for example, that the share of humanity that lives in cities is slightly lower than most people think. The bank drew up a fresh index to get around the knotty problem of defining “urban”; this new measure puts the world’s city-dwelling population at about 47% in 2000. In fact—as Indermit Gill, who oversaw the report, acknowledges—it is impossible to pinpoint the proportion: the urban slice of humanity may be anywhere between 45% and 55%, depending on how you count. The report’s main point is that, whatever their exact dimensions, the Gotham Cities of the poor world should not be written off as a disaster simply on grounds that they are too big, too chaotic, too polluted and too unequal.

(more…)

Online maps ‘wiping out history’ (BBC)

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

[Editor’s note: Perhaps a bit alarmist but does point to the changing role of maps from conveyances of static sets of edited knowledge into a digital tabla rasa that displays the “where” of an individual user’s search results. Cultural landmarks that used to be included on maps for spatial orientation and perhaps a bit of boosterism are being left off the initial view. Users now have to know a feature exists before it is shown to them or ask for a certain overlay layer. But perhaps this is a reflection, too, on a society where the mainstream has been turned into 1000 separate channels? Or a jaded appreciation of information overload instead leaves us with a dirth of map information. Perhaps cartographic editors are good, after all. Thanks Curt!]

Reprinted from the BBC.

Internet mapping is wiping the rich geography and history of Britain off the map, the president of the British Cartographic Society has said.

Mary Spence said internet maps such as Google and Multimap were good for driving but left out crucial data people need to understand a landscape.

Mrs Spence was speaking at the Institute of British Geographers conference in London.

Google said traditional landmarks were still mapped but must be searched for.

Ms Spence said landmarks such as churches, ancient woodlands and stately homes were in danger of being forgotten because many internet maps fail to include them.

Ordnance Survey map of central London. BBC licence number 100019855, 2008.

Traditional maps feature landmarks such as museums and art galleries

She said: “Corporate cartographers are demolishing thousands of years of history – not to mention Britain’s remarkable geography – at a stroke by not including them on maps which millions of us now use every day.

“We’re in real danger of losing what makes maps so unique, giving us a feel for a place even if we’ve never been there.”

Projects such as Open Street Map, through which thousands of Britons have contributed their local knowledge to map pubs, landmarks and even post boxes online, are the first step in the fight back against “corporate blankwash”, she added.

Missing landmarks

By way of example, Ms Spence said that if someone walked around the South Kensington area of London, they would encounter landmarks such as the Science Museum, Royal Albert Hall and the Natural History Museum, which could not be found on Google Maps.

Elsewhere, Worcester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey are not on their respective Google Maps.

Mary Spence and Adrian Miles discuss internet mapping

“But it’s not just Google – it’s Nokia, Microsoft, maps on satellite navigation tools. It’s diluting the quality of the graphic image that we call a map.”

Ms Spence believes that the consequence will be long-term damage to future generations of map readers, because this skill is not being taught in schools and people are simply handling “geographical data”.

But Ed Parsons, geospatial technologist at Google, said the way in which people used maps was changing.

He said: “Internet maps can now be personalised, allowing people to include landmarks and information that is of interest to them.

“Anyone can create their own maps or use experiences to collaborate with others in charting their local knowledge.

“These traditional landmarks are still on the map but people need to search for them. Interactive maps will display precisely the information people want, when they want it.

“You couldn’t possibly have everything already pinpointed.”