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Posts Tagged ‘maps’

So I’m in my house one day last year as storm rolled in overhead. Dark clouds rained down, thunderous booms rumbled, and, off in the distance like God’s own strobe, lightning. I’m at my desk asking myself all the usual questions one does in such situations: Which direction is the storm tracking? Who pissed off the powers that be? Was that last strike closer? And that most critical question of the 21st century: will the power stay on long enough for me to meet my project deadline?

A little websploration later, and I discovered a very fun tool: Lightning Maps.

A project from Blitzortung.org, the site uses crowd-sourced data from a community of contributors with strike sensors:

“Blitzortung.org” is a lightning detection network for locating electromagnetic discharges in the atmosphere (lightning discharges) with VLF receivers based on the time of arrival (TOA) and time of group arrival (TOGA) method.

Lightning emits radio waves detectable from thousands of miles, if you have the right sensor. With more than 500 sensors, the network displays data from America, Europe and Oceania.

Think this is extra cool, have some skill with electronics and want to join in? Keep an eye on the Blitzortung forums to see when their next batch of sensors is available for purchase and deployment.

While the site makes it clear that the data are not suited for insurance or protection of life and property, it’s still a fun resource. I recommend it for anyone interested in a dynamic view of one of nature’s most dramatic forces.

Would you like to know more?

Check out how lightning works and the science of detection.

I prefer the beauty and simplicity of Lightning Maps but there are a number of alternatives. Visit Blitzortung.org for real-time and historical maps, or any of the alternative lightning maps at the World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN), the European Cooperation for Lightning Detection (EUCLID), and of course, NASA.

Next time a big storm comes through I plan to cuddle up with a bowl of popcorn and ooh-ahh over the latest lightning strikes… at least until the power goes out:)

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Gerardus Mercator was born today in 1512. Yes, that Mercator, as in maps, as in one of cartographic history’s groundbreaking creations, the Mercator Atlas. The Mercator projection* displayed latitude and longitude as a grid, which (while causing all sorts of difficulties with pole-proximate object scales that persist to this day**) allowed sailors to plot their courses in straight lines. Sounds like a simple thing? Try calculating where you are, and where you need to go, while tossing up and down on the deck of a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, using hand-held scientific instruments and a flattened, rum-stained ellipse with sea monsters at the edges, then see how you feel;)

In honor of Mercator’s 503rd birthday, I want to point my fellow writers to an article on the right ways (and wrong ways) to build a cartographic history for your fantasy land:
10 Rules For Making Better Fantasy Maps

I particularly like suggestion #3 for urban fantasists; when it comes to understanding city form, it’s hard to go wrong with Kevin Lynch at your side.

Map: a useful distortion of reality.

* For more on Mercator’s process and the social context in which he produced his maps, see this excerpt from Mark Monmonier’s Rhumb Lines and Map Wars, via the University of Chicago Press.

** Check out this interactive puzzle map for a fun demonstration of size distortions.

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Because my father is touching down in the UK today, here’s a delightful look at the growth of London over the past two thousand years:

Watch London Evolve From Roman Times To Today

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