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Where We Live: The U.S. and Canadian Populations as Dots on a Map

January 21, 2013 • United States, Daily Email Recap

Where We Live: The U.S. and Canadian Populations as Dots on a Map 


Brandon Martin-Anderson, a cartographer involved with computational urban planning at MIT’s Media Lab, was curious.

What sort of human settlement patterns would emerge if every person counted in the most recent U.S. and Canadian census was plotted as a dot on a map, without geographic features or political borders?

The result, a zoomable Census Dotmap composed of 341,817,095 person-dots, turns out to be quite fascinating, particularly in how well population densities reflect geological features such as lakes, rivers, mountains and coastlines.

On the macro scale, dense urban centers are connected web-like with settlements strung along highways, rivers and mountain passes. Zoom in and things get more interesting as ever more granular details emerge. And if you get lost amid the dots, there’s a labels layer that can be turned on and off.

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