My kid is more up-to-date on geography than Google Maps

Google Maps, South Sudan“Where’s South Sudan?” my five-year-old asked me.

Being my kid, he’s big into maps. He has a map of Africa with all the flags on it hanging above his bed. Using it, he’s been able to trace dad’s adventures in Ethiopia and Somaliland. It’s been marked up a bit since I got it for him more than a year ago. I had to draw the boundary of the unrecognized state of Somaliland on it, and we had to add a flag after Libya suddenly got a second one.

He’s been hearing me talk about wanting to visit South Sudan, the world’s newest country after splitting from Sudan in July. In order to draw the new border, we looked it up on Google Maps. It wasn’t there. Google, which analyzes everyone’s search terms and takes photos of where everybody lives, hadn’t yet decided South Sudan was worthy of notice. We had to go to this map on Wikipedia to find out the information.

After an online campaign, Google Maps has finally changed their map to reflect reality, the BBC reports. Yahoo!, Microsoft and National Geographic have yet to follow suit.

I guess this a good lesson to my son that no source of information is 100% reliable, especially if that source is on the Internet.

Gallipoli battlefield being mapped by GPS

Gallipoli
Archaeologists in Turkey are making a detailed survey of the famous World War One battle of Gallipoli. Using period military maps and GPS technology, they’re mapping the old trenches and redoubts used by both sides.

Gallipoli was the scene of fierce fighting starting in 1915. A peninsula with highlands dominating the Dardanelles strait linking the Black and the Aegean seas, it guarded the western approach to the Ottoman capital of Constantinople, now Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire was on Germany’s side during World War One and the British Empire’s high command believed an attack on Gallipoli would be the first step to knocking the Ottomans out of the war.

They were wrong. The Ottoman Empire, long dismissed “the sick man of Europe”, put up a determined resistance and the British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and French troops got stuck on the beaches as Ottoman troops pummeled them from the highlands. After nine bloody months, the allies sailed away.

The international team of Turkish, Australian, and New Zealand archaeologists and historians have discovered large numbers of artifacts from the battle and are busy working out a complete map of the complicated network of trenches, many of which can still be clearly seen today.

The battle started 25 April 1915, and this date is marked as ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, who did some of the toughest fighting in the campaign. Many people in both of these countries feel the soldiers’ efforts proved the worth of the two young nations.

Last year archaeologists discovered the HMS Lewis and a barge sunk off the shore.

App review: MapQuest for Android with turn-by-turn spoken navigation directions

mapquest android navigation

Yesterday, MapQuest unveiled their Android mapping application. This new app offers something fantastic – navigation with spoken turn by turn directions. I took it for a spin and can safely say that this is the new best free navigation package for Android.

Everything you expect from a decent GPS package is in this app – spoken directions and street names, traffic information, points of interest and voice recognition. Even though they are by no means the first Android map app with turn by turn directions, the MapQuest interface is by far the easiest to use. Maps are also very clean and crisp, making use of data from map leader Navteq.

Navigation results can be provided for driving or walking, but not for public transit or bikes like in Google Maps. The quick link bar at the bottom of the map can instantly display any of the categories on your map, and you can minimize the bar by clicking its down arrow.

Maps load and scroll very fast, and even on a sluggish data connection, I rarely had any blank map tiles. In addition to this, map tiles can be locally cached.

The new MapQuest for Android can be found in the Android market at this link. You can also scan the QR code in the video after the jump – probably one of the first ever QR codes completely made out of Lego!

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[Full disclosure: AOL is the parent company of both MapQuest and Gadling]

Why your state sucks: the depressing but true map of America

map, maps
The folks over at Pleated Jeans have come up with a funny yet painful new map of America. It doesn’t show our cities or rivers or mountains, it shows our flaws. As you can see, each state is singled out for what they’re worst at. Maps reveal a lot about the territory they cover, and this one shows more than some people may want to see.

I’ve lived in three different states and I have to say that I wasn’t too surprised by the results. New York has the longest daily commute? My job there certainly had the longest commute I’ve ever had to do. Arizona has the highest rate of alcoholism? There was a bar near my house that served $1 pitchers of beer. Missouri being ranked highest in bankruptcy didn’t come as much of a shock either, although I would have guessed somewhere in the Deep South.

I also wasn’t surprised at Utah having the highest rate of online porn subscriptions. Harvard economics professor Benjamin Edelman, whose study came to this conclusion, noted, “Subscriptions are slightly more prevalent in states that have enacted conservative legislation on sexuality.” Ah, the good old religious double standard!

In Washington state, they don’t need online porn because they’re humping animals at a higher rate than anyone. The source for this has a very small sample size, so maybe Alaskans are better at keeping their huskies quiet and Texans take their steers far out on the range.

Do you agree with the assessment of your own state? Tell us what you think in the comments section!

Ordnance Survey maps: sometimes government CAN do a great job

map, maps, OS maps, OS, Ordnance SurveyThe BBC recently interviewed a cartographer for the Ordnance Survey. This government department is in charge of mapping the United Kingdom, except for Northern Ireland, which has its own agency.

If you like maps or plan to hike in the UK, the Ordnance Survey maps are simply amazing. They’ve been measuring and drawing this green and pleasant land since the eighteenth century and produce the best maps I’ve ever used. In the interview, cartographer Dave Wareham explains how he uses GPS satellites and OS ground stations to get his measurements to within “a maximum tolerance of 2.6cm.” That’s one inch to you Yanks.

The smallest scale maps are truly amazing, with every fence, building, postbox, and public telephone carefully marked. If you know how to read a map and use a compass, it’s virtually impossible to get lost with one of these in your hand. Unfortunately, a poll back in 2007 discovered that the majority of Brits can’t read maps. If the UK government wasn’t ruthlessly slashing education spending they could add a map-reading course.

It’s nice to see a government project that works well. In the days of GPS and Google Maps, the Ordnance Survey still sells three million copies maps each year. They even turn a profit. My only quibble with the OS maps is that they’re updated only once every three or four years, which isn’t enough in some parts of the country, as I discovered while hiking the East Highland Way.

Still, they’re the best maps you’re going to find. If you’re having trouble shopping for that outdoorsy type in your life, grab some of these to inspire their next hike.