Category: Maps

Mercator projection

FROM THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY TO GOOGLE MAPS.

Gerardus Mercator’s world map dates from 1569. The scale is equal in all directions around any point, which keeps the angles and shapes of small objects intact. It worked really well for nautical navigation (which at that time was extremely important) because routes without changes of direction are straight, and consequently this projection became the standard. All map projections obviously distort the globe as they translate it to a flat surface, and the Mercator projection has a serious level of distortion the farther it moves from the equator. Greenland and Antarctica are quite substantial, to put it mildly. Europe is larger than it should be, which suited everyone back then.

Nevertheless, the projection has been a staple component of atlases until relatively recently. This site shows the Mercator-effect scale differences. Try it: goo.gl/7ks7hy

By contrast, the Gall-Peters projection accurately shows the relative size of land areas, but there’s considerable distortion, especially along the equator and at the poles. Also, like the Mercator, distances are not consistent. Consequently, many cartographers are not convinced that this is the way to go either. Nevertheless, UNESCO and UNICEF support this projection as a way of showing a fairer representation of the relative size of the developing countries.

I’ve always liked the Robinson projection. It doesn’t tick all the boxes, but at least the land areas look something like they do on a globe.

Many online applications (like Google Maps and OpenStreetMap) use a variant of the Mercator projection called Web Mercator. Why? Because with it’s parallel longitude and latitude lines, it scales really well from large-scale maps to local views, and north is always vertical. Distortion on a local scale is minimal. (I’ve been to the location below a lot in the last few years.)

Here’s a WordPress map of views of this blog. No readers in super-sized Greenland. So far.

Mercator, Gall-Peters and Robinson images by Strebe.

Equator

DIVIDING PLANET EARTH IN TWO.

This post is the result of a conversation with Majo Carrasco, who is going to be a T.A. in my data visualization class next semester. She’s from Quito, Ecuador (which means Equator).

The Mitad Del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument, near Quito, sits on the dividing line between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Well, almost. The real position is about 250 yards (229 meters) away at the Intiñan Solar Museum. GPS has provided a more accurate location than the one that was fixed by a French expedition in 1736. The Prime Meridian in Greenwich is also not in the right spot. It’s really 111 yards (102 meters) away from it’s marked location. Below, at the more accurate site. Photograph by C.T.Johansson.


Some differences between the hemispheres:


I thought that the rotation principal also applies to water draining from a sink, but there seems to be considerable disagreement on this assertion: goo.gl/yRzjRr

Night sky The Southern Cross cannot be seen from most of the Northern Hemisphere, and Polaris, the North Star, cannot be seen from almost all of the Southern Hemisphere. But from the Equator, both are visible.
Below, the Milky Way from the Southern Hemisphere (La Silla Observatory in Chile).


Photograph by ESO/H.Dahle.

North

WAYFINDING DISPLAYS.

Magnetic north It’s on the move (and so, of course, is magnetic south). Below, a gyrocompass shows navigators the direction of true north.


Photograph © Eugene Sergeev/123rf

Compass roses Every printed map has one of these.

They’re also often seen set into sidewalks.


Photograph © Antonio Balaguer Soler/123rf

A Swedish atlas from the 1960s puts people and animals at their compass positions.


Directional t-shirt
 Redbubble has some attractive compass t-shirts. Dress like a cartographer: goo.gl/VmMkGb


GPS
What did we do before we had it? The basis of the Global Positioning System is 24 satellites at an altitude of 12,000 miles (19,300 km), and often supplemented by the Russian GLONASS system for increased accuracy.


Diagram by Paulsava.


In-flight 
entertainment Airlines feed us all kinds of geographical information. This is from an Iberia Airbus A340, flying the JFK to Madrid route.

Subways (2)

USING THE SUBWAY MAP METAPHOR.

Map of the stars By Simon Patterson. Famous, or important, people are the stops. The lines are the categories, from engineers to comedians, and where they intersect, interesting associations occur. The title is a reference to astronomy. Patterson’s description: “…the tube stops can be seen as stars in a constellation, where you imagine the lines that connect the dots.” Detail below.

Web trends By Information Architects. https://ia.net

Detail.

Movie map The lines are genres. By David Honnorat.

Detail.

Submarine fiber-optic network Explained by the Oxford Internet Institute.

US highways Cameron Booth gives the U.S. road system the Harry Beck treatment.

Detail.

US rivers A waterway diagram by Theo Rindos.

Roman Roads Traveling around the Roman Empire, by Sasha Trubetskoy.

Looking for animals Find your favorite creatures in various subway maps.

https://www.animalsontheunderground.com

Subways (1)

MAPPING METRO SYSTEMS.


New York City Subway Map, 1972 by Massimo Vignelli.

This week’s posts follow on from a recent one about Harry Beck’s seminal Underground map: goo.gl/Fpn3Qk

New York design classics The Graphics Standards Manual (1970) designed by Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda set the design parameters for modern New York subway signage. A reprinted version, originally funded by a Kickstarter campaign, is available here: https://standardsmanual.com/pages/shop (along with a few other gems).

Two years later, the schematic map (shown at the top of this post) was introduced, and there was a lot of criticism. For London’s map, Harry Beck had chosen diagrammatic clarity over geographical accuracy, but a similar approach by Vignelli did not go down well with some of the inhabitants of NYC. After substantial changes (not overseen by its creator), the design was dropped in 1979. However, in 2012, the Metropolitan Transit Authority asked Vignelli to design a similar version for its Weekender app.

NYC today More geographically-correct, less of a design system. I don’t love it, but I understand why it’s the way it is.

Tokyo

The Tokyo trains can get very crowded. However, there are people who’s job is to push everyone in. Click on the image below to see the video.

Paris

Moscow

Circular Max Roberts has redesigned several subway maps using a circular arrangement. Here are New York, London and Paris.

See more maps by Max Roberts here: http://www.tubemapcentral.com

Map or diagram? This animation of the Berlin subway first appeared on Reddit, and inspired others to make geographical comparisons with the diagrams of various cities. Some examples below.


By vinnivinnivinni.


By playhouse_animation.


By ninja.


By hlake.


By sweedfishoreo.

Subway world A subway-style map of cities with urban transit systems.

Invisible Netherlands

VISUALIZING THE UNSEEN.

This is a guest post by Frédérik Ruys, a data journalist who has worked on three seasons of a popular Dutch public television series.

“Invisible Netherlands” (2017) is the sequel to two seasons of “Netherlands From Above”. Those series had over a million viewers.

The aim of “Invisible Netherlands” was to recreate forgotten stories, or secret events, that shaped the country and its people. One such moment was a spectacular blowout (in 1965), during the early era of the search for natural gas. Using various animation techniques, and based on authentic data, the sequence brought that moment back to life, and put it into historical perspective.

The main challenge was the storytelling. To visually merge all the different datasets into one consistent story that could captivate a broad T.V. audience, and without simplifying the facts. As usual, I started by sketching, and searching for reliable data. Below, samples of borehole location and earthquake data.

The drilling site then, and now.

Despite all physical evidence having been erased (the entire installation disappeared deep into the ground), we were able to reconstruct a 3D model of the site with the help of an engineer from that period. This was created in Cinema 4D.

Meanwhile, we processed extensive datasets of all the boreholes ever drilled, all exploited gas fields, and all earthquakes that followed the exploitation. The main challenges: the sensitive nature of the subject, and the necessary collaboration with seismologists, the energy company and the Dutch government.
I worked with director Geert Rozinga to decide the voice-over and camera angles required. Then we briefed the British animation team, 422 South (http://422south.com), who spectacularly animated and rendered the entire sequence.

The 422 South animation. Click on the image to see the video.

Finally the animation was combined with the report that had been filmed on-site, and here’s the final result: https://vimeo.com/203995902.

But as always, there was a glitch. Shortly before broadcast, the editor pointed out that one earthquake in the North Sea changed position as the camera moved. You can see it moving in from the right-hand side here.

This effect was caused by the earthquake’s depth: 17.5 miles (28 km) below the surface. As this could be confusing for viewers, the earthquake (which occurred on September 7, 1986), was removed. And will be invisible for ever.

Underground

MAPPING THE “TUBE.”

Harry Beck really started something. His elegant map of the London Underground (which is more of a diagram than a map) set the style of the modern subway guide. It’s designed to help people use the network. To show them clearly how to get from A to B, and make the correct connections. Beck aimed to strike a balance between a clear system diagram and the geography. This involved making some compromises with the distances between stations and their relative positions, and enlarging the center area where so many lines intersect. The first map printed in a large quantity (1933) is shown above. It was produced first as a folding, pocket-size map (shown here), and soon followed by a poster-size version. The design allowed for future expansion of the network.

The 1932 map (below) that preceded Beck’s was by F. H. Stingemore who designed the map from 1925 to 1932. The central area in the Stingemore map was slightly exaggerated and the outer stations were listed at the edges of the map. Beck’s redesign was a radical departure.

A rough drawing from 1931 shows Beck’s initial plan for his more diagrammatic map. He was an engineering draughtsman, not a graphic designer, so he looked at the project like an electrical circuit diagram.

A presentation version (1931) was rejected at first, but the following year was the basis for a test run of 500 copies. At this point, Beck was still using circles for most of the stations. He switched to tick marks in the 1933 version.

The current map is a lot more complicated with fare zones and additional subway lines.

The distortion from actual relationships to the diagrammatic map is shown in this animation. By Pham_Trinli.

In 2015, Transport for London released a more geographically-correct map that could be a real help for walkers, bikers etc. It was forced into the public area by a Freedom of Information request. Click on the image for a pdf version.

Earlier this month, Transport for London published a map for people who don’t like to be inside a tunnel, showing where the trains are actually underground. Despite the name of the system, 55% of it is above ground. Click on the image for a pdf version.

Mountains

FROM THE HIMALAYAS TO FLORIDA.

Classic comparison By George Woolworth Colton, 1849. Click on the image for a larger version. (From the David Rumsey Map Collection, where a very high resolution image can be downloaded: goo.gl/pTMC4O)

Seven summits The tallest peak in each continent, by Audree Lapierre of FFunction.

Mountain charts The peaks and valleys leading up to, and immediately following, the 2008 financial collapse, by Michael Najjar. Real data plots converted into mountainous landscapes. Below, Lehman Brothers share price, 1992–2008.

Mountain charts The peaks and valleys leading up to the 2008 financial collapse, by Michael Najjar. Real data plots made into mountainous landscapes. Above, Lehman Brothers share price, 1992–2008.

Dow Jones Industrial Average, 1980–2009.

Nasdaq Composite, 1980–2009.

Skiing Alpine ski maps are not an exact depiction of a particular area. The view is altered, so although it looks similar to reality, the individual ski trails are clear.

James Niehues has made maps of many U.S. ski resorts. They’re all hand-crafted with paintbrush and airbrush.
http://www.jamesniehues.com
Below is an example of his work. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (California), shown without labels.

And with skiing information added.

Florida I stayed at a hotel in Orlando, and from the window of my room on the 20th floor, I could clearly see a snow-capped peak rising above the subtropical greenery. It was Everest Expedition at Disney World. It’s only 199 feet high, but Florida is very flat. The real Mt. Everest reaches 29,029 ft (8,848 meters). Apart from the height, another big difference is that the Everest in the Himalayas does not have a roller coaster ride inside it. The Disney World website states: “Careen through the Himalayan mountains on a speeding train while avoiding the clutches of the mythic Abominable Snowman.”

Above, Expedition Everest. (Photograph by Benjamin D.Esham.)
Below, the real Mount Everest. (Photograph by Pavel Novak.)

The high points compared.

 

The 42nd Street globe

ANOTHER NEW YORK CITY GIANT.

In the lobby of the Daily News Building, a 1930 art deco classic on New York’s 42nd Street, is a magnificent globe that’s 12 feet (3.7 meters) in diameter and rotates under a black glass ceiling. The building and lobby are sometimes cited as the inspiration for the Daily Planet newspaper in the Superman comic series. This idea was supported by the fact that the building (and the globe) featured in the 1978 Superman movie (below).

However, the source for the Daily Planet headquarters was the Old Toronto Star Building (below). Superman co-creator Joe Shuster once worked for the Toronto Daily Star as a newspaper boy, and in the early Superman comics the newspaper where Clark Kent worked was called The Daily Star.

Back to New York City: The Daily News Building’s lobby has meteorological instruments, and clocks with the time in various international cities. The globe is the center of a vast imaginary diagram. There are statements positioned around it with the distances to planets and stars expressed as the distances to landmarks, if the Sun was shrunk to the same size of the globe. So then the Earth would be at Grand Central Station, just down the street (and quite small), and Alpha Centuari would be 68,000 miles away. I love a solar model, as this previous post pointed out:
http://www.johngrimwade.com/blog/2016/12/12/solar-modeling/

The South Pole is reflected in a mirror.

This relative-size graphic of big globes appeared in a post about another (and much bigger) NYC globe, the Unisphere: http://www.johngrimwade.com/blog/2016/08/25/the-biggest-globes/ 

Photographs by Michael Stoll.

Moving borders

CLIMATE CHANGE ALTERS THE EDGE OF ITALY.

The border between Italy and it’s neighbors in the Alps is not fixed. It depends upon the position of glaciers, and they’re shrinking. Our dependence on fixed printed maps, like those in atlases, is challenged by this data visualization. Using ultra-precise GPS sensors, the border can be seen moving in real time.

The “Italian Limes” project was originally designed for an installation at the 2014 Architecture Biennale in Venice, by Studio Folder. The focus is the Grafferner Glacier that borders Austria.

Installing new solar-powered sensors in April 2016 at the base of Mt. Similaun, which is 3,300 meters (10,800 feet) above sea level.

At the installation, changes in the boundary are projected onto a 3D model.

An automated pantograph, controlled by an Arduino board and programmed with Processing, translates the coordinates received from the sensors on the glacier into a real-time representation of the shifts in the border. It produces a real-time map that visitors can take away.

http://www.italianlimes.net

Italian Limes is an ongoing project by Folder (Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual), Delfino Sisto Legnani, Pietro Leoni, Alessandro Mason, Angelo Semeraro, Livia Shamir. All photos are by Delfino Sisto Legnani.