Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Physics Formula to Develop Map-making Computer Program


Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a new technique for drawing maps that could provide a valuable tool for showing human data such as census findings, election results or disease incidence.

The new technique produces cartograms---maps where sizes of areas on the map are in proportion to the population or some other variable, said Mark Newman, assistant professor of physics in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Newman wrote a paper on the technique, which appeared in the May 19 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with graduate student and research assistant Michael Gastner.

Making maps of this kind is not a new idea, but until now the methods that existed for drawing cartograms often yielded maps that were difficult to read or maps with badly distorted shapes.

Newman and Gastner applied a fundamental physics formula, usually used to solve diffusion problems like those associated with gases, to "diffuse" the populations of people in the mapped area. Typically populations are very non-uniform, with more people in cities and fewer in outlying areas. Using the formula, they diffused the populations in the mapped area from densely populated areas to less populated areas---similar to the way a gas naturally diffuses in air---until the population was spread out uniformly. Then they redrew the map with the resulting boundaries. The process is done on a computer, Newman said.

The computer program and the maps it produces provide a useful visualization tool with important scientific applications, such as studies of the geographic distribution of cancer cases.

The first researcher to look at using computer algorithms for drawing cartograms also worked at U-M, Newman said, a detail that added an interesting historical perspective to the project. Waldo Tobler taught at U-M from 1961 to 1977 and was one of the first scientists to develop computer cartograms. Newman and Gastner cited two of Tobler’s publications in the pending PNAS paper.

Tobler commended the paper, saying, "It’s a very nice paper using a rather obvious, but not previously implemented, idea," he said. "It is curious that nobody, myself included, thought of it before. The mathematics required is rather advanced, and probably beyond what most people who make this kind of map know." Tobler is retired from the Geography Department of the University of California, Santa Barbara, but continues to publish.

| newswise
Further information:

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>