OpenFlights

News from OpenFlights, the site for flight logging, mapping, stats and sharing

Slicing, dicing and spinning route maps

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The route map we created with our airline route data a while back has been a bit of a sleeper hit: it’s now used on 16 language versions of Wikipedia, drawn excited reactions from blogs and — my personal favorite — claimed by a logistics company as their cargo network!  But it’s a boring old square, and recently, we received a request to make a round version of it.   Never ones to let a challenge pass us by, we set the number-crunchers to work, and here was our first attempt:

“Hmm,” is probably your first reaction, “that looks kinda strange.”   That’s because it shows the entire world squished to a disc, including even the parts you couldn’t actually see, at least not all at once, if you were in outer space looking down at the Earth.  (For you mapping nerds out there, it’s a Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection.)  The only way to make this happen is to stretch the bits around the edges, which is why poor Australia looks so strange.  So how to make it more realistic?  Back to the drawing board!

Our second attempt used an orthographic projection, which is Greek for “true writing” and thus pretty close to what you’d actually see from space.   The only problem this time is that you can only see around half the world at any time, which means you also only see half the airline routes.  How could we show them all?  The solution was to add time to the equation, and turn it into a video:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12078596&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Or, if you’re on a slower connection, here’s a non-HD version that should load a little faster. And while I was at it, I created my own routemap as a video as well:

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12124356&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Nifty, eh?  We’re considering a campaign that will create route map videos for all users who help contribute to the site, so if you’d be willing to chip in a bit in exchange for a shiny new video, let us know!  Up next, a hardcore geek posting that will reveal the PHP ninja secrets of making maps and videos like this yourself.

Doin’ the rotomotion,
-j.

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