Physics Professor Revamps The Electoral Map Mark Newman, professor of physics at the University of Michigan, has a new spin on an old map. He created a program to make cartograms — maps in which states are drawn with their size proportional to their population, rather than their acreage.
NPR logo

Physics Professor Revamps The Electoral Map

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/96747187/96747177" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Physics Professor Revamps The Electoral Map

Physics Professor Revamps The Electoral Map

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/96747187/96747177" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

IRA FLATOW, host:

Now, joining us as she always does every week, Flora Lichtman, with our Pick of the Week - our video Pick of the Week. Flora, welcome back.

FLORA LICHTMAN: Hi.

FLATOW: What have we got this week? Something seasonal?

LICHTMAN: Timely.

FLATOW: Timely. That's even better.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: This week, we take a look at a researcher who has put a new spin on an old map, that I'm sure most of you have seen a lot.

FLATOW: Sick of seeing.

LICHTMAN: Have sick - you're definitely sick of seeing it.

FLATOW: The electoral map.

LICHTMAN: Yes.

FLATOW: The election.

LICHTMAN: Right. So, Mark Newman is a physicist at the University of Michigan, and he studies networks. And to one of his projects is to look at maps and reshape them. And it's a little bit hard to explain, which is why it's a better video.

FLATOW: Sciencefriday.com. Look at the video Pick of the Week.

LICHTMAN: Right. And you'll get to see the United States drawn. Basically, the states aren't going to be drawn by acreage. They're going to be drawn by population. So big population states kind of puff up and explode, and little population states shrink. And this actually may help you understand how people voted in this election better. It did for me, anyway.

FLATOW: Yeah. So, you went out and you interviewed him, and then you took his maps, and you put his words onto the maps and he explained it.

LICHTMAN: Yes. You can hear him explain it. He is better at explaining than I am. I assure you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Actually, looking at the map, it looks almost - it looks like a bird to me. My - is this just me, my Rorschach test?

LICHTMAN: I think it's you, and I'm sure that seems like a good analysis for Rorschach. I don't know, but...

FLATOW: You're telling the United States that they're looking like a bird, but it's very pretty.

LICHTMAN: Very artistic.

FLATOW: And he's blended his color. It's beautiful.

LICHTMAN: It's beautiful.

FLATOW: All right. So the Science Friday Pick of the Week on sciencefriday.com. Look at the video and you could find it there, and Flora Lichtman put that together for us. And we'll see you next week.

LICHTMAN: Thanks.

FLATOW: That's about all the time we have today. I'm Ira Flatow in New York.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.