3 months ago 1 note
Wyoming features prominently.


Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census Blocks with zero population

A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.

Green shading indicates unoccupied Census Blocks. A single inhabitant is enough to omit a block from shading

Quick update: If you’re the kind of map lover who cares about cartographic accuracy, check out the new version which fixes the Gulf of California. If you save this map for your own projects, please use this one instead.

Map observations

The map tends to highlight two types of areas:

  • places where human habitation is physically restrictive or impossible, and
  • places where human habitation is prohibited by social or legal convention.

Water features such lakes, rivers, swamps and floodplains are revealed as places where it is hard for people to live. In addition, the mountains and deserts of the West, with their hostility to human survival, remain largely void of permanent population.

Of the places where settlement is prohibited, the most apparent are wilderness protection and recreational areas (such as national and state parks) and military bases. At the national and regional scales, these places appear as large green tracts surrounded by otherwise populated countryside.

At the local level, city and county parks emerge in contrast to their developed urban and suburban surroundings. At this scale, even major roads such as highways and interstates stretch like ribbons across the landscape.

Commercial and industrial areas are also likely to be green on this map. The local shopping mall, an office park, a warehouse district or a factory may have their own Census Blocks. But if people don’t live there, they will be considered “uninhabited”. So it should be noted that just because a block is unoccupied, that does not mean it is undeveloped.

Perhaps the two most notable anomalies on the map occur in Maine and the Dakotas. Northern Maine is conspicuously uninhabited. Despite being one of the earliest regions in North America to be settled by Europeans, the population there remains so low that large portions of the state’s interior have yet to be politically organized.

In the Dakotas, the border between North and South appears to be unexpectedly stark. Geographic phenomena typically do not respect artificial human boundaries. Throughout the rest of the map, state lines are often difficult to distinguish. But in the Dakotas, northern South Dakota is quite distinct from southern North Dakota. This is especially surprising considering that the county-level population density on both sides of the border is about the same at less than 10 people per square mile.

Finally, the differences between the eastern and western halves of the contiguous 48 states are particularly stark to me. In the east, with its larger population, unpopulated places are more likely to stand out on the map. In the west, the opposite is true. There, population centers stand out against the wilderness.


Ultimately, I made this map to show a different side of the United States. Human geographers spend so much time thinking about where people are. I thought I might bring some new insight by showing where they are not, adding contrast and context to the typical displays of the country’s population geography.

I’m sure I’ve all but scratched the surface of insight available from examining this map. There’s a lot of data here. What trends and patterns do you see?


  • The Gulf of California is missing from this version. I guess it got filled in while doing touch ups. Oops. There’s a link to a corrected map at the top of the post.
  • Some islands may be missing if they were not a part of the waterbody data sets I used.


©mapsbynik 2014
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Block geography and population data from U.S. Census Bureau
Water body geography from National Hydrology Dataset and Natural Earth
Made with Tilemill
USGS National Atlas Equal Area Projection

6 months ago 6,961 notes



A simple chemical circumstance led to a great moment in the history of our planet. There were many molecules in the primordial soup. Some were attracted to water on one side and repelled by it on the other. This drove them together into a tiny enclosed spherical shell like a soap bubble,…

7 months ago 55 notes

"All my competitors’ websites have their menus in the same place. Try to make my menu diagonal, starting from the top left of the screen and ending bottom right."

- (via clientsfromhell)

7 months ago 616 notes


Ghostbusters Goodbye

{by Ash Vickers MegaCynics}

So sad.

7 months ago 1,702 notes

Now for something completely different

A friend tipped me off to this amazing easter egg. It’s the definition of how you can stretch a medium and do something special you couldn’t do on other recording devices.

The Monty Python album “The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief” has, instead of a single groove that the record player’s needle stays within, two grooves side by side.

Because the grooves are spirals, they can easily fit next to each other without you noticing. Taking it out of the sleeve, you’d never notice it’s not just a single groove like every other record in the world.

So if you didn’t know about this, and apparently it was a secret, the second time you played the album you’d hear something completely different! Better yet, it’s probably really hard to intentionally play either groove.

Just like hidden tracks on CDs were unique to that format, you can’t replicate this on a tape, CD or digitally. It’s a brilliant use of vinyl, and a much better example of how record can be a truly unique experience.

8 months ago

Willy DeVille.


When I was a kid, I used to get rides to school from the slightly burnt-out father of my redheaded neighbor, Travis. His Dad listened to all kinds of bands that sounded unlike anything my young ears had heard on the radio. One of those bands was Mink DeVille, whose name I never asked for and…

11 months ago 1 note

That bazaar on Smith and Union was removed! And someone celebrated by going postal with a paintball gun.

1 year ago


“The Cosby Show” debuted on this day, 26 years ago. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we’re spotlighting Bill Cosby — king of the reaction GIF.

Find (A LOT) more Bill Cosby GIFs on Giphy


1 year ago 75 notes

"Out-Snow Fall The New York Times: In Joe Hagan’s in-depth profile of Mark Thompson’s impact on the Times, New YorkmMagazine pointed out how “to snowfall” has become a verb in the Times newsroom (and elsewhere). Multimedia creation is finally getting into the marrow of legacy news operations. Here, again, what if Bezos asked the question of how a new Post tablet product — in addition to its quite traditional current presentation — could take the Snow Fall metaphor and lead the pack in its innovation?"

- The newsononics of Jeff Bezos’ (and Warren Buffett’s) “runway” » Nieman Journalism Lab

1 year ago

Woop woop woop woop

1 year ago

WTF Smith St? This abandoned bazaar is a complete eye sore on a prime stretch of Carroll Gardens.

I saw it open once years ago. Someone fix it up already.

1 year ago

"One of the more helpful options is -p, which shows the diff introduced in each commit. You can also use -2, which limits the output to only the last two entries: $ git log -p -2"

- Highlighted by Pete Jelliffe in Pro Git by Scott Chacon

1 year ago

"Even more novel and exciting was the fact that Guyville was, in both form and concept, a rookie’s rogue retort to classic rock: Phair conceived it as a track-by-track response to one of the pinnacles of swaggering musical masculinity, the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main St. Combined with its literate pop craft, untethered libido, and utter confidence, Guyville was about the most glorious, girly Fuck You ever."


1 year ago

Like millions* of Americans, my cat Pringles struggles with obesity. She’s 16 pounds, 60% heavier than she should be. Fat lazy cats may seem like a great idea, but no one wants to jab them with insulin shots twice a day.

Thanks to the nifty Withings WiFi Body Scale, I’m able to closely monitor Pringles’ weight, as she begins her journey to single digits. She only gets wet food now, and only the calories a 9-pound cat should get.

If you’ve ever tried to force a cat to sit still, you know how hazardous that can be. So instead of trying to force her onto a scale, I’ve outsmarted my feisty feline and placed her favorite cat bed cardboard box on top of the scale. Now whenever she takes a nap, her weight is automatically recorded by the Withings scale. Using this recipe, I log her weight in a spreadsheet to generate a graph like the one above.

*Give or take

1 year ago