Routes updated 26 Nov 2014.
Let's say that you think better while driving and, occassionally, like to take a road trip to clear your mind. Maybe even take in a few sights and bring home a spoon or other collector's item.
According to Google Maps, how far could you go?
Each of the challenges below involves finding points A and B that yield the longest driving route in Google Maps. Each challenge has its own parameters, but certain rules apply to each challenge.
Any solution to the challenge will surely have a shorter route (not available to the routing algorithm) as well as many more longer ones (duh—it's always easy to pessimize a route).
This topic has been previously discussed on xkcd forums.
As Google Maps updates the routing network, some of the old routes are no longer available, or significantly shorter. This maps challenge page may therefore be out of date.
Don't be surprised if links to old routes show a significantly different distance, or point to a route that no longer exists. Such links, or out-dated entries, are annotated as historical.
historicalThe longest route used to be 33,540 km from Quoin Point, South Africa to a dirt road in Indonesia. It starts with "Head northeast toward R317." and ends with "Turn left". After Malaysia, it's mostly ferries. Unfortunately, it's gone. Also, routing in Africa is now more optimized, shortening all the trips from south Africa.
historical (Paren' no longer available as a destination) | The 30,000 km limit has been broken by a route from Paren' to Pearly Beach. This was furthered by discovering the bizarrely remote Chimchememel', Russia (e.g. from Chimchememel' to Danger Point).
historical (Uelen still not accessible) | The next milestone for a route with ferries is 32,000 km. Unless you have the money to build a road to Uelen, this new limit is a significant challenge. Interested individuals should start digging immediately.
historical Many of the interesting past examples are now deprecated. This fun 191 hour drive from Portugal to Malaysia is no longer available. Too bad. Stop off in Turkey to go to the bathroom. Pick up a few aluminum centrifuge tubes from Iran, too. That sounds like fun.
The 20,000 km all-land route limit still stands. Africa's complex routing may provide a solution. Lack of roads in eastern Russia and blind spots in routing across China make it unlikely that a route across Europe/Asia will exceed this limit.
If you play with routes in Google Maps you'll quickly notice that some parts of the world do not appear to be connected to the smarts of the routing algorithm. For example, you cannot drive from Bejing to New Delhi. These holes in the driving fabric pose a challenge in finding long routes.
historical (no more kayak routes) | Google's subtle humour can be found everywhere (though apparently not anymore, since kayaking has been removed from maps and replaced by decidedly un-funny flight routes), such as in step 9 of this Seattle to Hawaii route, which states "Kayak across the Pacific Ocean — 4,436 km". If you have endurance training, you might wish to continue kayaking to Tokyo, for another 6,243 km. For the purpose of this challenge, kayaking is not allowed.
No routes from North to South America exist because of this boggy marsh.
As new routes become available, long trips become shorter. For example, introduction of a route across Niger and Algeria cut the original land route with no ferry record from 18,260 km to a mere 15,576 km.
If you are interested in visualization and information, explore my global visualization of Google searches by language and find out where in the US people are searching in Chinese.
For the morbidly curious, of interest might be all the really stupid questions people ask Google.
Google Maps routes linked to from this page do not appear to work on iPhone's Safari browser (I have not tested iPad or iPod). A "driving direction not found" error appears. Rest assured, these routes do exist, and can be viewed on a browser on a PC or Mac. Weird.
The routes below are the current answers to the challenge. Do you have a better (longer!) route? Let me know.
The longest land leg is a route along the R504 between the east dock of the a/d Kolyma M56 ferry and Magadan.
v4 route Haines Junction - Dawson Creek 1,557 km (+25 km)
v3 route Haines Junction - Farmington 1,532 km (+32 km) (submitted by David Jackson)
v2 route Haines Junction - South Taylor 1,500 km (+25 km)
v1 route Haines Junction - Charlie Lake 1,475 km
The longest Google Maps route that does not use ferries takes us from Sagres in Portugal to Khasan in Russia. Thanks to Pieter Vandromme for submitting this route.
v6 route Sagres in Portugal to Tanjung Pengelih Pengerang Johor Malaysia 16,280 km. Thanks to Jørgen Adam Holen for pointing out a better destination in Malaysia. (Google Map route no longer available)
v5 route Duyker Eiland, South Africa - Sidi Bettache, Morocco 15,594 km (+18 km) (Duyker Eiland submitted by David Jackson on xkcd) (Google map route, 12,523 km on 26 Nov 2014, significantly shorter with routing through Congo)
v4 route Pearly Beach, South Africa - Sidi Bettache, Morocco 18,260 km (+84 km) (Google map route 12,673 km on 26 Nov 2014)
The longest Google Maps A–B route that uses ferries. The ferry distance cannot be more than 25% of the entire trip.
This route about 460 legs and takes you from Quoin Point on Cape Agulhas to the edge of nowhere in Russia. During your voyage, you experience the endless visual monotony of sprawling Africa (keeping a wide bearth from Angola), only to end up at the sorrow at the world's end—Magadan, Russia's gulag region.
Thanks to Pieter Vandromme for submitting this route, which is a slight modification of the v2 route, which used to be 29,831 km (see history below).
v9 route (18 Jul 2013) Quoin Point, South Africa to Unknown Road, Indonesia 33,540 km (Google map route no longer available, Map geek Earl Higgins found this route after invalidating v7. The 33,000 km barrier is again, and legitimately, broken.)
v8 route (16 Jul 2013) Unknown Road, Indonesia to Groot Paternoster Reserve, South Africa 32,433 km (Google map route no longer available, Map geek Earl Higgins pointed out that the reverse of the v7 route is significantly shorter. This means that the 33,000 km barrier has, in fact, not been broken. Pity.)
v7 route (6 Jun 2013) Groot Paternoster Reserve, South Africa to Unknown Road, Indonesia 33,634 km (Google map route no longer available, submitted by Sue DoNym on xkcd). (33,557 on 16 Jul 2013; reverse of route is significantly shorter—see v8)
v6 route Chimchememel' Russia - Duyker Eiland, South Africa 31,766 km (+626 km) (Google map route no longer exists, submitted by David Jackson on xkcd)
The Points of Significance column is on vacation this month.
Meanwhile, we're showing you how to manage small multiple plots in the Points of View column Unentangling Complex Plots.
Data in small multiples can vary in range, noise level and trend. Gregor McInerny and myself show you how you can deal with this by cropped and scaling the multiples to a different range to emphasize relative changes while preserving the context of the full data range to show absolute changes.
McInerny, G. & Krzywinski, M. (2015) Points of View: Unentangling complex plots. Nature Methods 12:591.
The Jurassic World Creation Lab webpage shows you how one might create a dinosaur from a sample of DNA. First extract, sequence, assemble and fill in the gaps in the DNA and then incubate in an egg and wait.
With enough time, you'll grow your own brand new dinosaur. Or a stalk of corn ... with more teeth.
What went wrong? Let me explain.
You've seen bound volumes of printouts of the human reference genome. But what if at the Genome Sciences Center we wanted to print everything we sequence today?
I was commissioned by Scientific American to create an information graphic based on Figure 9 in the landmark Nature Integrative analysis of 111 reference human epigenomes paper.
The original figure details the relationships between more than 100 sequenced epigenomes and genetic traits, including disease like Crohn's and Alzheimer's. These relationships were shown as a heatmap in which the epigenome-trait cell depicted the P value associated with tissue-specific H3K4me1 epigenetic modification in regions of the genome associated with the trait.
As much as I distrust network diagrams, in this case this was the right way to show the data. The network was meticulously laid out by hand to draw attention to the layered groups of diseases of traits.
This was my second information graphic for the Graphic Science page. Last year, I illustrated the extent of differences in the gene sequence of humans, Denisovans, chimps and gorillas.