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Image of the Week - Mapping Science

Image of the Week - Mapping Science

This image, entitled Internet Splat Map, was produced in 2009 by William Cheswick and Ben Worthen. It was produced by sending a large number of IP packets out randomly across the network. Each packet is designed to self-destruct after a set amount of time; when it does, the packet failure notice it returns describes the path it took. The visualization of the resulting data was created using place and route software from the semiconductor industry.

These maps can be used to find security gaps or monitor the networks during wartime bombing raids.

BBN (early ARPANET) is the random scatter of green in the middle. Sprint is the organized star topology in purple near the top. AOL is a gray disconnected island in the lower center. There is little correlation between this network connectivity graph and physical geography, except for a clustering of Pacific Rim connectivity. To see a similar map with labels, download the map PDF here.

Image courtesy of William Cheswick and Ben Worthen. Portions of caption courtesy of Steve Jurvetson.

Can't see the forest for the trees? The right visualization can make sense of massive collections of data, or give you new perspective on data that's stumping you. The Places and Spaces: Mapping Science exhibit was designed to inspire more cross-disciplinary work in this realm and celebrate science visualizations through the ages.

The NSF-funded 10-year project will continue to add ten new maps per year until 2014, resulting in a total of 100 maps; each year has a theme:

On the Places and Spaces website, you can browse through the 51 maps in the main exhibit, plus 58 more that are well worth a look. Or if you like, you can see the exhibit in person at a variety of locations, listed here.

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