Inspired Stone

Sierra Crest :: Digitized
January 20, 2011, 4:03 am
Filed under: cartography, Mountain

Cartography is firmly in the digital age and has expanded into the field known as GIS, geographical information systems. Not a very exciting name, but it has revolutionized the way geographic information is presented and analyzed. Anything that can be related to geographic space can be presented on maps and analyzed for statistics or relationships. Want to know how the density of fast food restaurants correlates with political party distribution? I’m sure the answer is just a few mouse clicks away. Or how does highway and road density correlate with topography? Now that sounds interesting. Maybe someday, when I am more skilled with GIS software, I will answer that question.

As an initial foray into GIS, I decided to look at the topography around Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada. In my science work, I manage and analyze spatial data and many of the same concepts apply to topographic data despite the radically different scales (nanometers versus meters). The difficulty was reconciling the different softwares and file formats used in molecular dynamics versus GIS. Once that was worked out, sort of, I started to have fun.

An image of the elevation on the 7.5 minute Mt. Whitney map (higher elevations are lighter), produced with qgis.

The image below shows the slope over the same area. The white regions are very steep and cliffy and the flat lakes are black. For climbers, images like this provide interesting research material. Although you can find cliffs on a topographic map by looking for places where the contours converge, I think it is even clearer in this presentation.

A 3D model of the east face of Mt. Whitney, produced with octave. I’m afraid it’s actually reflected north to south, but the idea is the same.

Lastly, a 3D model rendered in the molecular viewing program vmd. The surface is a sheet of balls because most molecules are represented as a collection of atoms, depicted as spheres.


2 Comments so far
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wow, cool! This is so awesome! I love the different types of visuals!

Comment by Nicole Docimo

[…] first steps into geographic analysis were to experiment with GIS and get the geographic data into a format I understood and could use. Now the fun […]

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