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Population Control
April 18, 2012 6:13 AM   Subscribe

World Population Density Visualizer

Use the slider to move through the range between 5 and 500 people per square kilometer.

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posted by quin (44 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, doesn't work for me on IE 8.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:16 AM on April 18, 2012


Is this quite right? The thickness of population in England is average 395/km2, yet at that level on the visualizer, all but a tiny spot is gone. That spot itself disappears at about 420/km2, so I think the measurement must be out a little.
posted by Jehan at 6:25 AM on April 18, 2012


Interesting, I wasn't knew China and India and Bangladesh had incredible dense populations but I wasn't aware that such densities extended over such a significant geographical area. It's interesting to see the black marks shrink and shrink into little dots around the biggest metropolitan areas (New York, Tokyo, etc) but still represent massive river valleys.
posted by vuron at 6:26 AM on April 18, 2012


Yeah, doesn't work for me on IE 8.

It uses the canvas element, which is supported in IE9.
posted by swift at 6:26 AM on April 18, 2012


Is it Netherlands and greater Alexandria that remain in Europe and Africa when the slider is all the way to the right?
posted by bendybendy at 6:37 AM on April 18, 2012


Is this quite right? The thickness of population in England is average 395/km2, yet at that level on the visualizer, all but a tiny spot is gone. That spot itself disappears at about 420/km2, so I think the measurement must be out a little.
posted by Jehan at 6:25 AM on April 18 [+] [!]


London's average is 4,900 per sq km. Does it make sense now?
posted by notmtwain at 6:40 AM on April 18, 2012


Why does the underlying map have to disappear?
posted by grog at 6:44 AM on April 18, 2012 [16 favorites]


It doesn't, that was a design choice.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:48 AM on April 18, 2012


> Is it Netherlands and greater Alexandria that remain in Europe and Africa

Not sure about Alexandria, but I guess true for Netherlands, it's #8 in top ten most densely populated countries.
And indeed, it feels a bit like a single huge (though sparse) city, not much empty space there, especially in the central regions. There is some 'wilderness', but not much, and even then some of it was recreated by people.
posted by egor83 at 6:48 AM on April 18, 2012


Pacific, Amazon, Atlantic, Arctic ... Shield?
posted by 3FLryan at 6:48 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Canadian Shield. Huh!
posted by 3FLryan at 6:49 AM on April 18, 2012


grog, agree. Would be nice to see the contours - could add a checkbox to switch it on or off.
posted by egor83 at 6:50 AM on April 18, 2012


For a few seconds, I could not for the life of me figure out what that island in the middle of the Pacific with a >500/km2 population was. It turned out to be gunk on the screen.
posted by griphus at 6:51 AM on April 18, 2012 [21 favorites]


I wanted it to show areas with 0 people per km2!
posted by mareli at 6:54 AM on April 18, 2012


A squinty-eyed look at population densities Derek Watkins' blog acknowledges that the author took his map concept from John Krygier's "More Principles of Map Design"
posted by notmtwain at 6:57 AM on April 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


At 300/km2 The entirety of the Americas (both continents) is a single Manhattan shaped dot.

This would be super cool if there was a vertical slider for 'time' (that also shifted the horizontal one)
posted by DigDoug at 7:00 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thickness of population in England is average 395/km2, yet at that level on the visualizer, all but a tiny spot is gone. That spot itself disappears at about 420/km2, so I think the measurement must be out a little.

I think that the problem is the granularity of the representation. Since population tends to be concentrated several orders of magnitude above the average in small urban areas, different degrees of granularity for different countries can distort the representation greatly. I wonder if China and India are depicted with the same geographical granularity as the US and Europe.
posted by Skeptic at 7:09 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a Canadian teenager spending a year in Belgium, I got a lot of mileage out of talking about population density.

Also fun was opening same-scale street maps of my home town of 80,000 people (800 km2, population density of 100/km2) which was four times the size of Brussels (160 km2, population density of 7,025/km2). People just straight-up would not believe me that the maps were the same scale. I could tell sometimes that people just thought I might be dumb.
posted by looli at 7:09 AM on April 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I like the idea but that scrolling bar is way too small.
posted by Memo at 7:10 AM on April 18, 2012


Is it Netherlands and greater Alexandria that remain in Europe and Africa when the slider is all the way to the right?

It looks a little far inland for the Netherlands to me. I think it might be the Rhine-Ruhr area instead.
posted by Copronymus at 7:16 AM on April 18, 2012


The blog post about it has notes on how he bult it; QGIS, basically. And the web page is done with one giant image sprite 23,000 pixels high. If you're in a less capable browser that can't show the, you can understand the idea by just scrolling that image.

I agree that an underlying map of coastlines would help keep the viewer oriented.
posted by Nelson at 7:18 AM on April 18, 2012


London's average is 4,900 per sq km. Does it make sense now?

No, because as I said, the last dot disappears after 420/km2. Many cities are much higher than that, and even come near to the figure for London. It is not as though London is like some tightly packed Kowloon Walled City, balancing out a great rural Landes. Greater Manchester averages over 2000/km2, for example.

I think that the problem is the granularity of the representation. Since population tends to be concentrated several orders of magnitude above the average in small urban areas, different degrees of granularity for different countries can distort the representation greatly. I wonder if China and India are depicted with the same geographical granularity as the US and Europe.

This must be it, somehow. But it is be skewing the representation badly when by the time you get to the average for a country, most of it is gone.
posted by Jehan at 7:34 AM on April 18, 2012


I don't understand why this gadget is supposed to be better than a static indexed color map that shows all of the same information without needing to move around a slider.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:37 AM on April 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


See, we don't have to worry about population growth. There's plenty of land for everyone.
posted by desjardins at 7:41 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Java always comes out near the top in these contests for population density, but how did this happen?
posted by Winnemac at 8:17 AM on April 18, 2012


Cairo looks to be one of the densest spots on Earth. Not Mexico City, not New York, not Rio.

Cairo.

Who knew?
posted by stroke_count at 8:24 AM on April 18, 2012


Here, let me blow your mind.

If the entire United States population got up and moved to California, it still wouldn't be as crowded as Bangladesh is right now.

U.S. population (313,000,000) in California (423,970 sq/k) = 738 people per sq/k
Bangladesh population (148,000,000) in Bangladesh (147,570 sq/k) = 1,002 people per sq/k

One of my college professors was the former U.N. ambassador from Bangladesh, and often made these mind-boggling comparisons to his home country.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:06 AM on April 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Does anyone know what the left most dot on the screen is when you scroll to 500 per sq/k? Looks to be north-central Europe?
posted by lobbyist at 9:20 AM on April 18, 2012


Well, hell, we have a lot of room left! Go out and multiply some more!
posted by beagle at 9:27 AM on April 18, 2012


Does anyone know what the left most dot on the screen is when you scroll to 500 per sq/k? Looks to be north-central Europe?

Probably the Ruhr. Technically the biggest city in Germany.
posted by Jehan at 9:47 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where I am sitting, right now, there is one person, in less than one square metre. That's a density of around 1 million people per square kilometer! I win!!

(I guess this is my way of saying - I'm not sure I understand how the granularity works in something like this...)
posted by ManInSuit at 10:10 AM on April 18, 2012


I'm convinced the values here are off by a factor of 10......
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:45 AM on April 18, 2012


Wait, what? This thing is very off (or I am having a serious math problem here). In the city that I live (Long Beach, in Los Angeles County) the density ranges from 7k to 30k people per square mile (per the 2010 census). That converts to between 2,700 and 11,500 people per square kilometer, right? Most of LA county is in this range. This thing doesn't even register LA county at 500 per sq km.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:50 AM on April 18, 2012


And it's not granularity, because I think that's Manhattan (it would be nice if I had some map lines to know for sure!) that shows up as a spot at up to 360 people per sq km.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:53 AM on April 18, 2012


The data set is based on a 2.5 arc-minute grid. So one cell is ~25km^2 at the equator, and ~12km^2 in Europe and North America. Then the visualization only shows clusters of at least a certain number of grid squares. So small, high-density regions in northern climates (Chicago) are eliminated, while lower density regions near the equator persist (northern India). This map is very pretty but don't rely on it for anything important.
posted by miyabo at 11:23 AM on April 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apparently the Germans do dense population very well. I lived near that dot on the left for four years, and loved it, while having no clue that it was so dense.
posted by Goofyy at 12:19 PM on April 18, 2012


Is it possible that the difference between square kilometers and kilometers^2 is what is throwing people off? A square kilometer is 1000 square meters. A kilometer^2 is a 1000m x 1000m.
posted by fancyoats at 2:08 PM on April 18, 2012


The data set is based on a 2.5 arc-minute grid. So one cell is ~25km^2 at the equator, and ~12km^2 in Europe and North America. Then the visualization only shows clusters of at least a certain number of grid squares. So small, high-density regions in northern climates (Chicago) are eliminated, while lower density regions near the equator persist (northern India). This map is very pretty but don't rely on it for anything important.

Am I missing something, or does that make this map totally useless and inaccurate?
posted by cmoj at 3:38 PM on April 18, 2012



...step 2: overlay with elevation map
step 3: watch them slowly wash away
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 4:25 PM on April 18, 2012


Interesting, but not very useful except in a vaguely artistic manner.
posted by graxe at 4:40 PM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I work at the data center that produced and distributes the gridded population data that's used in this visualization. The data and our maps are here. I'm on vacation this week and deliberately without a computer, except for my phone, so I cant say what's going on with the accuracy of the visualization but suspect, as several people have pointed out, that he is doing some spatial averaging of our gridded pop data.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:41 PM on April 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


the slider display is fun, though.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:13 PM on April 18, 2012


I think there needs to be more of a distinction between "this is a cool art/design/programming project that resembles a map" and "this is a thing that represents data in a geographical manner to the best of my ability." Too many of the former are confused for the latter. If you are the cartographer or artist and don't differentiate between the two, don't be surprised when geography nerds pick your project apart. I get really frustrated when I see bullshit like this passing as research. You can draw a geographic correlation between nearly anything - number of migratory geese vs. childrens' consumption of Snickers bars - and develop a pretty map, but so what.
posted by desjardins at 6:57 AM on April 19, 2012


just to be clear: plastic_animals, I am not referring to you in the least.
posted by desjardins at 6:59 AM on April 19, 2012


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