Monday, December 27, 2010

Some Reading

The Iliad
The reference map in the breathtaking Barnes and Noble Leatherbound Classic.

So I’m finally getting around to supplementing my should-have-been-high-school-reading experience by picking up with the Iliad (actually, more like slogging through it between other things).  The closest I’d come was watching Brad Pitt and Eric Bana duke it out in Troy.  Anyways, as I read, I keep flipping back to the supplemental map on the inside cover and it is amazing how nearby all these warring groups really are to each other.  It’s a good example of our shifting perspective of scale.  The ancient Greek’s practical notion of the world was a pretty small place overall (though they were awesome cartographers).  As travel and communication infrastructures broaden, our notion of overtheredness (and xenophobic inclinations) gets pushed to greater distances.
Speaking of xenophobia and greater distances…

Ender’s Game
Matt Watkins' interpretation of Ender's map.

I haven’t read much science fiction, but Stephen Tait, a better-read friend of mine, mailed me a copy of Ender’s Game a couple weeks ago.  I’d never heard of it but, it turned out to be terrific and most of my colleagues had read it.  Plus, I speculate that a considerable amount of the storyline was mined for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  Anyways, a key component to the plot is a training exercise that uses a holographic map display which allows Ender to command and orchestrate the movements of armadas in 3D space.  With the standard set of fly through degrees of freedom, he can navigate the space such that he can alter scale and viewshed.  Really, this pretty much has to be the future of many geographic interfaces, though the key, as with all maps, is to represent just enough meaningful data to serve as an effective model.
Orson Scott Card also carefully tracks the relative and absolute time experienced the characters as their often very fast travel speed ages them at different rates.  Did you know that GPS satellites, which are really just super precise atomic clocks whizzing around in orbit, have to account for relativity given their speed?  Pretty cool.

The Ghost Map
Original map made by John Snow in 1854.

I just started this; Danielle got if for me for Christmas.  Ah, historical nonfiction, how I love you.  It’s the whole John Snow cholera map, and the invention of epidemiology thing.  Stephen Johnson goes into more detail (apparently, but I’m only in the first few chapters) about the social, technical, and biologic runups, and the lasting implications.  It comes highly recommended by a colleague, Chris Abraham, and, in a roundabout way, a professor who I’m noticing indirectly referenced some specific contents in a couple lectures.  By the way this course, which could be considered a descendant of John Snow’s work, was excellent and you can follow along if you are interested.  In any case, the book's connection to mapping is pretty apparent and, so far so good.

No comments:

Post a Comment