There’s an interesting post on the nature of maps over at Strange Maps today. I remember when some former colleagues and I decided to buy a map of the world to display on our office wall, back in the days where I worked somewhere where people had conversations, and outside interests, and we had a long discussion about what sort of a map we wanted, and someone (probably, I have to say, me) said that we should choose one which reflected a “real” view of the world, rather than one which was devised for the advancement of imperial interests (see the Peters Projection versus Mercator debate for more on this). Now it seems that even that is an over-simplified view.
Strange Maps has a “news map” of the US today, with the size of the states adjusted according to how many news wire stories, from various sources, originated in each of them over a four-year period. Unstartlingly, Washington, New York and California are the three biggest news generators, and all three are vastly oversized in the map, although of course California is just really big, so it doesn’t increase as dramatically as the other two. I’ve never been to California, but I’d like to think that everything about it is just really big.
They link to an article in Science News which talks more generally about the art (or science, or both) of representing more than simple geographical facts using maps. It’s interesting, if you have time to read it.
All of which reminded me of that picture of the earth at night which is still one of the best things I’ve ever found on the internet. Apart from being – well, pretty, it gets more interesting the more you look at it. My favourite things about it are:
- How bright all the big cities are, but especially Paris and Tokyo
- How defined the Nile is – it looks like it’s been drawn on in a single brush stroke
- How empty Australia is
- The fact that North Korea is so dark that South Korea looks like an island. That one’s a bit terrifying, for various reasons, but it’s still interesting.
This has just arrived in the post, and it’s very beautiful. Maps and trains, all in one book! If I had a coffee table, or a house in which to put a coffee table, it would be taking pride of place. As it is, it’ll be going into a box along with all my other worldly goods.
And while we’re on maps, there’s no reason not to plug my favourite (fictional) version of the tube map, and this, which is even better but sadly isn’t available as a poster. Although, of course, I’d have nowhere to put the poster, due to the aforementioned lack of anywhere to live. <Sob>
Monday update: Apparently the map of the world’s transport systems is available as a poster. From, uh, the London Transport Museum. I shall have to pay them a visit.