A new map of the extrapolated Earth

17.32, Thursday 19 Aug 2021

My imagination was caught by this poetic, meandering exploration of hyperbolic space in games and fiction: Parallel lines bend away from each other and are lost in infinity.

Read: Hyperbolic text (June 2021) by Andrew Plotkin (aka Zarf, interactive fiction pioneer).

Here’s one bit…

A man who finds a book which is a description of all reality: Each successive map has a larger scale … the city, the country, the whole world … Then he turns the page again.

Zooming out:

The coastline of a greater world lay before my eyes. It was a world where Antarctica was only the tip of a much larger southern continent. It was a world where Greenland was an island in a river’s mouth, where Baffin Bay on one side and the Greenland Sea on the other stretched north, fused as an enormous estuary. Asia and the Americas were mere… promontories, headlands on a Hyperborean expanse, and the Arctic “River” that divided them had its source far north and off the edge of the map.

(Plotkin is quoting the intro from Vellum by Hal Duncan. Gorgeous.)

There’s more. Go read!

And oh it makes my breath catch.

The vastness!

I guess I’m missing flying, but the great circle route from London to California goes over Greenland and Canada, and there is something wonderful about waking up mid flight and gazing out of the window in that dreamlike state, hypnagogically hiking the wilderness far below.

Unknown lands.

Here’s a thing:

There’s a technique to extrapolate art. Want to see beyond the edges of the canvas? Here’s the extrapolated Starry Night by Van Gogh, and Hokusai’s Great Wave, and more.

Using the same technique, just this year: 2 feet have been restored to The Night Watch by Rembrandt, previously chopped off from the left hand side in 1715 so it would fit on a wall, then lost. Which is insane.


As previously discussed on this blog (2014), the algorithm is called “inpainting” and it’s, uh, a built-in command in the unreasonably powerful Wolfram language. Here’s a tutorial.

So I signed up for a trial…

LONG STORY SHORT, it turns out it’s a matter of just six lines of code to get the machine to dream up new lands and oceans beyond the edge of the map. My code here. Then, running it, and waiting a minute or two…

Presenting the extrapolated Earth (image on Instagram).

And, oh!, to travel to the continent a thousand miles west of north America, and then to strike north, exploring that vast Pangean echo beyond! Or to sail east beyond Fiji, into a bay enclosed by the northernmost lands of a whole new Australasia.

(ASIDE: here’s my collection of favourite lo-fi generated worlds. Amazing artists. Check them out.)

New seas, new coasts, new forests, new wastes, new inland plains - and what people and civilisations and wild geologies and ecologies and unexpected sciences and unimaginable lives are there to be found - and to be lost - what fantasies there are in a rectangle of pixels, grey and blue.

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