Terra Incognita, Literally
A random idea for cartography, computer science, and the study of history
This is a map from 1689, produced by the cartographer Gerard van Schagen. Why am I telling you this? It's because I think we can put old maps just like this one to new use, and in a novel and informative way.
Using edge detection, advanced math to project these maps onto a sphere, and a modern, accurate "base map," we could determine which areas on any old map were rendered most accurately, averaging out the closeness of fit for an area of a given size. For example, we see that much of Europe is rather close to fit in this map, yet the Americas are sloppy besides the Caribbean--and by adding up the results of this process lots of maps from different years and from different areas, we should be able to be able to have a good proxy measurement for the acquisition of diffusion of geographical knowledge, which gives us some potentially interesting insights into European patterns of exploration and colonialism.
An idea that popped into my head as I was at the library. Now shared with my computer science friends.