Thursday, February 22, 2018

Finding Qibla

As someone who works with location data and digital maps I really should love Augmented Reality. However, despite being initially excited by a few AR projects, I don't think there is one AR project that I've ever visited more than once. Perhaps if I were Muslim Google's Qiblar Finder would be the AR application to finally earn a permanent bookmark on my phone.

Qibla is the direction of Mecca. The direction that should be faced during salah prayers. The Qibla Finder allows you to find the direction of Qibla from wherever you are in the world. The website uses Google Maps Street View and GPS to provide an augmented reality view of Qibla. Visit the Qibla Finder on your phone and you can view a Street View image of your current location with a map marker and line indicating the direction that you should pray.

If you visit the Qibla Finder from a desktop then you can view a Google Map of your direction with a line leading from your location towards Mecca.

The Cannabis Price Index Map

If you want to live your life stoned & high then drag your ass down to Paraguay. At only $2.22 a gram the Paraguayan city of Asuncion is one of the cheapest places to buy cannabis in the world. Colombia and Ecuador are two other countries where you can buy weed on the cheap. I suspect it has something to do with supply & demand.

Vice is living up to its name with an interactive map showing the price of cannabis around the world.  The 2018 Cannabis Price Index interactive map shows you the cost of a gram of weed in 120 cities around the world. Click on a city's marker on the map and you can not only view the price of a gram but also the legality of cannabis in that city and the amount of cannabis consumed.

The Vice map is an interesting overview of the global prices of cannabis. However I think that a map showing your nearest dealers, each one with a menu of currently available varieties and near real-time prices, would be much more useful. I think the police would also appreciate such a handy map.

As well as the interactive map Vice has summarized the cheapest & most expensive cities to buy cannabis around the world. This Is How Much Weed Costs in 120 Cities Across the World also looks at which cities consume the most and the least weed in an average year.

All Aboard the SS Great Britain

In the mid 19th Century the SS Great Britain was the longest passenger ship in the world. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel the SS Great Britain was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic. During its operating life the SS Great Britain traveled to 5 different continents and circumnavigated the globe 32 times. The SS Great Britain is now permanently at dock in Bristol Harbour enjoying a new life as a visitor attraction and museum ship.

You can now learn more about the SS Great Britain's many voyages and about life on board the ship on a new interactive map. Using information taken from letters, diaries and logbooks Brunel's SS Great Britain allows you to explore the routes of each of the ship's 47 outward and return journeys. It also allows you to learn more about its passengers and crew and their daily life on board the ship.

If you select to view one of the steamer's voyages you can view the route of the voyage outlined on a Google Map. Each route includes a number of markers which allow you to read entries made about the voyage in letters, diaries and logbooks. You can also view details about the number of passengers and crew on board and the name of the captain for the voyage.

If you want to learn more about life on board the SS Great Britain then you might also want to look at the Ship section of the SS Great Britain website. This includes photographs of some of the decks, galleys and sleeping quarters which can be found aboard Isambard Kingdom Brunel's great iron ship.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Cesspits of San Francisco

NBC say that many San Francisco streets have conditions which are comparable to some of the worst slums in the world. An NBC Bay Area Investigation surveyed over 150 streets and discovered a number of San Francisco's streets are littered with trash, discarded needles and even human feces.

In Diseased Streets you can view an interactive map visualizing the results of NBC's investigation. The map shows the overall sanitation score given to each street by NBC. You can also filter the map to show individual scores for the amounts of trash, needles or feces found on each street. If you click on a street on the map you can see exactly how many needles, feces and trash NBC found on that street.

According to NBC over the years reports of needles and human waste to 311 have steadily risen. Therefore it looks like the conditions on San Francisco's streets are getting worse not better. In fact you often get cleaner conditions in some of the world's worst slums. People who live in slums tend to try to keep them as sanitary as possible. Because San Francisco's homeless are continually moved on there is no need for them to worry about sanitation.

The USA - A Democracy for Sale

Saudi Arabia wants to build two nuclear reactors. This might seem surprising for a country with lots of oil and a seemingly unlimited potential for solar energy. So why does Saudi Arabia want to go nuclear? Obviously Saudi Arabia is keen to join the ever growing list of countries that own their own nuclear weapons. Perhaps that is why it wants two nuclear reactor and is also reluctant to deny that it might use them to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

Luckily nuclear non-proliferation treaties mean that the USA can't sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately the Trump administration is pursuing a deal to try to sell the Saudi's the two nuclear reactors anyway.

You might wonder why the Americans would want to help another brutal dictatorship get nuclear weapons. There are two possible reasons. One is that this could be just another example of Trump's 'America First' policy. America just grabbing the money while it can and screwing the consequences for the whole world. Another reason could be the influence that Saudi Arabia has over American legislators.

We all know that in American politics money talks. So let's take a look at Middle East Lobbying: The Influence Game. Al-Monitor's interactive map reveals the amount of money that Middle East countries spend on lobbying the American government. Every year Al-Monitor reveals how much money Middle-East countries spend on lobbying and also assess how successful each country has been in its lobbying.

The kings of Middle-East lobbying are of course Saudi Arabia. Last year Saudi Arabia spent $14 million in lobbying American politicians. Obviously just spending that money doesn't mean that they were successful in buying any influence. To determine if the USA's democracy is really for sale we would have to see if the Saudi's actually achieved anything, such as becoming Trump's first official visit or successfully buying nuclear technology.

The Queen's Travel Scratch Map

I've visited 10 countries. Which is 3.4% of the countries in the world. If you are interested in which countries I've been to then you can visit my personal travel scratch pad.

However, rather than looking at my travel map, you can have far more fun creating your own map of all the countries that you have seen. Scratch the World is a fun little interactive map which you can use to boast about all the places you have visited around the world. Just click on all the countries you have been to and Scratch the World will mark them off, work out the total number of countries you have been to and tell you what percentage of the world's countries you have visited.

You can even get a unique URL which you can use to share with your friends when you want to boast about your global travels.

Mind you, no matter how much of the world you have seen, the Queen's travel map is still much better than yours. After all she has visited hundreds more countries than you (if I had my own plane, train, and ocean liner I would have also have visited more countries than you).

The Travels of Queen Elizabeth II is an interactive map of every country the Queen has visited since 1953. In total the Queen has visited 110 countries. This is 43% of the countries featured on Scratch the World. Therefore there are still quite a few countries for the Queen to visit.

If you are in anyway interested in the global travels of the Queen then you can use her travel map to view all the countries she has visited by decade and by type of visit (state or commonwealth visit (royal beach holiday is missing from the available options)).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Europe isn't where you think it is

Africa, Europe and South America aren't where you think they are. According to John M Nelson lots of us think that Europe and Africa are a lot further south than they really are and that South America is further west than it really is.

In Misconceptions Nelson explores these three commonly held geographical misconceptions. Obviously whether he is correct or not depends on how good your mental map of the world actually is. Where he is right, as always, is in his immaculate cartography. I particularly like how his maps seamlessly transition from the style of a hand-drawn map sketched in a school exercise book to a full-sized globe in your grown-up office or library.

If you are also impressed by the realistic looking globes then you can find out how to create them in Globification - Turn Your Maps into Plausibly Realistic Globes. The tutorial even includes some downloadable images which you can use as the background for your own interactive globes.

Pennsylvania's Non-Gerrymandered Map

One consequence of redrawing electoral districts to try to squeeze all the voters of one political party into one district is that you end up with some very oddly shaped districts. Back in 2014 the Washington Post mapped America’s most gerrymandered congressional districts. One conclusion that they reached from mapping loads of oddly shaped districts was that you can get a good idea of how gerrymandered a district is by how irregular its shape is.

You might want to think about this irregular shape rule when reading the New York Times' article The New Pennsylvania House Districts Are In. We Review the Mapmakers’ Choices. Yesterday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a new congressional map to replace the one gerrymandered by Pennsylvania Republicans.

The Time's article includes a series of maps which allow you to compare the Republican gerrymandered districts with the Supreme Court's redrawn districts. When switching between the two maps for each district you can look out for irregular shapes where boundary lines are snaking out to capture neighborhoods that don't seem to be a natural fit. The Supreme Court's district maps do seem to be much more compact than those drawn by the Republicans. The Supreme Court maps don't have as many "squiggles and offshoots and tentacle-looking protuberances" that are common to gerrymandered electoral districts.

The Washington Post map of America's most gerrymandered districts gives the old Pennsylvania congressional districts gerrymander scores mostly in the 80's & 90's. Scores that indicate the districts have been highly gerrymandered to favor one political party over another. The fact that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has redrawn a much fairer map doesn't appear to be very good news for the Republicans. However we will have to wait until the elections later this year to see which party really wins in each new Pennsylvania district.

The World's News - 2017

2017 was a momentous year. It began with the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. It ended with the USA withdrawing from the UN's New York Declaration, a policy adopted unanimously by 193 states to help improve the fate of refugees and immigrants. You can read more about the major events of last year in World 2017.

World 2017 is a summary of the major news, sports events and scientific discoveries that happened last year. It provides an overview of the global political, economic and social events which shaped 2017. As you scroll through World 2017 you progress chronologically through the year. As you progress an interactive globe rotates and shows you the locations of major events around the world, while the scrolling sidebar provides a summary of each of these global events.

Under the hood World 2017 is using Klokan Technologies' WebGL Earth. WebGL Earth is an open-source virtual globe. The WebGL Earth JavaScript API is based on the popular Leaflet JavaScript API and is therefore relatively simple to use, especially if you have experience of using the Leaflet mapping library.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Carpooling Map of Europe

BlaBlaCar is an online carpooling service. It connects passengers looking to make a journey with car drivers who plan to take that route. Passenger and driver then share the cost of the trip. BlaBlaCar operates in 21 countries, most of which are in Europe.

BlaBlaCar has around 60 million users and it matches lots of passengers with car drivers willing to give lifts. For example last month 39,752 BlaBlaCar drivers passed through Paris on route to other locations. You can view how many rides passed by your location with BlaBlaCar's Destinations map.

Enter a location into the map and you can view all the trips which passed nearby in the last month. The map uses Mapbox's pitch feature to provide a neat oblique overview of the extent of all the journeys that passed through your selected location.