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kottke.org posts about maps

A Blinking Map of the World’s Lighthouses

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2021

a small section of a world lighthouse map showing the location of lighthouses in the Mediterranean Sea

Courtesy of Geodienst, this is a map of the world’s lighthouses. Where the data is available (and you can see it’s quite sparse for some areas of the world), the map shows the location, color, range, and flashing frequency/pattern of each lighthouse. The color and flashing pattern of a lighthouse is called the characteristic. Each lighthouse has a different characteristic so that mariners can tell them apart and to indicate different water areas. (via strange maps)

The Growth of London, 47 ACE to the Present

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2021

Ollie Bye has created an animated time lapse of the growth of London from a small Roman town in 47 ACE to the largest city in the world (during the Victorian era) to the massive, sprawling city it is today.

See also Here Grows New York City, a Time Lapse of NYC’s Street Grid from 1609 to the Present, an example of what the creator called “an abstract representation of urbanism”. And a list of the largest cities throughout history — perhaps surprisingly, there have only been two lead changes since the 1820s. (via open culture)

Map of the Names of Donald Duck’s Nephews in Different Countries

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2021

Donald Duck Nephews Map

In the US and other English-speaking countries, the names of Donald Duck’s three nephews are Huey, Dewey, and Louie. As this map shows, they have different names in other countries — like Tick/Trick/Track in Germany, Billi/Villi/Dilli in Russia, and Ripp/Rapp/Rupp in Iceland.

You should check out the rest of the maps on the Mapologies blog as well, including maps of what the Milky Way is called in different countries and what people say when toasting.

BirdCast: Real-Time Bird Migration Forecasts

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2021

Birdcast

Colorado State University and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have developed a system called BirdCast that uses machine learning & two decades of historical bird movement data to develop daily bird migration forecasts for the United States.

Bird migration forecasts show predicted nocturnal migration 3 hours after local sunset and are updated every 6 hours. These forecasts come from models trained on the last 23 years of bird movements in the atmosphere as detected by the US NEXRAD weather surveillance radar network. In these models we use the Global Forecasting System (GFS) to predict suitable conditions for migration occurring three hours after local sunset.

The map above is the migration forecast for tonight — overall, warmer temperatures and increased bird movement are predicted for the next week or two. They also maintain up-to-the hour records of migration activity detected by the US weather surveillance radar network; this was the activity early this morning at 3:10am ET:

Birdcast

If the current & predicted bird radar maps were a part of the weather report on the local news, I might start watching again.

The Earliest Globe to Show the Americas May Have Been Made by Leonardo da Vinci in 1504

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2021

Leonardo Globe

The Ostrich Egg Globe, made in/around 1504, is the earliest-known European globe to depict the Americas. And there’s evidence that it was made by Leonardo da Vinci. Open Culture has the story:

Missinne, a real estate developer, collector, and globe expert originally from Belgium, discovered the globe in 2012 at the London Map Fair. It was purchased “from a dealer who said it had been part of an important European collection for decades,” and its buyer and owner remain anonymous. After the globe appeared, Missinne “consulted more than 100 scholars and experts in his year-long analysis,” putting “about five years of research into one year,” says Sander, calling the research “an incredible detective story.”

Missinne’s investigation seems to substantiate his claims that the globe was made by Leonardo or his workshop. The evidence, some of which you can find on the Cambridge Scholars Publishing site, includes a 1503 preparatory map in da Vinci’s papers; the presence of arsenic, which only Leonardo was known to use at the time in copper to keep it from losing its lustre; “The use of chiaroscuro, pentienti, triangular shapes, the mathematics of the scale reflecting Leonardo’s written dimension of planet earth”; and a 1504 letter from Leonardo himself stating, “my world globe I want returned back from my friend Giovanni Benci.”

As with all things newly attributed to Leonardo in recent decades, there’s disagreement about this claim. You can read about the evidence collected by Stefaan Missinne, the discoverer of the globe and primary champion of its Leonardo connection, and decide for yourself. My brief, amateur take: if the first point in your analysis of a connection between this globe and Leonardo da Vinci is based on Salvator Mundi, which itself has disputed authorship and all but disappeared after its 2017 purchase, you’ve chosen a tough path towards persuasion.

The Folded Map Project

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 09, 2021

Folded Map Project

With regard to the Chicago’s street numbering system, Madison Street is the boundary between the North and South Sides of Chicago. Because of discriminatory housing policies and practices, especially during the Great Migration, Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in America. Generally speaking, a predominantly white North Side has had better access to resources and higher home values while a largely Black South Side has had lower home values and less access to resources.

Artist Tonika Johnson’s Folded Map Project explores the differences and similarities across this boundary by comparing an addresses on the North Side with the corresponding addresses on the South Side. She does this through paired photos of the houses and the residents living at each twinned address, and video interviews with those “map twin” residents, as well as a movie, an installation, workshops, and even a stage play. The image at the top of the post is of one of the address pairs (6329 S. Paulina and 6330 N. Paulina).

Colossal recently posted an interview with Johnson about the project:

The ultimate point that I was trying to get across was that Chicago’s history of segregation is still with all of us today. I wanted to prove this point for people who might not make that connection [between] the disparity that exists and the history behind it. I wanted the project to be an entree into expanding people’s minds of Chicago’s history of segregation through thinking about their own lived experience. I really appreciated being able to do that through art, through photos and portraits and video because I wasn’t blaming people who live on these different sides. I was offering them insight into the larger question of, “did you really choose this? Does our segregation reflect how we want to interact? And if it doesn’t, then you have to question why is it this way?”

There is this narrative that people think [Chicagoans] don’t interact. But we do, a lot, especially through art. That’s how we know the city is segregated. (laughing) We know that we’re disrupting this segregation when we come together. And that’s why I think art is such a beautiful common denominator.

Inuit Coastline Maps Carved from Driftwood

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2021

Inuit Cartography

I love these coastline contour maps made by the Inuit people of Greenland. So simple and functional.

In Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), the Inuit people are known for carving portable maps out of driftwood to be used while navigating coastal waters. These pieces, which are small enough to be carried in a mitten, represent coastlines in a continuous line, up one side of the wood and down the other. The maps are compact, buoyant, and can be read in the dark.

See also the Marshall Islands Navigation Charts. (thx, kate)

Between the Places Where I Have Lived

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 23, 2020

In 1980, Sol LeWitt created a piece of art called The Area of Manhattan Between the Places I Have Lived Is Removed where he cut out the area between all the places he’d lived in NYC on a satellite image. Matt Miller whipped up an app on Glitch that allows you to make your own map according to those rules. Here’s my Between the Places map:

Between the spaces

Here is LeWitt’s original map:

The Area of Manhattan Between the Places I Have Lived Is Removed by Sol LeWitt

Looks like Miller’s app doesn’t optimize for solid, filled polygons — I suspect if I’d been a little more careful about entering my addresses in the correct order, mine would look more like LeWitt’s. But still a fun exercise!

“Spready Mercury” and Other Scottish Snow Plow Names

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2020

This is a map showing the real-time location of Scotland’s fleet of snow plows (which they call “road gritters”). As Jackie Sojico discovered, Scotland names their plows and some of them are hilarious.

a map of Scotland's fleet of snow plows

Some of the plows are named things like Sprinkles or Salty but there are also Gangsta Granny Gritter, Mr Plow, Spready Mercury, License to Chill, Ready Spready Go, and Gritney Spears. A possibly out-of-date list of plow names shared on Twitter includes Darth Spreader, Gritty Gritty Bang Bang, and Snowbegone Kenobi.

Plows elsewhere in the UK are also given interesting names: Basil Salty, David Plowie, Freezy Rider, and Roger Spreaderer. (thx, meg)

Maps of Alternative Histories

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 08, 2020

map showing the USA with 124 states

For BBC Future, Sam Arbesman writes about “maps that plot alternative worlds to our own”.

These are the “what if” stories that ask us to imagine our world on a different path: what if a battle, election or assassination had gone the other way, or a pivotal person had never been born? Some of these stories involve time travel to make the change, but many alternate histories are simply imagined differences. What if the Nazis had not been beaten, as in the novel The Man in the High Castle, or what if the Soviets had landed a man on the Moon first, like in For All Mankind?

The map above was created by Andrew Shears and shows what the United States could have looked like if various state partition plans had come to fruition.

One of my favorite alternative history maps not covered by Arbesman is Melissa Gould’s Neu-York, a map of Manhattan after a hypothetical conquest of the United States by the Nazis in World War II (which I blogged about way back in 2003, when kottke.org had comments!)

partial map showing what Manhattan would have looked like if the Nazis had successfully invaded the US

See also Alternate Map of the Americas Features “Long Chile”.

The 41 Contiguous US States

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 07, 2020

map of the lower United States with 7 states missing

This map of the lower 48 US states hand-drawn by XKCD’s Randall Munroe is super clever: 7 of the states are actually missing. Maybe the pandemic is starting continuing to rot my brain, but I stared at this for an embarrassingly long time before finding any of the absent states. Even now that I know which ones are gone, the map doesn’t look out of place at all. *claps*

The Best Maps & Charts from the 2020 Election

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 18, 2020

From Stamen’s lead cartographer Alan McConchie, an excellent review of the charts and maps that best communicated vital information about the 2020 election.

After the first night of election results was over, and most of the state races had been called, we settled in for several more days of vote counting in a few key states. Dynamic “choose your own adventure” maps and scenario modeling tools became much less useful, and the landscape of the remaining Electoral College outcomes could be explained better without a map or a chart at all. Simple infographics like this one from the BBC did an excellent job of telling the reader all they needed to know.

You should dig into the article for the commentary and analysis, but I did want to share a couple of my favorite maps/charts:

Maps 2020 Election

Maps 2020 Election

Maps 2020 Election

The graphs by John Harurum in that last image were especially useful for me in seeing how the counting trends were going.

Map Portraits by Ed Fairburn

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2020

Ed Fairburn

Ed Fairburn

Artist Ed Fairburn draws portraits of people and objects on top of maps and, well, it is just my exact cup of tea. His newest stuff is available on Instagram. I’ve featured his work twice before and it won’t be the last. (via colossal)

An Interface for Exploring Ed Ruscha’s Sunset Boulevard Street Views

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2020

interface to view Ed Ruscha's Sunset Boulevard photos

Since 1965, American artist Ed Ruscha has been taking photos all along the length of Sunset Boulevard in LA. The Getty has made those photos available on the Getty Research Institute website and Stamen Design built this fantastic interface called 12 Sunsets for virtually cruising up and down the street.

This is so much fun to play with! You can use the mouse or arrow keys to drive, the spacebar to flip to the other side of the street, and you can change or add years to the display. It’s really interesting to add a bunch of different years to the display and then motor up and down the street to see what’s changed over the decades. It’s the perfect interface for this art.

NYC’s New Digital Subway Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 20, 2020

NYC Digital Subway Map

New York City has a new digital subway map that reflects the current status of the subway lines. And you can even see the trains moving, right on the map. (Finally!!) Visually, the new map combines the styles of two past maps, each beloved in their own way.1Fast Company explains:

The first map is that by Massimo Vignelli, who simplified the snaking subway system into a clean diagram which traded geographic literality for graphical clarity. This elegant simplification turns the confounding subway into a logical system. But the main Vignelli map was scorned by New Yorkers because it wasn’t an actual map, and it was quickly replaced (though a permutation actually lives on as the MTA’s Weekender diagram, which signals weekend services). Meanwhile, the primary map the MTA uses today was created by Unimark International and Michael Hertz Associates. It’s more geographically accurate, but it actually condenses information that was in the Vignelli map. For example, it combines individual train lines such as the C, D, and E lines into singular trunks.

Here’s a video from filmmaker Gary Huswit that shows how the team came up with the new map:

Zooming the map in and out, you see different levels of detail, just like with Google or Apple Maps. I like it — a good combination of form and function.2

Update: A reader reminded me of designer Eddie Jabbour’s Kick Map of the NYC subway, which effectively melded the styles of the Vignelli and Hertz maps together more than 15 years ago.

Kickmap Nyc Subway

What’s interesting is that the MTA explicitly rejected and criticized the Kick Map but ended up doing something quite similar with the new digital map. I think Jabbour’s effort deserves to be acknowledged here. (thx, nicolas)

  1. I know as a lover of simplicity, beautiful design, and whatnot, I’m supposed to love the Vignelli map, but I never have. The Hertz map fits the utility of the NYC subway so much better.

  1. Although I will say that the website in Chrome absolutely hammered the processor on my computer. It’s probably smoother on mobile?

Wild World: a Hand-Drawn Geographic Map of the Earth

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2020

Hand-drawn geographic map of the Earth

You may remember Anton Thomas from the huge hand-drawn map of North America that took him about 5 years to finish. His next effort, already well underway, is Wild World, a geographic map of the Earth.

Commenced in mid-2020, this is a brand new map of the world. Rather than the endless skylines and cultural features of North America: Portrait of a Continent, I wanted the wild character of Earth to shine.

While you won’t find cities or borders on this map, you will find geographic labels. This is important. From mountain ranges to deserts, rivers to rainforests, the labels here offer a detailed, accurate outline of Earth’s natural geography.

He’s aiming to complete the map by mid-2021.

The 2020 Fall Foliage Prediction Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 11, 2020

Fall foliage map for 2020

Once again this year, SmokyMountains.com has the best online foliage prediction map. And once again again, summer was far too short and trees here in VT have already been changing colors for weeks (although most have not really started yet). The onset of fall carries an extra wallop in this pandemic year: in many parts of the country, summer made it possible for people to comfortably meet up with family and friends in the lower-risk out-of-doors, an option that will be increasingly less comfy once the leaves fall and the weather crisps up. (via @legalnomads)

A Map of the Sounds from Forests and Woodlands Around the World

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 02, 2020

A site called Sounds of the Forest is collecting sounds from forests and woodland areas around the world and presenting them on a world map.

Sounds of the Forest

We are collecting the sounds of woodlands and forests from all around the world, creating a growing soundmap bringing together aural tones and textures from the world’s woodlands.

The sounds form an open source library, to be used by anyone to listen to and create from.

Here are a few of the sounds that they’ve collected.

See also the work of Gordon Hempton, who is trying to capture the sounds of the very few places left in the world without human noise. (via moss & fog)

A Time Lapse World Map of Every Covid-19 Death

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2020

From January to the end of June, over 500,000 people died of confirmed cases of Covid-19. In order to demonstrate the magnitude of the pandemic, James Beckwith made a time lapse map of each Covid-19 death.

Each country is represented by a tone and an expanding blip on the map when a death from Covid-19 is recorded. Each day is 4 seconds long, and at the top of the screen is the date and a counter showing the total numbers of deaths. Every country that has had a fatality is included.

As was the case with the pandemic, the video starts slow but soon enough the individual sounds and blips build to a crescendo, a cacophony of death. The only way this could be made more ominous & upsetting is by including the first song off of Cliff Martinez’s Contagion soundtrack as a backing track. As Beckwith notes in the description: “It is likely a sequel will need to be made.” (via open culture)

The 1850s Map that Made Modern Epidemiology

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2020

In 1854, Dr. John Snow produced a map of a London cholera outbreak which showed deaths from the disease concentrated around a water pump on Broad Street. The prevailing view at the time was that cholera spread through dirty air, but Snow hypothesized that it was actually spread through water and constructed this early medical data visualization to help prove it.

John Snow Cholera Map

Through a mix of personal interviews, clever detective work, and data analysis that included tables and a famous map, Snow managed to stop the outbreak and convince local public health officials, eventually, that cholera could be transmitted through water, not a miasma. Since his breakthrough study, the map has become an iconic piece of epidemiological history, as an illustration of keen detective work, analysis, and visual representation with a map that, even today, tells a story.

Aside from the cluster of deaths around the pump (which could be argued were the result of a miasma cloud and not contaminated water), stories of nearby people who didn’t get sick (brewers who drank the beer they produced rather than well water, people in buildings with their own wells) and far away people who died because they had drunk water from the well were also essential in proving his theory:

I was informed by this lady’s son that she had not been in the neighbourhood of Broad Street for many months. A cart went from broad Street to West End every day and it was the custom to take out a large bottle of the water from the pump in Broad Street, as she preferred it. The water was taken on Thursday 31st August., and she drank of it in the evening, and also on Friday. She was seized with cholera on the evening of the latter day, and died on Saturday

You can read more about John Snow and how his map changed science and medicine in Steven Johnson’s excellent Ghost Map.

A Short History of Housing Segregation in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 09, 2020

In this video for NPR, Gene Demby summarizes the history of housing segregation in America and how it’s a factor for current differences in health (poorer), wealth (much less), education (underfunded), and policing (much more aggressive) for Black communities in US cities.

If you look at the way housing segregation works in America, you can see how things ended up this way. Once you see it, you won’t be able to unsee it.

When you’re talking about housing policy in America, Kimberly Jones’ Monopoly analogy starts to sound a lot less metaphorical and more literal: if Black people cannot buy houses or can only buy houses on certain streets, they will not be able to build wealth like others can.

For more on housing segregation, check out historian Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. From a 2017 interview with Rothstein:

The federal government pursued two important policies in the mid-20th century that segregated metropolitan areas. One was the first civilian public housing program which frequently demolished integrated neighborhoods in order to create segregated public housing.

The second program that the federal government pursued was to subsidize the development of suburbs on a condition that they be only sold to white families and that the homes in those suburbs had deeds that prohibited resale to African-Americans. These two policies worked together to segregate metropolitan areas in ways that they otherwise would never have been segregated.

Rothstein talked about the book with Ta-Nehisi Coates during a conversation at Politics and Prose Bookstore.

Update: This is excellent: you can explore the maps created by the federal government’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation at Mapping Inequality by the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab.

These grades were a tool for redlining: making it difficult or impossible for people in certain areas to access mortgage financing and thus become homeowners. Redlining directed both public and private capital to native-born white families and away from African American and immigrant families. As homeownership was arguably the most significant means of intergenerational wealth building in the United States in the twentieth century, these redlining practices from eight decades ago had long-term effects in creating wealth inequalities that we still see today.

(via @masonadams)

Map of Pangaea with Modern-Day Borders

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2020

Pangaea Country Map

Pangaea is a supercontinent that formed on Earth about 335 million years ago and began to break up about 175 million years ago, eventually forming the familiar continents of today. Massimo Pietrobon made a map that shows where our modern country borders would appear on Pangaea. Check out the full-size version here.

See also Locate Modern Addresses on Earth 240 Million Years Ago. (via @owacle)

Meander Maps for Imaginary Rivers

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2020

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

I have written previously about cartographer Harold Fisk’s wonderful meander maps of the Mississippi River produced for the Army Corps of Engineers. Borrowing the aesthetic of these maps, interactive artist & engineer Robert Hodgin wrote some software called Meander to generate meander maps for fictional rivers.

From an input curve, the terrain, land plots, side roads, highways, marsh land and mountain peaks are generated and prominent features are named. The map is then weathered and rendered in the style of old US Army Corp of Engineers maps from the 1930s and 40s.

You can check some of the generated maps out on Twitter or on Instagram, including some prototypes and animations (this one is my favorite). Hodgin has promised a full write-up of the project; I’ll link to it when he publishes it.

Coincidentally, while I was writing this post I got an email from a reader about an audiovisual installation called Meandering River that displayed “real-time visuals generated by an algorithm and music composed by an A.I.”

Synchronicity!

Update: Hodgin wrote about the Meander project on his website and included several more gorgeous examples of his output.

The United States of Voronoi

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2020

US Voronoi map

From Jason Davies, this is a US map where the state borders have been redrawn so that all points closest to a state capital than to any other form a state a la Voronoi diagrams. See also Voronoi maps of world airports and world capitals.

It’s interesting that many of the states’ new shapes are similar to their current ones, suggesting that the placement of the capitals relative to borders was somewhat naturally Voronoi-esque, like how people naturally space themselves in elevators or parks.

Colorful New Geological Map of the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2020

Moon Geological Map

Moon Geological Map

In collaboration with NASA and the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the USGS has released the first complete geological map of the Moon’s surface.

This new work represents a seamless, globally consistent, 1:5,000,000-scale geologic map derived from the six digitally renovated geologic maps (see Source Online Linkage below). The goal of this project was to create a digital resource for science research and analysis, future geologic mapping efforts, be it local-, regional-, or global-scale products, and as a resource for the educators and the public interested in lunar geology.

Strange Maps has more information on how the map came to be and what it shows.

The map was created by the U.S. Geological Service’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. In collaboration with NASA and the Lunar and Planetary Institute, it combined six ‘regional’ maps of the Moon made during the Apollo era (1961-1975) with input from more recent unmanned lunar missions.

This included data on the polar regions from NASA’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) and close-ups of the equatorial zone from the Japanese Space Agency’s recent SELENE mission.

The two images above show the entire map and a detailed view of a single area (which includes the landing sites of 3 Apollo missions) while the video shows a rotating globe version of the map.

Homemade Maps of People’s Limited Surroundings During the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2020

Covid Maps

Covid Maps

CityLab asked its readers to “draw maps of their worlds in the time of coronavirus”. They drew floor plans, neighborhood walking diagrams, and more abstract representations of their surroundings.

You charted how your homes, neighborhoods, cities and countries have transformed under social distancing and stay-at-home orders around the planet, from daily work routines and the routes of your “sanity walks,” to the people you miss and the places you fled.

While most used markers, pens, and computer-based drawing tools to sketch maps by hand, some used watercolors, clay, and photography. Some were humorous, others heart-wrenching - between them all, a full spectrum of quarantine-era emotion emerged.

(via @ctsinclair)

Spinnable 3D Models of the British Library’s 16th Century Globes

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2020

The British Library has digitized some of their 17th & 18th century globes into 3D models that you can explore and spin online (and in VR). These are seriously cool at fullscreen.

During the so-called ‘Age of Exploration’, expanding European geographical and astronomical knowledge fuelled the demand for maps and sea charts. It also inspired experimentation in the art of globe-making, and the first half of the 16th century saw the production of several models, both hand-painted and printed.

Printing made it possible to produce globes in greater numbers at lower cost so they could be more widely distributed. The printed globe, terrestrial and celestial, soon became established as the standard type of globe, sometimes called the ‘common’ globe, and the methods of manufacture changed surprisingly little from the mid-16th century until the 20th century.

The one at the top of this post is my favorite: Willem Janszoon Blaeu’s Celestial Globe from 1602. (via @john_overholt)

Cellphone Data Shows How Quickly Partying Spring Breakers Spread Across the Country

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2020

People on Spring Break in Florida for the past couple of weeks were famously unconcerned with social distancing measures implementing in other areas of the country to help stem the tide of COVID-19 infections and save lives. Using cellphone location data from just the phones of the people gathered on a single beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this video shows just how far those people spread across the country when they went home, possibly taking SARS-CoV-2 with them. They go everywhere.

Show of hands: who feels uncomfortable being reminded of the extent to which 3rd party companies know the location of our cellphones? With tools like the one demonstrated in the video & other easily available info, it has to be trivial to identify individuals by name using even “randomized” data and so-called metadata. (via @stewartbrand)

The Drawings Secretly Inserted into Official Swiss Topographical Maps

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 06, 2020

Hidden drawing in a Swiss map

Hidden drawing in a Swiss map

For decades, mapmakers working for the Swiss Federal Office of Topography have defied their mandates to create the most accurate maps possible by covertly inserting drawings in official maps.

But on certain maps, in Switzerland’s more remote regions, there is also, curiously, a spider, a man’s face, a naked woman, a hiker, a fish, and a marmot. These barely-perceptible apparitions aren’t mistakes, but rather illustrations hidden by the official cartographers at Swisstopo in defiance of their mandate “to reconstitute reality.” Maps published by Swisstopo undergo a rigorous proofreading process, so to find an illicit drawing means that the cartographer has outsmarted his colleagues.

It also implies that the mapmaker has openly violated his commitment to accuracy, risking professional repercussions on account of an alpine rodent. No cartographer has been fired over these drawings, but then again, most were only discovered once their author had already left. (Many mapmakers timed the publication of their drawing to coincide with their retirement.)

Some of these blend remarkably well within the usual details of the maps — I never would have noticed the reclining nude in the second image above if it weren’t highlighted.

See also trap streets, errors deliberately introduced by mapmakers to catch others copying their work. (via @jschulenklopper)

Linguistic Constellations

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2020

Linguistic Constellations

Linguistic Constellations

Illustrator Jerry M. Wilson has drawn a series of constellations that explore the etymology of the constellations’ names and related words in several languages. So for example, “Taurus” is Latin for “bull”, which is “toro” in Spanish & Italian and “tyr” in Danish. And then you also have associated words like “toreador” (“bullfighter” in Spanish) and “teurastamo” (Finnish for “slaughterhouse”)…a constellation of words related to “Taurus”.