Monthly Archives: April 2010

Europe disarranged


There seems to be a lot in disorder these days in Europe. Greece on the edge of bankruptcy and the Euro under pressure like never before. However the skeletons that come out of their closets now have been knocking for a while. The situation after all is not amusing and would diserve a proper map visualising data that shows what is really going on. The data is available but if the day just had more than 24 hours… The map will come sooner or later I promise. It is probably going to be an angry map since that issue and how our politicians deal with it is upsetting me regularly.
So for now a more amusing map (I hope the authors meant it that way) found on the Economist online yesterday. For those who want to get to know more about the current mess in Europe and what should be done, I recommend reading this open letter from the German blog nachdenkseiten.de.

Make sure to read the article to understand what is behind that new order.

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Filed under Economy, Oddity, Politics

Empty Sky Day


Volcanic ash from Iceland has stopped air traffic over Europe. No airplanes in the sky. What a uniqe day! There has been bright sunshine here today in Munich. The sky is however a bit hazy and it is not clearly blue – probably due to the ash in the air. Apart from that the sky has never been so clear.

I enjoyed the sunny day outside walking over Munich’s biggest flea market at Theresienwiese. Ironically I found some old German and British aeronautical charts and bought them for a few euros.

Here is a nice visualisation of daily air traffic in Europe to see what we are missing!

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Map Critique – Population of People and Sheep in New Zealand


Having had a look at Indiemapper recently I also browsed their map gallery. On top I found this nice looking map from Ben Sheesley comparing the population densities of people and sheep in New Zealand.

But looking closer I do see some things I don’t like. First of all there is a convention in thematic cartography that for population density maps one uses a color ramp with yellowish to reddish, sometimes brown colors. Darker colors for higher density. I can see these colors in the map here, but why for the sheep density? With the two subjects, people and sheep, one has to introduce a new color of course (blue was chosen here). I would have taken this one for the sheep axis and left the orange colors for the people axis as one is used to. Another thing is, and that is really a bit confusing, the circles in the map. The legend tells me they stand for the sheep/population ratio. Using point based signatures for relative values is a bit unconventional but I don’t want to blame it for that. Sometimes it makes sense to experiment a bit and break conventions. What bothers me more is the fact that the sheep/population ratio is already visualised in the map, namely by the colors, and the circles are just redundant. The orange filled areas already represent a high sheep/population ratio and not surprisingly the big circles appear in the dark orange areas.

What I like is the additional display of the dot density since this is really adding value to the map. A high sheep/population ratio alone does not tell anything about how many sheep or people there are in the respective area (could be just one lonely farmer dude and his 60 sheep). It seems the author wanted to try out different visualisation methods which resulted in a nice looking map, however I recommend always asking whether the applied visualisations make sense.

By the way, if you find something in my maps that seems unlogic, feel free to comment! My cartography is sometimes not perfect either.

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Indiemapper launches today


The Cartography tool Indiemapper by Axis Maps LLC launches today. According to the video this is going to be a must have for the thematic mapper! I can’t wait to play with it!

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Filed under Tools and Programs

Black coal and white coral


My heart just sank when I heard about the stranding of a Chinese coal ship near Gladstone in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Being a diver myself and having seen the beautiful reef in this area in 2005 I must say, that really hurts! But when passing through Gladstone in 2005 I saw already the other side of this paradise. Although being located near the UNESCO World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, Gladstone is one of the mayor industry locations in Australia, with the world’s largest Aluminum refinery, Queensland’s largest powerplant and Australia’s largest smelter. This way this rather bizarre picture of a coal vessel on a coral reef becomes more logic, especially since Gladstone is also the world’s fifth largest coal exporting port.

Having a closer look it becomes clear that Australia these days is THE world’s provider for mineral resources. It is the world’s largest exporter of coal and it is among the top five suppliers for nearly all other important mineral resources. It makes up for not less than 22% of the world’s uranium supply.  The map below from Geoscience Australia shows the numberless mining activities all over the country.

So the accident with the coal vessel is not a strange incident but seems rather the result of a calculated risk. It is like Australia is digging a whole for a pool in the backyard and is carrying the dirt out stepping with muddy feet over the carpet in the living room. One has to decide what is worth more, nature’s beauty or nature’s treasures.

Australian operating mines 2009

Powerplant in Gladstone

Lady Musgrave Island - Great Barrier Reef

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Filed under Economy, Environment, Natural Resources

The Fundamentals of Online Maps


Smashing Magazine published an appealing compendium of various types of online thematic maps. Although these maps sometimes lack the grafic refinement and complexity that printed maps have achieved, the interactive component is a large advantage.

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