Power Outages Caused by Squirrels, and 4 Other Fascinating Maps

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Who cause more power outages: hackers, or squirrels? Today, Cool Websites and Apps investigates this important question, and also points out a way to turn any map into a t-shirt.

We’re passionate about maps here at MakeUseOf. There are practical things, like downloading Google Maps for offline use so you can get around. But there are also fascinating things, like cool Google Maps mashups that let you see the world in different ways, or ways to make stunning images out of any map.

Today we’re looking at maps that are more cool than useful, but that doesn’t mean you won’t love it. Let’s start with squirrels and keep going from there.

Cyber Squirrel: Squirrels Cause More Power Outages than Hackers

Think hackers are a threat to take down the electrical grid? John C. Inglis, Former deputy director of the NSA, says there’s a bigger threat than hackers: squirrels.

“I don’t think paralysis [of the electrical grid] is more likely by cyber-attack than by natural disaster,” he said last year. “And frankly the number-one threat experienced to date by the US electrical grid is squirrels.”

squirrel-map

That’s right: adorable fuzzy creatures are a more consistent threat to your electricity than hackers. This site tries to document all cases of these “Cyber Squirrel Operations”. Turns out they’ve caused outages not only in America but around the world. For good measure, non-squirrel creatures are also included, but squirrels are the most common criminal masterminds when it comes to taking down the grid. You can probably find a squirrel incident near you; let me know when you do.

The site goes on to state that, for all the hype about cyber-attacks, only three confirmed instances of this happening are confirmed. Clearly we need to focus less on hackers. If you’re concerned about the biggest threat to the grid, be sure to follow @CyberSquirrl1 for around-the-clock updates.

Submarine Cable Map: How Your Internet Gets to You

Consider yourself lucky there are no squirrels under the sea, because a series of cables down there is arguably the only reason we have an Internet at all. Submarine Cable Map gives you a fascinating look at where these cables are and what they’re called.

submarine-cable-map

It’s a beautiful map, and it makes concrete the vast network of cables that, among other things, makes it possible for you to read this article right now. We think of the Internet as abstract, as living in clouds, but more of the connections are handled by physical wires – and a lot of them are under the sea.

Is It Illegal?: Necessary Map for Your Next Road Trip

Can you drive with headphones on? It depends where you are. This is a quick website outlining what you can and can’t do in your car. If you’re planning an American road trip sometime soon, it’s worth checking out, but is fascinating even if you’re not going anywhere.

legal-where-map

It’s amazing to see how much variation there is from state to state, and some instances in this list are downright shocking – you can drink a beer behind the wheel in Mississippi, for example! Dive in and let me know anything you think stands out.

Chrono Atlas: Collection of Interactive Maps from History

I’ve outlined fascinating history education resources for this column more than once, and I’ll probably do it again. My favorite thing to find are interactive maps, though, because it makes history feel so real. Chrono Atlas is a relatively small collection of maps you can use to see things like the Roman Empire at its peak.

chrono-atlast

I highly recommend you install the Google Earth plugin for using this site, because it’s just plane cooler that way. Be sure to check out the British Empire, and to zoom in to find photos and other bits of trivia. There’s a lot to learn, so dive in!

Map On Shirt: Love A Maps? Put One On a Pillow

If you love maps, or just want to show some civic pride, this site lets you design a t-shirt, pillow, or headband featuring any map you’d like. Just search for a place, position it how you’d like, and even add some text or logos. When you’re done, you can order

It’s a potentially great gift idea, so keep this bookmarked. It might come in handy. Everything is shipped over from Lithuania, so if you don’t live in Europe plan ahead: your shirt could take a while to get to you.

What Great Maps Have You Found?

We want to know: what amazing maps have we missed? Please point out your favorites in the comments below, along with any cool map tools you might know about. I’m really looking forward to hearing from you.

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