Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Today's dose of dizzyingly amazing maps

I discovered Radical Cartography through some images they created and uploaded to Wikipedia. They've done some truly fascinating stuff with urban maps - showing how human factors (race, education, crime) and transport (rail and roads) determine what our cities look like and how we live.

Two of my favorites:

The Squares of Boston: Boston is a city built on squares - you've probably heard of Kenmore, Harvard, and Scollay Squares, and perhaps Haymarket, Davis, or Central as well. The original BERy, MTA, and MBTA lines connected squares, now it's interesting to see how they connect.

Boston Campus - 250,000 students make up nearly a third of Boston's population. Here's why they go to school.

But today's winner for epic cartography goes to Ben Fry, who (with a computer), created an incredible map of the US. It's a bit fuzzy, but the careful eye picks out a lot of detail - you can see cities, and interstate highways. A closer look reveals a wealth of detail - the Everglades and Adirondacks parks, dozens of rivers including the Mississippi and Ohio, and even the Appalachian Mountains. Detail maps show even finer details.

But none of that detail is actually there. The map only shows the 26 million road segments in a DOT database. All the geographic and urban detail is shown only by how the roads curve around mountains and avoid rivers, how they cluster in cities and how towns spring up along highways and rail lines.

It is fascinating. Information at its best - complex, thought-provoking, and mystifyingly beautiful.

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