Behold Colorful Geologic Maps of Mars Released by The United States Geological Survey

The USGS Astro­ge­ol­o­gy Sci­ence Cen­ter has recent­ly released a series of col­or­ful and intri­cate­ly-detailed maps of Mars. These col­or­ful maps, notes USGS, “pro­vide high­ly detailed views of the [plantet’s] sur­face and allow sci­en­tists to inves­ti­gate com­plex geo­log­ic rela­tion­ships both on and beneath the sur­face. These types of maps are use­ful for both plan­ning for and then con­duct­ing land­ed mis­sions.”

The map above lets you see Olym­pus Mons, the tallest vol­cano in the solar sys­tem, which stands more than twice the height of Mount Ever­est. The USGS goes on to add: “Map read­ers can visu­al­ize the caldera com­plex more eas­i­ly due to the detail that is avail­able at the 1:200,000 scale and the addi­tion of con­tour lines to the map. The map cov­ers a region that is rough­ly the size of the Dal­las-Ft. Worth met­ro­pol­i­tan area and is a detailed look at the volcano’s sum­mit that we have not seen before. This new view of the Olym­pus Mons caldera com­plex allows sci­en­tists to more eas­i­ly com­pare it to sim­i­lar fea­tures on Earth (known as ter­res­tri­al analogs) such as Hawaii’s Mau­na Loa.”

You can find more Mar­t­ian maps here.

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via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Sur­face of Mars Shown in Stun­ning 4K Res­o­lu­tion

View and Down­load Near­ly 60,000 Maps from the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS)

Vin­tage Geo­log­i­cal Maps Get Turned Into 3D Topo­graph­i­cal Won­ders

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How Writing Has Spread Across the World, from 3000 BC to This Year: An Animated Map

The old­est known writ­ing sys­tems first emerged in Mesopotamia, between 3400 and 3100 BC, and Egypt, around 3250 BC. The Latin alpha­bet, which I’m using to write this post and you’re using to read it, grad­u­al­ly took the shape we know between the sev­enth cen­tu­ry BC and the Mid­dle Ages. Over the eras since, it has spread out­ward from Europe to become the most wide­ly used script in the world. These are impor­tant devel­op­ments in the his­to­ry of writ­ing, but hard­ly the only ones. It is with all known writ­ing sys­tems that his­tor­i­cal map ani­ma­tor Ollie Bye deals in the video above: not just those used today, but over the whole of the past five mil­len­nia.

The con­quests of Alexan­der the Great; the Gal­lic Wars; the col­o­niza­tion of Latin Amer­i­ca; the “scram­ble for Africa”: these and oth­er major his­tor­i­cal events are vivid­ly reflect­ed in the spread of cer­tain writ­ing sys­tems.

Up until 1492 — after the expi­ra­tion of eight and a half of the video’s eleven min­utes — the map con­cerns itself only with Europe, Asia, and the north­ern three-quar­ters of Africa (as well as an inlaid sec­tion depict­ing the civ­i­liza­tions of what is now Cen­tral Amer­i­ca). There­after it zooms out to include the New World, and indeed the whole world, though cen­turies pass before most of its blank spaces fill up with the col­ors that indi­cate the adop­tion of a dom­i­nant script.

Ara­bic and Per­sian appear in lime green, sim­pli­fied Chi­nese in red, and Cyril­lic in light blue. Before Bye’s ani­ma­tion reach­es the mid­dle twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, most of the world has turned medi­um blue, which rep­re­sents the now-mighty Latin alpha­bet. The use of these very let­ters for all writ­ten com­mu­ni­ca­tion by such a wide vari­ety of cul­tures mer­its a vol­umes-long his­to­ry by itself. But per­haps most intrigu­ing here is the per­sis­tence of rel­a­tive­ly minor scripts: Cree, used among the natives of north­ern Cana­da; hira­ganakatakana, and kan­ji in Japan; and also hangul in Korea — which I read and write myself every day of my life in Seoul, and to whose con­tin­ued dom­i­nance here I can con­fi­dent­ly attest.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Atlas of Endan­gered Alpha­bets: A Free Online Atlas That Helps Pre­serve Writ­ing Sys­tems That May Soon Dis­ap­pear

The Evo­lu­tion of the Alpha­bet: A Col­or­ful Flow­chart, Cov­er­ing 3,800 Years, Takes You From Ancient Egypt to Today

Dic­tio­nary of the Old­est Writ­ten Language–It Took 90 Years to Com­plete, and It’s Now Free Online

How to Write in Cuneiform, the Old­est Writ­ing Sys­tem in the World: A Short, Charm­ing Intro­duc­tion

The Improb­a­ble Inven­tion of Chi­nese Type­writ­ers & Com­put­er Key­boards: Three Videos Tell the Tech­no-Cul­tur­al Sto­ry

You Could Soon Be Able to Text with 2,000 Ancient Egypt­ian Hiero­glyphs

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Biggest Mistakes in Mapmaking History

As we all know by now, every world map is wrong. But some world maps are more wrong than oth­ers, and the ear­li­est world maps togeth­er con­sti­tute an enter­tain­ing fes­ti­val of geo­graph­i­cal mis­takes and mis­per­cep­tions. Like so many pur­suits, map­mak­ing has util­i­tar­i­an roots. For mil­len­nia, as Kay­la Wolf explains in the Ted-Ed les­son above, our ances­tors all over the world made “func­tion­al maps, show­ing trade routes, set­tle­ments, topog­ra­phy, water sources, the shapes of coast­lines, or writ­ten direc­tions.” But some also made “what are known as cos­mo­gra­phies, illus­trat­ing the Earth and its posi­tion in the cos­mos, often includ­ing con­stel­la­tions, gods, and myth­ic loca­tions.”

Cre­ators of ear­ly world maps tend­ed to mix their func­tion­al­i­ty with their cos­mog­ra­phy. Com­mis­sioned in Eura­sia and North Africa from the Mid­dle Ages into the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, their map­pae mun­di were “meant to depict the world’s geog­ra­phy, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly to be use­ful for nav­i­ga­tion. And giv­en their maker’s incom­plete knowl­edge of the world they were real­ly hypothe­ses — some of which have been glar­ing­ly dis­proven.”

Take, for exam­ple, the Span­ish maps that for more than a cen­tu­ry “depict­ed the ‘Island of Cal­i­for­nia’ detached from the rest of the con­ti­nent” (one exam­ple of which still hangs today in the New York Pub­lic Library).

Even Ger­ar­dus Mer­ca­tor, the car­tog­ra­ph­er respon­si­ble for the “Mer­ca­tor pro­jec­tion” still used in world maps today, “spec­u­lat­ed that the North Pole promi­nent­ly fea­tured the ‘Rupes Nigra,’ a giant mag­net­ic rock sur­round­ed by a whirlpool that explained why all com­pass­es point north.” But all knowl­edge begins as spec­u­la­tion, in geog­ra­phy and car­tog­ra­phy as any­where else. We must also main­tain an aware­ness of what we don’t know, which medieval map­mak­ers famous­ly did with fan­tas­ti­cal beasts: “a tiny cop­per globe cre­at­ed in the ear­ly 1500s,” for exam­ple, labels south­east Asia with the famous warn­ing “Here be drag­ons.” And “as late as 1657, Eng­lish schol­ar Peter Heylin lumped Aus­tralia togeth­er with Utopia.” The land down under is per­haps the “lucky coun­try,” but Utopia is sure­ly push­ing it.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Evo­lu­tion of the World Map: An Inven­tive Info­graph­ic Shows How Our Pic­ture of the World Changed Over 1,800 Years

The Largest Ear­ly Map of the World Gets Assem­bled for the First Time: See the Huge, Detailed & Fan­tas­ti­cal World Map from 1587

Why Every World Map Is Wrong

The “True Size” Maps Shows You the Real Size of Every Coun­try (and Will Change Your Men­tal Pic­ture of the World)

Japan­ese Design­ers May Have Cre­at­ed the Most Accu­rate Map of Our World: See the Autha­Graph

The His­to­ry of Car­tog­ra­phy, “the Most Ambi­tious Overview of Map Mak­ing Ever Under­tak­en,” Is Free Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Why Mapmakers Once Thought California Was an Island

In the open­ing of John Car­pen­ter’s Escape from L.A., an earth­quake sep­a­rates Los Ange­les from the main­land, and the city is repur­posed into “the depor­ta­tion point for all peo­ple found unde­sir­able or unfit to live in a new, moral Amer­i­ca.” The film’s premise (like that of Escape from New York, which it fol­lows) taps into a deeply held sen­ti­ment about its set­ting. Los Ange­les has long been seen as an absurd con­cen­tra­tion of all the qual­i­ties that make Cal­i­for­nia unlike the rest of the Unit­ed States. Cal­i­for­nia remains a state apart in a metaphor­i­cal sense, but there was a time when it was also thought to be a state apart, lit­er­al­ly: that is to say, an island.

The word Cal­i­for­nia orig­i­nates in a nov­el, pub­lished in 1510, called Ser­gas de Esp­landián. In that book it refers to “an island pop­u­lat­ed by black women with­out any men exist­ing there. On the entire island, there was no met­al oth­er than gold.” Author Gar­ci Rodríguez de Mon­talvo’s tan­ta­liz­ing descrip­tion of Cal­i­for­nia — as well as of the “beau­ti­ful and robust bod­ies” of its women — got Span­ish sea­far­ers curi­ous about the extent to which it could have been based in real­i­ty.

(At that time, the mass-print­ed nov­el was still an enrap­tur­ing new devel­op­ment.) This account comes from Youtu­ber John­ny Har­ris’ video above, “The Biggest Map­ping Mis­take of All Time,” which con­nects this fan­tas­ti­cal lit­er­ary inven­tion to cen­turies of geo­graph­i­cal mis­con­cep­tion.

The con­quis­ta­dor Hernán Cortés seems to have been the first promi­nent fig­ure to feel the pull of Cal­i­for­nia. And he cer­tain­ly was­n’t the last, despite nev­er quite hav­ing man­aged to pin the place down. Spain’s most ardent Cal­i­for­nia enthu­si­asts held so fast to the notion of its being an island that it spread else­where in Europe, and even­tu­al­ly to Lon­don. With the per­cep­tion thus legit­imized, Cal­i­for­nia appeared dis­con­nect­ed from the North Amer­i­can coast on maps print­ed as far away as Japan. Har­ris cred­its Cal­i­for­ni­a’s “myth­i­cal pull,” then as now, with mak­ing it “a place where peo­ple go to dream big” — and often “to chase dreams that aren’t ground­ed in any sense of real­i­ty.” For­tu­nate­ly, he him­self lives in Wash­ing­ton D.C., where delu­sions are whol­ly unknown.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Down­load 67,000 His­toric Maps (in High Res­o­lu­tion) from the Won­der­ful David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion

The His­to­ry of Car­tog­ra­phy, the “Most Ambi­tious Overview of Map Mak­ing Ever,” Now Free Online

The 38 States of Amer­i­ca: Geog­ra­phy Pro­fes­sor Cre­ates a Bold Mod­ern Map of Amer­i­ca (1973)

The Largest Ear­ly Map of the World Gets Assem­bled for the First Time: See the Huge, Detailed & Fan­tas­ti­cal World Map from 1587

Why Every World Map Is Wrong

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

The First Transit Map: a Close Look at the Subway-Style Tabula Peutingeriana of the 5th-Century Roman Empire

The first sub­way train, as we know such things today, entered ser­vice in 1890. Its path is now part of the North­ern line of the Lon­don Under­ground, itself the first urban metro sys­tem. The suc­cess of the Tube, as it’s com­mon­ly known, did­n’t come right away; the whole thing was on the brink of fail­ure, in fact, before cre­ations like 1914’s Won­der­ground Map of Lon­don Town aid­ed its pub­lic under­stand­ing and bol­stered its pub­lic image.


At the time, Britain still com­mand­ed a great empire with Lon­don as its cap­i­tal; the Won­der­ground Map placed the Lon­don Under­ground in the con­text of the city, mak­ing leg­i­ble the still fair­ly nov­el con­cept of an under­ground train sys­tem with copi­ous whim­si­cal detail.

Nor was the Roman Empire any­thing to sneeze at, even dur­ing the fourth and fifth cen­turies after its decline had set in. Though it came up with some still-impres­sive inven­tions, includ­ing long-last­ing con­crete and mon­u­men­tal aque­ducts, the tech­nol­o­gy to build and oper­ate a sub­way sys­tem still lay some way off.


But that did­n’t stop Mar­cus Vip­sa­nius Agrip­pa, a gen­er­al, archi­tect, and friend of emper­or Augus­tus, from com­mis­sion­ing a map of the empire that read more or less like Mas­si­mo Vignel­li’s 1972 map of the New York sub­way. That ambi­tious work of car­tog­ra­phy, his­to­ri­ans now believe, inspired the Tab­u­la Peutin­ge­ri­ana, which sur­vives today as the only large world map from antiq­ui­ty. The video above from Youtu­ber Jere­my Shuback approach­es the Tab­u­la Peutin­ge­ri­ana as “the first tran­sit map,” despite its dat­ing from the thir­teenth cen­tu­ry, and even then prob­a­bly being a copy of a fourth- or fifth-cen­tu­ry orig­i­nal.


While the Roman Empire did­n’t have elec­tric trains and pay­ment cards, they did, of course, have tran­sit: the word descends from the Latin tran­sire, “go across.” Many a Roman had to go across, if not the whole empire, then at least large stretch­es of it. In the­o­ry, they would have found a map like Tab­u­la use­ful, with its sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of geog­ra­phy in order to empha­size city-to-city con­nec­tions. But that was­n’t its pri­ma­ry pur­pose: as Shuback puts it, this over­sized map of all lands dom­i­nat­ed by the Romans was “made to brag.” Who­ev­er owned it sure­ly want­ed to imply that they pos­sessed not just a map, but the world itself.

Relat­ed con­tent:

A Won­der­ful Archive of His­toric Tran­sit Maps: Expres­sive Art Meets Pre­cise Graph­ic Design

Down­load 67,000 His­toric Maps (in High Res­o­lu­tion) from the Won­der­ful David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion

The Roman Roads of Britain Visu­al­ized as a Sub­way Map

“The Won­der­ground Map of Lon­don Town,” the Icon­ic 1914 Map That Saved the World’s First Sub­way Sys­tem

Ani­mat­ed GIFs Show How Sub­way Maps of Berlin, New York, Tokyo & Lon­don Com­pare to the Real Geog­ra­phy of Those Great Cities

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

How Did Cartographers Create World Maps before Airplanes and Satellites? An Introduction

Reg­u­lar read­ers of Open Cul­ture know a thing or two about maps if they’ve paid atten­tion to our posts on the his­to­ry of car­tog­ra­phy, the evo­lu­tion of world maps (and why they are all wrong), and the many dig­i­tal col­lec­tions of his­tor­i­cal maps from all over the world. What does the sev­en and a half-minute video above bring to this com­pendi­um of online car­to­graph­ic knowl­edge? A very quick sur­vey of world map his­to­ry, for one thing, with stops at many of the major his­tor­i­cal inter­sec­tions from Greek antiq­ui­ty to the cre­ation of the Cata­lan Atlas, an aston­ish­ing map­mak­ing achieve­ment from 1375.

The upshot is an answer to the very rea­son­able ques­tion, “how were (some­times) accu­rate world maps cre­at­ed before air trav­el or satel­lites?” The expla­na­tion? A lot of his­to­ry — mean­ing, a lot of time. Unlike inno­va­tions today, which we expect to solve prob­lems near-imme­di­ate­ly, the inno­va­tions in map­ping tech­nol­o­gy took many cen­turies and required the work of thou­sands of trav­el­ers, geo­g­ra­phers, car­tog­ra­phers, math­e­mati­cians, his­to­ri­ans, and oth­er schol­ars who built upon the work that came before. It start­ed with spec­u­la­tion, myth, and pure fan­ta­sy, which is what we find in most geo­gra­phies of the ancient world.

Then came the Greek Anax­i­man­der, “the first per­son to pub­lish a detailed descrip­tion of the world.” He knew of three con­ti­nents, Europe, Asia, and Libya (or North Africa). They fit togeth­er in a cir­cu­lar Earth, sur­round­ed by a ring of ocean. “Even this,” says Jere­my Shuback, “was an incred­i­ble accom­plish­ment, roughed out by who knows how many explor­ers.” Sand­wiched in-between the con­ti­nents are some known large bod­ies of water: the Mediter­ranean, the Black Sea, the Pha­sis (mod­ern-day Rioni) and Nile Rivers. Even­tu­al­ly Eratos­thenes dis­cov­ered the Earth was spher­i­cal, but maps of a flat Earth per­sist­ed. Greek and Roman geo­g­ra­phers con­sis­tent­ly improved their world maps over suc­ceed­ing cen­turies as con­quer­ers expand­ed the bound­aries of their empires.

Some key moments in map­ping his­to­ry involve the 2nd cen­tu­ry AD geo­g­ra­ph­er and math­e­mati­cian Marines of Tyre, who pio­neered “equirec­tan­gu­lar pro­jec­tion and invent­ed lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tude lines and math­e­mat­i­cal geog­ra­phy.” This paved the way for Claudius Ptole­my’s huge­ly influ­en­tial Geo­graphia and the Ptole­ma­ic maps that would even­tu­al­ly fol­low. Lat­er Islam­ic car­tog­ra­phers “fact checked” Ptole­my, and reversed his pref­er­ence for ori­ent­ing North at the top in their own map­pa mun­di. The video quotes his­to­ri­an of sci­ence Son­ja Bren­thes in not­ing how Muham­mad al-Idrisi’s 1154 map “served as a major tool for Ital­ian, Dutch, and French map­mak­ers from the six­teenth cen­tu­ry to the mid-eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry.”

The inven­tion of the com­pass was anoth­er leap for­ward in map­ping tech­nol­o­gy, and ren­dered pre­vi­ous maps obso­lete for nav­i­ga­tion. Thus car­tog­ra­phers cre­at­ed the por­tolan, a nau­ti­cal map mount­ed hor­i­zon­tal­ly and meant to be viewed from any angle, with wind rose lines extend­ing out­ward from a cen­ter hub. These devel­op­ments bring us back to the Cata­lan Atlas, its extra­or­di­nary accu­ra­cy, for its time, and its extra­or­di­nary lev­el of geo­graph­i­cal detail: an arti­fact that has been called “the most com­plete pic­ture of geo­graph­i­cal knowl­edge as it stood in the lat­er Mid­dle Ages.”

Cre­at­ed for Charles V of France as both a por­tolan and map­pa mun­di, its con­tours and points of ref­er­ence were not only com­piled from cen­turies of geo­graph­ic knowl­edge, but also from knowl­edge spread around the world from the dias­poric Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty to which the cre­ators of the Atlas belonged. The map was most like­ly made by Abra­ham Cresques and his son Jahu­da, mem­bers of the high­ly respect­ed Major­can Car­to­graph­ic School, who worked under the patron­age of the Por­tuguese. Dur­ing this peri­od (before mas­sacres and forced con­ver­sions dev­as­tat­ed the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty of Major­ca in 1391), Jew­ish doc­tors, schol­ars, and scribes bridged the Chris­t­ian and Islam­ic worlds and formed net­works that dis­sem­i­nat­ed infor­ma­tion through both.

In its depic­tion of North Africa, for exam­ple, the Cata­lan Atlas shows images and descrip­tions of Malian ruler Mansa Musa, the Berber peo­ple, and spe­cif­ic cities and oases rather than the usu­al drag­ons and mon­sters found in oth­er Medieval Euro­pean maps — despite the car­tog­ra­phers’ use of the works like the Trav­els of John Man­dev­ille, which con­tains no short­age of bizarre fic­tion about the region. While it might seem mirac­u­lous that humans could cre­ate increas­ing­ly accu­rate views of the Earth from above with­out flight, they did so over cen­turies of tri­al and error (and thou­sands of lost ships), build­ing on the work of count­less oth­ers, cor­rect­ing the mis­takes of the past with supe­ri­or mea­sure­ments, and crowd­sourc­ing as much knowl­edge as they could.

To learn more about the fas­ci­nat­ing Cata­lan Atlas, see the Flash Point His­to­ry video above and the schol­ar­ly descrip­tion found here. Find trans­la­tions of the map’s leg­ends here at The Cresque Project.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The His­to­ry of Car­tog­ra­phy, the “Most Ambi­tious Overview of Map Mak­ing Ever,” Is Now Free Online

Down­load 91,000 His­toric Maps from the Mas­sive David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion

Why Every World Map Is Wrong

Ani­mat­ed Maps Reveal the True Size of Coun­tries (and Show How Tra­di­tion­al Maps Dis­tort Our World)

The Evo­lu­tion of the World Map: An Inven­tive Info­graph­ic Shows How Our Pic­ture of the World Changed Over 1,800 Years

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Watch “The Impossible Map,” a Short Animated Film That Uses a Grapefruit to Show Why Maps of the Earth Are Misleading (1947)

There are any num­ber of ways one might try to turn a globe into a two-dimen­sion­al sur­face. You could start by cut­ting it down the mid­dle, as in this Vox video on world maps. You could choose vol­un­teers and have them come up to the head of the class and peel oranges in one piece, flat­ten­ing out the strips onto an over­head pro­jec­tor, as in this Nation­al Geo­graph­ic les­son on world maps. Or, you might attack an already halved grape­fruit peel with a rolling pin, as in the Nation­al Film Board of Canada’s ani­mat­ed short, “The Impos­si­ble Map,” above.

Each method (except, maybe, the rolling pin) has its mer­its, but none of them will make a 2‑dimensional sur­face with­out warp­ing, stretch­ing, and dis­tort­ing. That’s the point, in all these exer­cis­es, a point that has been made over and over through­out the years as car­tog­ra­phers search for bet­ter, more accu­rate ways to turn the Earth’s sphere (or oblate spher­oid) into a rep­re­sen­ta­tive rec­tan­gle that rough­ly pre­serves the scale of the con­ti­nents. As the hands-on demon­stra­tions show, you don’t need to remem­ber your geom­e­try to see that it’s impos­si­ble to do so with much pre­ci­sion.

A car­tog­ra­ph­er must choose a focal point, as Ger­ar­dus Mer­ca­tor did in the 16th cen­tu­ry in his famous cylin­dri­cal pro­jec­tion. Since the map was designed by a Euro­pean for use by Euro­pean nav­i­ga­tors, it nat­u­ral­ly puts Europe in the cen­ter, result­ing in extreme dis­tor­tions of the land mass­es around it. These have been reme­died by alter­nate pro­jec­tions like the Moll­wei­de, Goode Homolo­sine (the “orange-peel map”), and the 1963 Robin­son pro­jec­tion, which was “adopt­ed for Nation­al Geographic’s world maps in 1988,” The Guardian notes, and “appears in [a] grow­ing num­ber of oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, [and] may replace Mer­ca­tor in many class­rooms.”

Pio­neer­ing Cana­di­an ani­ma­tor Eve­lyn Lam­bart made “The Impos­si­ble Map” in 1947, sev­er­al years before pro­fes­sor Arthur Robin­son cre­at­ed his “Pseudo­cylin­dri­cal Pro­jec­tion with Pole Line” — for which he used “a huge num­ber of tri­al-and-error com­put­er sim­u­la­tions,” as the Arthur H. Robin­son Map Library writes. “To this day, no oth­er pro­jec­tion uses this approach to build a map,” not even most GPS map­ping soft­ware, which still, in many cas­es, uses a “Web Mer­ca­tor” pro­jec­tion to rep­re­sent the whole Earth. But while Lam­bart’s film may not be tech­no­log­i­cal­ly up-to-date, it is visu­al­ly and ped­a­gog­i­cal­ly bril­liant, explain­ing, with some basic nar­ra­tion and sliced pro­duce, why globes still beat flat maps of the Earth every time.

via Aeon

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The His­to­ry of Car­tog­ra­phy, “the Most Ambi­tious Overview of Map Mak­ing Ever Under­tak­en,” Is Free Online

Why Mak­ing Accu­rate World Maps Is Math­e­mat­i­cal­ly Impos­si­ble

Why Every World Map Is Wrong

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

A Beautiful, High-Resolution Map of the Internet (2021)


The begin­nings of the Inter­net were unchart­ed ter­ri­to­ry, espe­cial­ly before the days of graph­ic browsers. You had a num­ber, you dialed up to a loca­tion. Cer­tain loca­tions were named after their host uni­ver­si­ties or gov­ern­ment sites and that made sense in an old-school tele­phone exchange way. But the rest was just a vast ocean of data, of strange lands, and many, many bar­ri­ers. How big, exact­ly, is the inter­net? And how do we mea­sure it? What is the “space” of cyber­space?

There have been maps that over­lay the internet’s main land­lines onto the map of the earth—this Vox arti­cle shows the spi­dery web grow­ing from the first four loca­tions of ARPANET until the whole world is con­nect­ed. But that’s not how we think of it. Sure­ly Open Cul­ture is always where you, dear read­er, reside, and this writer’s undis­closed loca­tion has noth­ing to do with it. Maybe the inter­net is real­ly the space that it takes up in our minds, in our lives, and in the amount of inter­net traf­fic.

Ama­teur graph­ic design­er Mar­tin Var­gic visu­al­ized those spaces as coun­tries on a vast globe inspired by Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Mag­a­zine. (Although Nation­al Geo­graph­ic bor­rowed its car­to­graph­ic style from some of the first print­ed maps of the world.) Var­gic first pub­lished his map in 2014 when he was a stu­dent in Slo­va­kia. And now he has decid­ed to update the map for 2021. (See the map in high res­o­lu­tion here.) Large con­ti­nents rep­re­sent the main web­sites of the Inter­net: Face­book, Google, Apple, Ama­zon. The seas rep­re­sent the afore­men­tioned ocean of data under dif­fer­ent names: Ocean of Infor­ma­tion, North Con­nec­tion Ocean, etc. To com­pare his rel­a­tive­ly spare orig­i­nal map to the one he just released is to notice how much more crowd­ed this world has become, and how divid­ed.

First, his method­ol­o­gy.

Var­gic based the rel­a­tive size of each web­site on its aver­age traf­fic between Jan­u­ary 2020 and Jan­u­ary 2021, accord­ing to Alexa Rank, the Ama­zon-owned Alexa Internet’s mea­sure of how pop­u­lar a web­site is, cal­cu­lat­ed by unique users and page views.

How­ev­er, the cen­ter of the map is now dif­fer­ent. This now depicts the “core and back­bone of the Inter­net as we know it,” Var­gic said. This means a core of ser­vice providers sur­round­ed by larg­er islands of web browsers (Chrome, Fire­fox, et al).

While the 2014 map con­sid­ered web­site size as the main orga­niz­er and con­tained around 200 web­sites, this ver­sion con­tains 3,000. The north of the globe fea­tures coun­try clus­ters: a group­ing of aca­d­e­m­ic, research, and free edu­ca­tion sites (wikipedia, archive.org, etc.), gov­ern­men­tal web­sites to the east and con­spir­a­cy QAnon lands to the west.

The Antarc­ti­ca of the map? The Dark Web, where the Onion isn’t a par­o­dy news site and TOR isn’t the sci-fi/­fan­ta­sy pub­lish­er.

You might find some of Vargic’s deci­sions odd, or you might just spend your time won­der­ing how much of the inter­net is indeed an unknown land, with large “coun­tries” you’ve nev­er heard of, but with mil­lions of “res­i­dents”. It might not be real, but Vargic’s map will put you in an explorato­ry mood while you light off for the ter­ri­to­ries. You can view it in a high res­o­lu­tion for­mat here. Pur­chase it as a poster here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of the Inter­net in 8 Min­utes

How the Inter­net Archive Dig­i­tizes 3,500 Books a Day–the Hard Way, One Page at a Time

The Old­est Known Globe to Depict the New World Was Engraved on an Ostrich Egg, Maybe by Leonar­do da Vin­ci (1504)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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