Amidst the devastation resulting from the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan, it can be difficult to truly asses the damage … even with all of the reporting being done on the subject.  As a solution to this, online maps provide a cut-and-dry visual representation of data that can make factual information more comprehensible.

For example, The New York Times Map of the Damage from Japan highlights the areas effected by earthquake with red circles.  By hovering over the circles with your mouse, you can retrieve the name of the city, and the number of people dead and missing within that city.  Personally, I think this map, though providing gruesome statistics, is perhaps the easiest way to go about making sense of the earthquake’s damages … and where those damages have taken place.

Secondly, the University of Michigan website provides fascinating maps of the 2008 election results. Upon looking at the first map of the US on the page, with states highlighted in either red or blue depending on whether they voted for McCain or Obama, one would gather that McCain actually won the election by a landslide. However, as you scroll down the page, an assortment of maps attempt to convey what really happened in ’08.  Though all of the maps take a good shot at delivering the election results as they actually were, I would say the website’s first displayed cartogram (second from the top) does the best job.  This map, or graphic, takes a map of the US and shrinks each state  based on its electoral votes. There, that’s better.

A cartogram of the '08 election results from the University of Michigan website.


Lastly, on a more local note, a map displays the potholes in the greater Boston area.  This map features small orange flags where potholes have been reported, and clicking on each flag will show the amount of time since the pothole was reported and the status of its closure.  What I like about this map is that the user can add orange flags to it if they know of potholes that haven’t been reported.  If you want a specific pothole fixed, you can mark that as well, and comment or post that an issue has been resolved if it in fact has been.  This map is a great way to not only stay safe, but get your voice heard as a driver or cyclist (or runner?) in Boston.