Tag Archives: fun

Etymologic cartography

I propose Etymologic cartography as a field of study: Somebody had the simple but appealing idea to simply translate the toponyms on a map to English. In this case the subject in question is the USA:

Map of the USA with state names in English

Some of the names are rather interesting (and were unknown to me), e.g. Asleep for Iowa, Flattened Water for Nebraska, Great Hills for Massachusetts, Lord of War for Delaware, Dugout Canoe for Missouri (see here for an ordinary USA map for comparison). Note also, that both peripheral Alaska and peripheral Maine consider(ed) themselves the Mainland and that Idaho was apparently named such as a practical joke (really!? – possibly!)!

Also, the map nicely answers a question a friend of mine recently wondered about (and which I couldn’t answer): Kansas apparently means Wind, while Arkansas means People of the Wind!

The principle of etymologic cartography is of course easily transferred to other geographic areas. Though, coming to think of it, given its history the USA has probably a substantial (more than average?) density of toponyms that don’t stem from the local language but rather from Spanish or Aboriginal American languages (think, for example, Utah). I wonder what other countries or regions would especially lend themselves to such an experiment?

(via gisn8)

James Bond(s), quantified

The Economist compares the average of Martinis, romantic involvements and kills per Bond movie per actor:

How the Bonds stack up against each other (Source: The Economist)

The various Bonds fare quite differently in the three departments. I wonder if the increased Martini intake of Daniel Craig’s Bond is a consequence of the more somber style of the recent films with a Bond full of self-doubt or indicative of the Craig-era fincancial woes of the MGM empire (think product placement)?

Swiss population density versus that of cities

The Swiss population has grown more or less steadily over the last decades:

With a current growth of about 1%, the Federal Statistics Office has forecast that Switzerland should have welcomed the 8 millionth inhabitant at some point this summer (jeez, I remember learning at school that Switzerland has 6.5 mio. inhabitants – you can check above where that puts me on the graph).

Now, Switzerland as a country is relatively heterogeneous, topographically speaking, with the Alps in the south. So it would be hard to spread out built-up areas evenly:

Yet, as an experiment I have taken data about some well-known, diverse, international cities and have computed the area that would be needed to house the entire Swiss population of 8 millions (give or take) at the cities’ population densities. Lo and behold, how compact, in fact, Switzerland could be (if we only wanted hard enough;  or click here for a pdf in A3 format or here for a bigger graphic:

Switzerland as a City State?“: How big an area would be needed to house the population of Switzerland, at population densities of various cities around the world (click to view high-resolution image)

Eric Fischer: Mapmaker, artist and programmer

The Atlantic Cities has a nice portrait of Eric Fischer: Mapmaker, artist, or programmer?. If you have been following information visualization and geovisualization news online over the recent years, I bet you have come across Fischer’s work. A few examples:

See something or say something: In this piece Fischer has overlaid georeferenced tweets (blue) and georeferenced Flickr pictures (orange). White areas have been posted to both Twitter and Flickr.

Locals and tourists: In this piece Fischer has coloured georeferenced Flickr images depending on if they were taken by tourists (red) or locals (blue). Pictures whose author’s origin was ambiguous are coloured yellow.

Race and ethnicity: Map of racial and ethnic divisions in Chicago, based on US Census 2010 data. Each dot represents 25 residents, red dots represent white people, blue dots represent black people, green represents Asian, orange Hispanic and yellow other origing.

“Ultimately, almost everything I have been making tries to take the dim, distant glimpse of the real world that we can see through data and magnify some aspect of it in an attempt to understand something about the structure of cities.”

“When the maps succeed, I think it is when they can confirm something that the viewer already knows about their neighborhood or their city, and then broaden that knowledge a little by showing how some other places that the viewer doesn’t know so well are similar or different.”
– Eric Fischer

What I like most about Fischer’s projects is that they are often crowdsourced (from Flickr or Twitter), data-heavy and employ often, not always, quite simple analysis or visualization approaches, but to great effect. In the end it’s all about the ideas behind the visualizations and Fischer doesn’t seem to be short on those.

Eric Fischer, formerly programmer at Google, is currently artist-in-residence at a San Francisco museum, where he will hopefully continue to produce interesting maps and visualizations. It’s probably indeed safe to respond to the Atlantic Cities article’s title that Fischer is all: mapmaker and artist and programmer.

Miscellaneous news of 2012-06-07

Today in miscellaneous news:

Open government data Zurich briefing: Today I’ve been at a preliminary open government data briefing by eZurich, an initiative to promote the IT industry in the city of Zurich, Switzerland. Zurich will be the first Swiss city (actually the first Swiss administrative body at all) to adopt an open government data strategy and launch a data dissemination portal. The meeting today brought together officials, journalists, developers, ideators and evangelists to discuss opportunities and challenges of open government data. The main challenge and most widely discussed topic was responsibility/indemnity of developers using (potentially faulty) official data in one of their apps. While including a disclaimer in one’s app may already go a long way, I’m sure we haven’t heard for the last time about this particular concern.

Open government data conference: On 28th of June, the city of Zurich will publicly launch its government data dissemination portal during the Opendata.ch 2012 Conference [german] (see this blog post by me on my company’s website [german] for more background information on the Swiss open data movement). I’m honoured that I’ve been invited to give a presentation in the Health & Environment track at the conference. The topic is my study about the hazard imposed on Switzerland’s population by nuclear power stations in Switzerland and abroad.

Google detailed the “next dimension of Google Maps”: Today, Google’s much-hyped press conference took place. According to some pundits, the mountain gave birth to a mouse. What was announced boiled down to:

  • Cacheable Google Maps (something that has been around by 3rd party providers and to some degree also by Google itself (at least on my Samsung Galaxy SII I can download GMaps tiles for offline-use, not sure if that is some kind of “Lab feature”).
  • 3D imagery ‘maps': They look very nice, but Google is not alone/first in that field either.
  • New (portable) gear for acquiring Streetview imagery.

Peter Batty at geothought has some more very interesting – errh – thoughts and insights into El Goog’s announcements. His take-away message: Google announced that it is scared of Apple Maps (press conference next week).

NY Times Borderline blog on Leopold Kohr’s idea of ideal size of countries: The Borderline blog continues to produce great reading material. This week Frank Jacobs writes about Leopold Kohr who develop ideas about the ideal sizes of countries with such gems as:

“There seems to be only one cause behind all forms of social misery: bigness.” Size was the root of all evil: “Whenever something is wrong, it is too big.”

“The absolute maximum to which a society can expand without having its basic functions degrade, is about 12 to 15 million people.”

A must-read. And look at these maps of proposed countries:

Proposed sub-division of the USA (NY Times)

Proposed sub-division of Europe (NY Times)

Material to get you started with R stats package: FlowingData have posted a nice list of resources to learn R.

Recommended reading – books about places: Thierry at Georeferenced posted his list of 10 favourite books (and one magazine) that convey a sense of place. This made me wishlist some books.

An – alas – presumably unsuccessful try at Earth Standard Time: by xkcd. Nuff said, go see for yourself.

Tornado map: IDV Solutions have produced an (alas static) tornado map of the USA. It’s visually quite appealing, however, unfortunately there are some drawbacks, the most obvious ones being: it uses Mercator projection (distorting northern regions severely) and only touchdown and liftoff coordinates (giving straight lines for the tornado paths, losing much detail in the process). While this is already an appealing visualization, steps towards an improved next version are clear.

IDV Solutions tornado map

Some love for strange toponyms: Apparently, the Scottish town of Dull (population 84) and the U.S. town of Boring (population > 10.000) have become sister communities. BoingBoing formulates it thusly: “They have joined forces to promote their inherent interestingness.” The Guardian has more coverage with this gem:

Residents of both places wait with bated breath as officials in Boring, which is six hours behind the UK, voted on whether they could be officially linked. Any fears were quickly assuaged though as the Boring Community Planning Organisation in Oregon voted to make the two communities “a pair for the ages”.

Hooray for Dull & Boring!

And finally, my quote of the week (via Swissmiss):

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.”
– Duke Ellington

Enclaves, Swiss-made

I’ve highlighted the NY Times’ Opinionator blog before. Back then, Franc Jacobs wrote a piece about the delimitation of the rather fuzzy geographic entity called “Europe”.

Today, there’s a new blog post about Enclave Hunting in Switzerland. After the mandatory clichées (the relevance of the “National Yodeling Festival” can probably be gleaned from the fact that it takes place only “once every three years”… – as opposed to, say, the Montreux Jazz Festival), the piece gets more interesting when it explores the many national (intercantonal) and in fact two international enclaves of Switzerland. The curious topology of the two Appenzells and Sankt Gallen are dealt with as well as the enclaves of e.g. Fribourg and Geneva.

The two international enclaves of Switzerland: Büsingen and Campione (NY Times)

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