Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Six Californias

There is a proposal to divide the behemoth state of California into six separate states, called the Six Californias Initiative.  You can read the initiative here.
I've heard of previous initiatives to divide the state into three parts, but the six parts approach is new, and interesting, and the brainchild of Tim Draper, a venture capital investor.
It is an intriguing idea and one that would allocate the outlier of California (geographic size and population) into entities that are more cohesive and maybe find benefits of state representation that isn't stretched so broadly and among many interests and economies.
Sure sure, all that.  But it just sounds fun, right?  I wondered what the new six states would look like among a cast of 55 and also how they might have voted in the impossible time-bending scenario of future-states performing in a past election.  So here is my abomination, which is equal parts 'oh, that's good to know' and 'this is far too complex a topic to handle this simplistically':

Three sources of data for this:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Blind Spots, Blue Lights, and Campus Security

One of the coolest parts of being a thesis adviser is watching the ingenuity and thoughtfulness around a really cool project, and a sharp student.

Central Michigan University geography student Sam Lipscomb has been building an analysis model of perceived personal safety that considers terrain, obstructions, lighting, and emergency call boxes to provide pictures of blind-spot risk across a campus.  Thoughtful, practical, and important.

The college campus is a fine example of a landscape that is both constantly evolving and stuffed with occupants whose personal well-being is at the heart of its purpose.  Other domains, like office parks, public spaces, and hospital campuses share similar considerations –but colleges are special.  Some of the things designers and security personnel ask themselves of their campus are...
How can we accommodate our visitors while doing our best to ensure their safety?
Where should we put lights for best effect?Where do we currently have troublesome areas?
Where should we position Blue Lights (emergency call boxes with blue lights sprinkled around campus)?
Where should security patrols be located?
That sort of thing.

These questions are inherently geographic.  But to some degree the notion of place is considered only inadvertently (and less desirably) as a pull-through of where utilities, easements, and landscaping are already conveniently situated.  That, and well-meaning hunches.  This path-dependent mode of planning can really miss out on some key insights made possible by intentional spatial thinking.

Parking lots pose a substantial blind-spot risk.  Though generally well-lit, a crowded parking lot dramatically reduces a person's overall eye-level visibility.

A campus-wide analysis of visibility, incorporating a local line-of sight rating for every pixel.  Brighter areas are more open while red areas mark potential blind spots.

A general viewshed of the constellation of emergency call boxes (blue lights with emergency two-way communications).  Red areas can see no call boxes.  White areas can see at least one.

Here is that emergency call box visibility layer weighted by how accessible a call box is, given distance, terrain, and obstructions.  Black areas can't see any call boxes; red areas can see a call box but it's less accessible (or nearby but blocked from view).  White areas show where call boxes are readily accessible.

Here, Sam has defined areas that are candidates for enbrightening.  Here's the recommendation for parking lots.

And recommendations for enhanced lighting of pedestrian areas.

Applying spatial brains and tools provides a quantifiable component to an informed and proactive design strategy for the arrangement of things that impact a person’s safety.  Like lighting, emergency call boxes, fences, sidewalks, plantings, signage, patrols, safety education –pretty much everything.  Sam's doing thoughtful and useful work and I anticipate its eager adoption.  Find a recent draft of Sam's research here.


Monday, January 27, 2014

A Meta Portrait of Earth's Surface

The chart and data is certainly not new, but I find myself focusing on it in presentations and since it had previously been embedded in a graphic with ten other charts,  its meta coolness got diluted.  But I think about this map, like, alot, and I wanted to tell you why.  And why I call it a map.

Non-geographic data that can't help but arrange itself into a pixelated portrait of our planet.  What it is: Months on the left, time on top, roll-ups of pedestrian risk in the cells. What it really is: an emergent picture of the Earth's silhouette.

Geography Finds a Way
The data you see in this cell chart (or "heatmap", but since I'm a cartographer that term is sort-of taken) is non-geographic.  It shows the proportion of American traffic fatalities that involved pedestrians by time (left-to right is the time of day and night while the up-and-down splits up the months of the year).
Do you notice how strongly the band of elevated pedestrian risk bows the way it does?  That's because it is especially dangerous to walk at twilight (sun in your face, difficult lighting for object perception, more people walking about, all that).  But twilight is relative depending on the season, so you see the arc of sunset pushing out through summer months and back in for the winter months.  All because we live on a round thing flying through space.  The nature of that roundness is unintentionally revealed in this data.

An Echoed Silhouette of Earth
As we whiz around the sun, once a year, the tilt of our round Earth means that there is a lot of change in the amount and timing of sunlight each day (increasing as you move away from the poles) throughout each trip around.  Amazingly, or not so amazingly to the tougher nuts out there, is that the very roundness of Earth is echoed in the shape of the curve you see in this chart.  It's like what I would expect to see from a rough radio telescope signal of some distant planet, only it's our planet.  And the signal we see is an emergent reflection of our movements on its curved surface.
These traffic events happened in the United States.  But the curve would be the same for other Northern Hemisphere places, and it would bend the other way for places in the Southern Hemisphere.
Because we live on something that is dynamic, data of our lives often reveals the signal of that dynamic process -a roundabout meta image of Earth.  That's a map.

Life and Death
To lump data together and visualize it through different dimensions and isolate different rates can seem to dull the acuity of the very real tragedies that it represents.  While I know this is the data of death, the pixels that paint in this simple chart are sourced from pain and loss in aggregate volumes I can't comprehend.  However, one of the ironies of studying the data of death is that it is often almost perfectly correlated with the data of life and the distinction between the acts of living and the act of death dissolves.
Then, I start down the path of trying to illustrate the thread of life through ups and downs in geography to paint another, maybe more direct, portrait of Earth, which is our vaporous time on it.  And so it goes, the nature of our home to spring up in unexpected places, revealed by proxy in the data we collect about ourselves, nudging us into more questions with the benefit of perspective.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Maps You Can Use For Your Desktop If You Feel Like It

Here are some maps that you can set as your desktop image if you want to.  They are high-resolution photographs of the etched slate and sandstone pool installations I have in my backyard, carved to show the earth's varying ocean depths and filled to sea level.  It's a real sonofagun keeping them topped off to the exact right amount of water, especially when it's hot, but totally worth it.
Anyway, they make fun desktop images if you are map-nerd inclined.  An eye-grabber that will help you determine which co-workers are glancing at your screen when they walk by.  Not cool.
I added an optional version that has a 2014 calendar (showing week-starts on Monday, which is sort of how I think about Mondays).  Can you spot the lizard?

Sandstone Earths, with or without 2014 calendar:

Slate Earths, with or without 2014 calendar:

Also, you can browse the 2013 lot of maps that make alright desktop images for nerds.

I almost forgot!  A rock marks each of the 30 most populous cities in the world.  You can quiz those looky-loos who don't know it's rude to peek at screens.  Put them in their wandering-eyes place!

P.S. I don't really have these slate and sandstone pools in my yard, but you knew that.  However, they are totally real digital images of this data.  Here's pretty much how I made them just mentally swap 'wood' for 'stone.'  Also, before you point fingers, these maps use the Times projection and are not equirectangular or Mercator.  Why?  Refer to #14.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

MRI Scan of Earth's Oceans

I sort-of accidentally made this MRI scan that plumbs the depths of Earth's oceans while working on something else.  But it was too fun not to share.  Here you go!