Monday, August 27, 2012

The Problems with Election Maps

With the presidential election on a few months away, maps of the potential outcomes have already started appearing.  Electoral college aside, the flaw with these maps is obvious--no state is all for one candidate or the other. Just looking at one map, makes me think popular vote!

CNN's map and calculator will even let you see what happens if all states went Democratic or Republican: What the use in an all red or blue map?  Even worse, is Amazon's 'heat map' of whether people are purchasing 'red' or 'blue' blooks, indicated by a percent greater than 50%.  Essentially the entire U.S. is symbolized in red. No map is preferable to a bad map.

On the other hand, The New York Times, does a better job: using a cartogram to symbolize the number of electoral votes per state.  Then population and its associated number of votes is the focus rather than the number and size of states, which can be deceiving.   In fact, as some posts suggest, the potential outcome, and margin of victory, may be better conveyed in a graph looking back historically.  Sadly, many consumers probably don't look at the NY Times map or find it difficult to understand.  Wikipedia also tackles the issue of map interpretation and the electoral college.

Lastly, the Huffington Post goes a bit further by including a handy historical table with its basic map--that way people can see which states are traditionally red, blue, or teetering on the edge.  Finally, it is important to mention that other maps, such as turnout rates, would also be helpful but are rarely seen or talked about in the news and media.
Source: New York Times, Click to bring up a larger version

Thursday, August 23, 2012 (OSM) provides users the ability to edit and download street maps for free through open source licensing.  Check out more background information about OSM at Wikipedia.

Open source GIS software like QGIS also have add-ons to aid in the download process. Alternatively, you can download the data directly from its website or connect to a WMS server.  You can also use OSM maps as base layers in Open Layers for web publishing.

Companies, including Apple, have recognized OSM's value--Apple uses OSM in its iPhoto app.  Most of the map's symbology is relatively straightfoward, but you can also check out its wiki to find an extensive list.  Below the Florida keys are shown. Click the photo for a more detailed image.  Be sure to check out this terrific resource!

The Florida Keys

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Remote Sensing and GIS That Are Out of This World!

Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona "Serpent Dust Devil of Mars"

It is easy to forget a lot of remote and direct sensing, GIS and GPS work, and measurements are not even done on Earth.  Of course, I am referring to NASA's Curiosity Rover that touched down this week and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) which has been in orbit for several years.  These are following in the footsteps of other great rovers and spacecraft that have successfully made the voyage.  However, I feel like the MRO is a bit neglected...

The MRO carries a host of sensors and instruments to map and image Mars including, A high-resolution camera in visible wavelengths (HiRISE), a wide area view camera, a weather imager in five visible and two ultraviolet bands (MARCI), an infrared spectrometer looking for signs of water, mineral deposits, etc., a radiometer, and a radar (SHARAD).

The scientific value of these instruments is beyond measure. NASA is probably one of the best agencies at making data and images available publically...Here are some neat open source resources related to this endeavour!