This brings be back to what is likely the most geo-tagged place on earth. It is a place that can be found marked with unambiguous precision on many social media sites or self-crafted mapping projects. The place seems to be relevant in almost any context, and has been tagged and described in an unaccountable number of ways. The place seems to combine many places at once, all sharing the same location — similar to Jorge Luis Borges’ Aleph: “The Aleph’s diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror’s face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe.”
Posts tagged GPS
For the last decade, Taylor and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat. As any geography nerd knows, the precise center of the United States is in northern Kansas, near the Nebraska border. Technically, the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the center spot are 39°50′N 98°35′W. In digital maps, that number is an ugly one: 39.8333333,-98.585522. So back in 2002, when MaxMind was first choosing the default point on its digital map for the center of the U.S., it decided to clean up the measurements and go with a simpler, nearby latitude and longitude: 38°N 97°W or 38.0000,-97.0000. As a result, for the last 14 years, every time MaxMind’s database has been queried about the location of an IP address in the United States it can’t identify, it has spit out the default location of a spot two hours away from the geographic center of the country. This happens a lot: 5,000 companies rely on MaxMind’s IP mapping information, and in all, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default coordinate. If any of those IP addresses are used by a scammer, or a computer thief, or a suicidal person contacting a help line, MaxMind’s database places them at the same spot: 38.0000,-97.0000. Which happens to be in the front yard of Joyce Taylor’s house.
Faith is a concept that often enters the accounts of GPS-induced mishaps. “It kept saying it would navigate us a road,” said a Japanese tourist in Australia who, while attempting to reach North Stradbroke Island, drove into the Pacific Ocean. A man in West Yorkshire, England, who took his BMW off-road and nearly over a cliff, told authorities that his GPS “kept insisting the path was a road.” In perhaps the most infamous incident, a woman in Belgium asked GPS to take her to a destination less than two hours away. Two days later, she turned up in Croatia.
When providing directions to a place, web and mobile mapping services are all able to suggest the shortest route. The goal of this work is to automatically suggest routes that are not only short but also emotionally pleasant. To quantify the extent to which urban locations are pleasant, we use data from a crowd-sourcing platform that shows two street scenes in London (out of hundreds), and a user votes on which one looks more beautiful, quiet, and happy. We consider votes from more than 3.3K individuals and translate them into quantitative measures of location perceptions. We arrange those locations into a graph upon which we learn pleasant routes. Based on a quantitative validation, we find that, compared to the shortest routes, the recommended ones add just a few extra walking minutes and are indeed perceived to be more beautiful, quiet, and happy.
A couple of weeks ago, I was writing up a description of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and I thought I’d compare the warping of spacetime to the motion of Earth’s tectonic plates. Nothing on Earth’s surface has fixed coordinates, because the surface is ever-shifting. Same goes for spacetime. But then it struck me: if nothing has fixed coordinates, then how do Google Maps, car nav systems, and all the other mapping services get you where you’re going? Presumably they must keep updating the coordinates of places, but how?
A group of 23 impoverished west African fishing communities has driven off a fleet of illegal, unreported and unregulated “pirate” trawlers by filming and reporting them when they are found in their waters. In the 18 months since the London-based Environment Justice Foundation (EJF) raised the £50,000 needed to buy and equip a small seven-metre community surveillance boat for villages in the Sherbro river area of Sierra Leone, local fishers have filmed and identified 10 international trawlers working illegally in their protected waters and have made 252 separate reports of illegal fishing. Images of the pirate ships and their GPS positions are analysed to establish the identity of the vessels and the evidence is passed on to European Union (EU) and African governments, fishing ports and other communities. Nine of the 10 ships identified by the Sierra Leonean communities were found to have licences to export their catches to Europe.