One of the most convincing roles of William Shatner’s career is also one of his least celebrated. It’s not listed on his IMDB page or in his Wikipedia entry, but in 1987, in between starring in T.J. Hooker and directing Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Shatner lent his talents to a surprising but worthy cause: Geography.
Shatner takes this promotional video for an open-source digital mapping software suite, rescues it from being another dull info-pitch for something you didn’t think you cared about, and turns it into an exciting voyage to explore a strange new world. Of maps.
Backed by a perfectly dramatic soundtrack, Shatner begins his narration, ”It’s no news that we all use maps to do our jobs. There are often problems using them in the traditional paper form, particularly when we can’t get the right information in the right format when we need it. There should be a better way.”
Maps can direct us from here to there, show where one thing is in relation to another, or add layers information to our surroundings. Whatever its form, a map’s main purpose is to make the complex world we live in more comprehensible.
But there are also maps that describe the world as it never came to be.
Those are the maps that interest Andrew Lynch, who runs a Tumblr called Hyperreal Cartography & The Unrealized City that’s full of city maps collected from libraries, municipal archives, and dark corners of the internet.
In postmodernist philosophy, “hyperreality” is the point where fiction and reality become indistinguishable. In Lynch’s collection we see familiar cities like New York and Los Angeles, but it’s as if we are viewing them along a different timeline. What if a web of highways criss-crossed downtown San Francisco? What if the orderly grid of Manhattan were organized like the wheel spokes of Washington D.C.? The maps in this gallery illustrate these alternate realities.
In his day job as staff cartographer at UC Berkeley, Darin Jensen makes maps for other people. When professors need a map for teaching a class or submitting a research paper to a journal, he’s their man. But his real passion is fostering what he calls guerrilla cartography.
If traditional cartography is slow, methodical, and ethically bound to be free of bias, guerrilla cartography is a rapid and loosely coordinated effort to draw attention to social issues. It’s ”the act of making a map in the interest of the change that it can inspire or induce,” Jensen said.
The Landsat mission has been taking satellite imagery and data of Earth for 40 years. One of the primary benefits of such a record is the ability to study changing landscapes.
To celebrate the launch of the first Landsat satellite on July 23, 1972, the USGS and NASA asked the public to nominate landscapes that have undergone a lot of environmental change for a closer look. The Landsat team chose these six submissions and created customized chronicles of the change in each area.
Watch the American landscape change - as seen from space! - over at WIRED Science.
When Google announced it had added 20 additional museums to its indoor mapping service Wednesday, the most interesting part of the story was treated as just a throwaway factoid in the company’s blog post: There are now more than 10,000 indoor maps available to Android device users.
Q: If we dug a hole so deep that we came out the other side of the Earth, where would we be?