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March 4, 2007

Maps and more maps
Posted by Avram Grumer at 01:04 AM *

The Strange Maps blog is one of those tightly-focussed, single-topic blogs. If you like unusual maps, this is the blog for you. Some highlights:

The Google Sightseeing blog is even more narrowly focussed: All Google Maps, all the time.

Comments on Maps and more maps:
#1 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 06:58 AM:

Must... resist... reading Strange Maps Blog... for rest of... my life...

I have a map of the Pacific Island groups from around 1900. For each group, it has the county of Rutland as a guide to the scale. This, as every 1900 schoolboy knows, is because Rutland is England's smallest county. But that's hardly strange at all compared to what's going on here.

#2 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 08:11 AM:

I only discovered the Strange Maps blog earlier this week (thanks to a link in Ken Jennings's blog), and have spent way too much time browsing around there this week.

And thanks for reminding me about the Google Sightseeing blog. I'd forgotten how much fun that site is.

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Over on his LiveJournal, Matt McIrvin discovers something else linked from the Strange Maps blog: a magazine article from 1918 alleging that the earth, now an oblate spheroid, is gradually becoming a tetrahedron.

If we take a terrestrial globe and examine it carefully we must be struck by the fact that almost all the large land forms taper to the south, while the great waters narrow towards the north. In other words, the continents are V-shaped and the oceans A-shaped. Look at Africa, Arabia, India, Australasia, North America and South America among the lands, and at the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans among the seas. What does this mean?
The triangular forms of land and water set geographers thinking, and they came to the conclusion that an arrangement so general could not be the result of accident, but must be governed by some law. Much attention has been given to the matter in recent years, and men of science believe that the theory that best fits facts is that the earth is becoming tetrahedral in shape.
This is of course an even more insane version of my old assertion (inspired by the research of Drs. Sherwin and Williams) that the fundamental underlying principle of Terran landmass formation is Continental Drip.
We may be sorry for the editors and poets in those days. It is pleasant to write of sailing round the globe, or of this spinning ball, but who would not pity the poet who has to write and make his rhymes about some bold Sir Francis Drake's brave journey round the tetrahedron? We hope the League of Nations will rule the Tetrahedron well.

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 11:18 AM:

PNH #3: If you look at a Peters Projection map, continental drip is clearly evident (as a result of candles melting, however, rather than paint).

#5 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 11:50 AM:

Speaking of short-lived states— there! I managed to stay vaguely on topic!— I often like to point people at John C. Frémont's account of the Conquest of California, which includes some vastly amusing bits of obscure history about the so-called "Bear Flag Revolt" of 1846.

At points, it almost reads like the transcript of a Monty Python skit.

#6 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 03:41 PM:

Regarding continental drip, all I can do is point you at [1], in which Campbell and Griffiths hypothesise (via evidence from hotspot plume composition) that before the Archaean, 4.5--4.0 billion years ago, the mantle was too hot for plate tectonics to operate: that, instead, the shell immediately below the lithosphere dripped...

Of course the first *actual landmasses* in this model were volcanic islands formed via hotspot plumes; the drips replaced subduction and didn't produce any associated crust. But it's near enough, so I'm sorry, it's officially Not Insane.

(information from the titanic tome _The Earth's Mantle: Composition, Structure, and Evolution_, which seems to be a sort of obituary by the members of the Research School of Earth Sciences of the Australian National University for their ex-department-head, Professor Ted Ringwood. I must say, this sort of thing strikes me as a far better obituary than any bloody plaque or monument.)

[1] Campbell, I. H., and Griffiths, R. W., 1992, `The changing nature of mantle hotspots through time: implications for the geochemical evolution of the mantle', J. Geol 92:497-523,

#7 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 05:06 PM:

I love that site; somebody forwarded me a link to the E. Germany entry last month and I ended up going through the whole blog.

#8 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 06:23 PM:

The Most Generic Country Ever should be required reading for all would-be cartographer fantasists. Majestic, and majestically funny.

#9 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 06:36 PM:

I was introduced to Strange Maps by the Map of Mongo.

The part of my brain that remembers that I have a BS in Geography adores this site.

#10 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 07:10 PM:

In the mid 70s or so, Lin Carter and Scott Bizar approached the Dale (?) family for rights to do a Flash Gordon game.

They got the deal, and even the rights to use the map, but were required to create a game that was essentially like Chutes and Ladders, with one path forward. No branching. You had to march along the adventure the way that Flash & co. did.

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 07:16 PM:

RE Generic Country:

A few miles west of me there's an intersection with a directional sign that could be set in a generic country, or perhaps a slightly more expansive version of The Village:


(left arrow) OCEAN BEACHES

(The message editor window interprets the lesser-than symbol as a html comment...)

#12 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 08:36 PM:

I screwed up. It's John Bidwell's account of John Frémont and the Conquest of California. Still, it's worth checking out— even back in 1846, California was full of complete whackjobs.

#13 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 08:37 PM:

One of the coolest maps I've ever seen is at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum: an example of a 'stick chart' used by Marshall Islanders to navigate their part of the South Pacific:
"Marshall Islanders constructed stick charts to teach navigation. The charts incorporated ocean features, observable to the keen-eyed. This chart guides seafarers on a 160 km (100 mi) voyage, from Jaluit Atoll to the island of Nanorik. Curved sticks represent constant swells, while the short horizontal sticks between them represent currents."

Who knows, maybe "Strange Maps" will pick this one sometime.

#14 ::: SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2007, 09:44 PM:

Thank you, Avram, a million thanks. I did not know about this site, and I love maps of any kind, although the stranger, the better.

One set of maps that would be fascinating to see here: in the late 1950's a psychiatrist published the (sanitized) notes on a patient of his who believed, because his name was John Carter, that he was the John Carter of Mars. To prove it he had drawn maps of Mars and other places that Burroughs wrote about.

Another bit of trivia: 30 miles south of here is a surveyor's plat and a monument with a plaque with words to the effect that this point is exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole. I've stood on the plat a couple of times trying to visualize that.

#15 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 12:31 AM:

#14: That would be "The Jet Powered Couch."

It wasn't exactly John Carter, but another pulpish intergalactic hero.

As I recall, the patient became disenchanted with the fantasy when the shrink started getting engrossed in the wealth of details. ("There's only room in there for one of us.")

But yes, it would be neat to see those maps and other details!

OTOH, from our perspective it might read like a typical sci-fi Role Playing Game setting. I write stuff like that all the time, not to live in but make money from.

#16 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 12:45 AM:

Sorry, "Jet Propelled Couch," and holy crap, they made a Playhouse 90 episode out of it!

#17 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 01:29 AM:

Stephan Jones @11;

The way to do a < character is to remove the spaces from the text below:

& l t ;

#18 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 08:07 AM:

Abi, as I am sure you will remember, the way to write the above text without spaces is this:


(which had to be written as:


(which again had to be written as:


in the sequence:

&amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;, &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;, &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;, &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;,…;

(That could be written as &amp;(amp;)lt;, where n > 0.

But not in html…) (Ooo, recursion…)))

I love the spelling reference, also. I especially like the posting of Its vs. It's. It appeals to my twisted sense of humour. (Another thing I see people being confused about is mine and Stefan Jones's name. Stefan often gets addressed as Stephan. If Stephan/Stefan were to be included, they should be included in the exact same way. Sans context.

(Am I twisted or what?)

Sorry, Abi, just noticed you were the one doing it in this thread. I didn't mean to take another stab at you. Still posting, though, since I think it's funny.)

#19 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 08:16 AM:

Damn, just noticed. The formula should be:

&amp;n(amp;)lt;, where n > 0.

Oh, and ignore the semicolon at the end of the sequence, it should be a period.

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 02:36 PM:

This isn't the only place where Stefan becomes Stephan or Stephen. At work, I sometimes get stephen's email and phone messages. Arrrgh!

#21 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 02:41 PM:

I am mortified.

I spend so long sorting through the Abbys, Abbeys, and Abbies, as well as the people who pronounce my name to rhyme with lay-by. And then I get others' names wrong.


#22 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Abi #21: I just want to point out that my department chair is named Abi....

#23 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 03:28 PM:

Fragano @22:
You name your furniture?

More seriously, I find it odd. Throughout my upbringing I was the only Abi, Abigail, or Gail of my acquaintance. Now I meet them everywhere, and I have one question for all of them.

Where were you hiding?

#24 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 03:41 PM:

Stefan: Oh, that was in the book The 50 Minute Hour? I don't remember that particular case, but I remember the book as a whole, which was very interesting. It was kind of a predecessor to some of Oliver Saks' books, in a sense.

#25 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 04:19 PM:

abi @ 17... Do you know how I could put accents onto vowels? I'd like to be able to type French words such as 'peche' with the correct accents and make sure it comes out as 'peach' and not as 'fishing' or 'sin'.

#26 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 04:28 PM:

Serge @25
It's a standard formula:
& + vowel + accent type + ;

& a acute ; = á
& e grave ; = è
& o circ ; = ô


#27 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 04:29 PM:

Serge, try
& eacute ; = é
and & egrave ; = è
(and similarly for the others)

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 04:40 PM:

abi and PJ... It's not working. Not sure what I'm doing wrong.

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 04:42 PM:

abi and PJ... Finally got it. Not sure what I was doing wrong the previous time.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 04:48 PM:

péché - sin
pèche - peach
pêche - fishing

What a difference an accent makes.

I even figured out the umlaut on my own. OK, by accident. But here it is:

Thanks, abi and PJ.

We now return to our regularly schedule program.

#31 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 04:51 PM:


The semicolon is your friend. Don't leave it all lonely and unused.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 04:59 PM:

abi @ 31... The semicolon is your friend.

The strange thing is that I did get it to work without the lonely semi-colon. This makes me feel like someone who takes an engine apart, puts it back together and it works beautifully, then the mechanic notices there's a part still lying on the bench and he/she wonders when the engine will decide that it does need that part after all and goes kabloohee.

#33 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Looking at the page source, I suspect that you only need the semicolon if you have something other than a space after the accented character.

& e acute e = ée
& e acute ; e = ée
e & e acute = eé
e & e acute ; = eé

#34 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 05:05 PM:

Serge (#32): I'm pretty sure that the spec requires the semicolon, but some browsers are overly tolerant and will try to parse the entities without it. So it may work for you, but not for your readers.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Thanks, abi and Christopher. I'll use the semi-colon no matter what from now on.

#36 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 05:14 PM:

abi #21: When you said I spend so long sorting through the Abbys, Abbeys, and Abbies, I had a very peculiar mental experience where the word "Abbys" completely stopped me in my tracks. First I thought you were talking about "sorting through the abyss," which seemed a bit non-sequitur, though kind of fascinating, and then when I realized it was "abbys," I started thinking maybe it was one of the many ancient or fictional languages people here discuss, of which I am ignorant. Eventually I figured it out. What I don't know is why that one word completely stopped me short, when usually I read at least to the end of the sentence before going back and saying "huh?"

I'm sure no one had a pressing need to hear about my bizarre mental processes, but now it's in your brain cells so you're stuck with it (~Gary Larson).

#37 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 05:51 PM:

You know what I like? I like the fact that whenever I see a circumflex in French I can stick an ess after the letter and have a good guess as to what the word means (despite my near-total lack of actual French).

I know everyone else already knew this. I can only say that I figured it out on my own in Montréal, starting when I saw that the stop signs said ARRÊT.

Imagine my disappointment when someone told me that most (or all, can't remember which) of the circumflexes came about as an orthographic reform that dropped unpronounced esses, replacing them with circumflexes over the previous vowel! I was crushed.

#38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 05:52 PM:

Abi #23: Certainly, I name my furniture. My desk is named 'Ouch'.

My department chair is actually named Abiodun, but signs herself 'Abi'. My wife is named Gail. I would, however, point out that I am the only person I know whose given name is Fragano. It is an Italian surname, which I don't think my father knew when he inflicted this monstrosity on me.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 05:53 PM:

Don't feel crushed, Xopher. You just taught me something about my native language.

#40 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 05:58 PM:

Hmm...or should the plural of 'circumflex' be 'circumflices'?

Which reminds me that I used to know a guy who used 'indice' (IN da sea) as the singular of 'indices', with no apparent awareness of any relationship between the words 'index' and 'indices'. Books, to him, most likely had indexes, and since the indices he was talking about were retention indices (a measure of how long it took a given substance to vaporize in a gas chromatograph...or something), the two concepts were entirely distinct in his mind.

Oh, yes, he had a PhD in psychopharmacology. Not a stupid man at all. I never found a way to tell him that he'd invented a word.

#41 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 06:02 PM:

Serge 39: that only works if my information is accurate! I hope it is, but I never looked it up. Despite that, pleased to be of service.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 06:09 PM:

Xopher... If the information turns out to be inaccurate, I'll ask for my money back. Still, the link between the circonflexe accent and a silent 'S' makes sense.

#43 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 06:33 PM:

#40: I have been told that it was house style at an (unnamed) magazine to give the plural of "index" as "indexes". God alone knows why. Yes, the staff all knew that in real English it is "indices" but in the magazine it was "indexes". Takes months for that to stop bothering you.

#44 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 08:01 PM:

abi (23): Throughout my upbringing I was the only Abi, Abigail, or Gail of my acquaintance. Now I meet them everywhere

I went to school with a Gail. Also a Gay. (I have *no* idea if she's still using that or has gone with a middle name or something by now.)

Incidentally, it took me quite a while to figure out that you were an Abigail; I thought 'abi' was initials or some kind of fannish nickname/reference I wasn't getting. (I also pronounced it 'ah-bee', and thought you were male.)

#45 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 08:05 PM:

'Indexes' is a non-preferred but widely recognized plural for 'index'. 'Indice', on the other hand, is nothing at all.

#46 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 08:09 PM:

Xopher (40): Reminds me of my brother and temperatures. When he moved to Canada, he thought being comfortable with Celsius for scientific notation would make it easy for him to adjust, but it didn't. For him, weather is measured in Fahrenheit, science in Celsius, and never the twain shall meet.

#47 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 10:07 PM:

I'm that way, Mary Aileen; I use Celsius almost exclusively for school/work and can't convert it to 'light jacket weather' to save my life. Most other metric units make sense to me by now. I can envision ten centimeters, a liter, sixty grams of sucrose, but not temperatures. I can't do it in Fahrenheit, either, though-- I know seventies and sunny is warm enough to go without a coat, but that's from years of noticing.

Then I hit engineers, and some of them still use Fahrenheit (why? What possible reason can there be, besides old equipment?) and pounds-- pounds! Feet! Million gallons per day!
My reflexive cringe away has become rather stronger than I'd like; I've caught myself thinking, "How can we still be using English minutes?" and had to take a break.

#48 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2007, 11:42 PM:

I grew up with Farenheit, but it always made sense to me that 0° was freezing, and anything colder than that was a negative value. And that is was a negative value validated your suffering in a way that 20° didn't.

#49 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 01:20 AM:

My mother always says that she prefers Fahrenheit to Celsius because in Celsius there's just one below zero/below freezing, while in Fahrenheit it can be below freezing or below zero, which is an entirely new realm of awful that Celsius just doesn't have.

#50 ::: SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 01:50 AM:

I've caught myself thinking, "How can we still be using English minutes?" and had to take a break.

No, that's fine, we don't need the minute at all. The only unit of time we need to keep is the second. Mess with that, and you will be haunted by the ghosts of any physicist who ever has or ever will try to compute anything.

I admit to being an engineer who learned everything outside of chem and physics class in English units, even though I thought it was damn silly because it's so much harder to remember how to convert units. Even so, I sometimes still have to convert miles to klicks just to get a feel for the distance. But really, foot-pounds? Pounds of thrust? How bogus!

#51 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 05:09 AM:

#50: I've read a serious proposal for the Martian day that, instead of having 24 hours of 60 minutes and another "gap" of about 40 minutes, the Martian colonists should arrange a 24-hour Martian day by simply using a slightly longer second.


#52 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 05:16 AM:

Yes, those circumflexes certainly are remnants of etymological S's. (Aside: in my reading of The Odyssey, I've just recently come across the etymology of "etymology".) Compare French "pêche" with Latin "piscis".

#53 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 06:42 AM:

Don't forget the foot-poundal (Work done by moving the force of one poundal through one foot), a unit in one of my Mum's physics textbooks.

And from another sub-thread, her name is Gay, and she still uses it.

(Also, I can't help saying: A different length second??!? Who comes up with these ideas??!?)

#54 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 09:52 AM:

#45: I had a co-worker who thought the singular of "matrices" was "matrice." (Yes, pronounced like "indice.") We were constantly putting out fires in the project we worked on at the time. So there was always something more urgent to do than correct his back-formation. (Then we stopped working with matrices, so I never got a chance to acquaint him with the word "matrix.")

#55 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 10:09 AM:

Ajay, you just... no. No. A forty-minute gap between the days is clearly a signal to the Martians to take a nap.

Half the fun of metric units is seeing familiar names. Or perfectly logical dimensional analysis. Hard to do that in cubits.

#56 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 10:22 AM:

For him, weather is measured in Fahrenheit, science in Celsius, and never the twain shall meet.
I've probably told this story here before. I went to university in Montreal, so I have a gut feeling for Celsius temperatures from -40 to about 10; above that I have to do the math in my head. (When it gets warm in Montreal... school lets out.)

#57 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 10:35 AM:

The max. today was forty-two point two degrees, Celsius. For the uninitiated, that is decidedly hot.

#58 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 11:53 AM:

in Fahrenheit it can be below freezing or below zero, which is an entirely new realm of awful that Celsius just doesn't have.

That's how I feel about it. There really is a noticeable difference between >0 F and <0 F.

#59 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 12:02 PM:

Ack, that was an awful post I just made. I blame hours of studying physchem.

I can do C-F conversions in my head when temperatures are near freezing. My approximation is 2F to 1C, and I sort of count outward from freezing. Pretty much the same as the actual conversion, but I can remember it better. It's what I did when it hit crazy-low windchills; on my walk home, I'd figure out how cold it was in C based on bank signs.

#60 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 12:22 PM:

In the technical documentation I write, we conventionally treat data as a mass noun ("The data is stored...."). A few years back, I was documenting mechanism modeling software. When you create a computer model of a mechanism, you typically define a datum, a reference point used to define the relative motion of parts. If you combine two mechanisms into one supermechanism, you can wind up with more than one defined datum. Engineers want to understand the algorithm that the software uses to resolve datum conflicts.

And this is how I came to write an article that corectly used both "data is" and "datums are".

#61 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 12:43 PM:

Datums to me sounds like they'd be a snack food that's portable, convenient, and romantic.

#62 ::: David Sucher ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2007, 11:01 PM:

Thanks. Strange Maps is great.

#63 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2007, 04:36 AM:

Seems to me that the plural of circumflex should be circumfleges. (Like lex, legis and rex, regis.)

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