For this street map of the United States, pink shades represent roads that were mapped recently by OpenStreetMap users; bluer shades represent roads that were mapped years ago.OpenStreetMap

The 17th Century, particularly in The Netherlands, is considered the Golden Age of maps. The Dutch were spanning the globe for trade and their maps and atlases became lavish and colorful works of art depicting mysterious worlds encountered by explorers.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and with the ubiquity of GPS devices, navigational maps have more or less gone the way of the horse and buggy. But maps themselves are seeing a renaissance as the landscape of digital information needs plotting.

NEWS: Titanic Wreck Mapping Begins

Andy Woodruff, a cartographer with Axis Maps, primarily makes Web-based, interactive maps, much like the ones found on his website Bostonography says we’re experiencing a boom thanks to revolutionary advances in digital mapping tools and software.

“Technology has allowed people to see what people like us always knew: that geography is endlessly fascinating and hugely important in our lives,” Woodruff told Discovery News.

There’s nothing quite like poring over a great map, so click through our collection and get a glimpse of how today’s digital cartographers are indeed ‘pushing it further.’

The earliest mapped streets of London are shown in green and blue, while the most recently mapped streets are light pink.OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap is continually being created by a band of worldwide citizen cartographers that have been mapping the world since 2004. Billing itself as “The Free Wiki World Map,” the open mapping platform has mapped data on more than 78 million buildings and 21 million miles of roadway. To put it in perspective, driving all those roads at 60 miles an hour would take a person 40 years to complete.

According to the OpenStreetMap 2013 Data Report, more than a million people have contributed to the effort. In a true sign egalitarian creation, 83.6 percent of changes throughout the entire database have been made by 99.9 percent of contributors.

Gravity-Mapping Satellite to Help Predict Climate

“Now we are no longer just focusing on the map, we add the User Interface,” she explained. “Each time we design an interactive map, we are not only educating the audience on the topic of the map, but also how to navigate that map -- how to use the tools to discover new information,” said Tanya Buckingham, assistant director of University of Wisconsin’s Cartography Lab, says today’s maps tell a more complex story.

“What's amazing about mapping today is not artistry and craftsmanship like we admire from past eras -- although there are plenty of examples of beautiful and all-around high quality modern maps out there -- but rather the accessibility of mapping,” Woodruff said. “Not only are maps of almost everything literally in the pockets of millions of people all the time on smart phones, but also making maps and contributing to map data is now something that almost anyone can do, thanks to more user-friendly technology and undertakings like OpenStreetMap.”

Included in the 2013 report are stunning visuals, of cities across the globe that illustrate the growth of OpenStreetMap, shown through a progression of updated roads. In the map of London above, the earliest mapped streets are shown in green and blue, while the most recent ones are light pink.

WorldMapper resizes countries according to subject.Sasi Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan)

WorldMapper is a collection of world maps, only each country and territory has been re-sized according to subject. For example, want to see the world sized according to military spending? Click through the website’s index, which contains nearly 700 maps, and you can find a 2002 map that shows a very bloated United States, thanks to the estimated $789 billion in state military spending, nearly nine times more than runner up Japan.

Twitter Used to Map Happiness

The index is a wealth of geopolitical and socioeconomic data. The above map shows girls that are not enrolled in primary school. The biggest gap is in India, where there are about 8 million fewer girls than boys enrolled in the first five years of education, ten times the number in any other territory.

Software overlays data on solar panel potential over Google satellite images to show the best locations for generating solar power. MIT

MIT researchers developed “Solar Sytem” software that mapped 17,000 rooftops in Cambridge, Mass., providing residents with a user-friendly Web interface to look up their homes and/or buildings and get an accurate projection on the cost and return of investing in photovoltaic solar panels.

As part of the Mapdwell Project, the software takes data on solar panel potential and lays it over Google satellite images. Users can select a building and view information about installing solar panels on that specific rooftop, projected costs that include local incentives and deductions, carbon offsets, plus the projected yearly revenue the panels will generate. Researchers used Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data from a previous aerial survey to create a 3-D model, helping the team chart the exact shape of rooftops and possible sunlight obstructions, such as buildings and trees.

The potential ruins of “The White City,” a fabled lost city in Honduras, were recently found using LiDAR technology.Damian Evans/PNAS

LiDAR systems shoot beams of light from a laser source, often mounted in airplanes. By measuring the distance of light bouncing back from reflecting objects -- for example the ground -- topographical contour can be recorded, thus providing an accurate mapping tool that can peer through jungle canopies and scan the depths of the ocean.

Map Shows NFL Fans by County

As the technology has become less expensive and more accurate -- and because surveys are often done from aircraft -- vast amounts of territory can be mapped more quickly. The potential ruins of “The White City,” a fabled lost city in Honduras, were recently found using LiDAR technology, as was a vast urban landscape (shown in above photo) hidden in the jungle and surrounding lowlands of Angkor Wat, the world’s largest Hindu and Buddhist temple, located in Cambodia.

In the wake of the tornado that ripped Moore, Okla., NPR’s News Apps team put together a map of the twister’s path.Brian Boyer, Christopher Groskopf, Alyson Hurt, and Matt Stiles

As more news goes online, media outlets are starting to invest in digital mapmakers and app wizards to supplement story coverage. In the wake of the tornado that ripped Moore, Okla., NPR’s News Apps team put together a map of the twister’s path that included color-coded swaths of structure damage. Zooming in to the red areas of high intensity reveals flatted homes and buildings, plus the outlines of where those structures once stood. Coupled with online and radio news reports, the interactive map helps achieve a perspective beyond the reach of traditional media.

Racist, Homophobic Tweets Mapped

This map uses the five federal categories describing fire conditions to indicate damage.Matt Stiles, Stephanie D'Otreppe, Chris Groskopf, Jeremy Bowers and Brian Boyer

NPR’s News Apps team also built a map illustrating current large wildfires, as well as forecasted burning conditions in the lower 48 states. The map uses the five federal categories, from low to extreme, to describe fire conditions and is updated every two hours from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. Mountain Time. Larger fires are depicted as red triangles.

Human Influence on Ecology Mapped

Bostonography created the above map of MBTA bus speeds culled over single day in Boston. Bostonography

Using real-time bus location data, Bostonography created the above map of MBTA bus speeds culled over single day in Boston. Data was collected from the city’s NextBus system, which tracks buses to give riders estimated times of arrivals. Drawn from 2,058,574 data points, the beautiful map color-codes lines to represent different speeds. Red indicates speeds less than 10 miles per hour, yellow is 10 to 25 mph and blue is faster than 25 mph.

NYC Installing Touchscreen Subway Maps

Geotagged photos from Flickr and Picasa are used to illustrate where natives and tourists have taken pictures in San Francisco.Eric Fischer

Woodruff calls cartographer Eric Fischer “the master of mapping all things geotagged,” and it’s easy to see why. The Oakland-based Fischer is known for rendering large amounts of raw data into visually stunning maps on a variety of subjects ranging from race to language to social media use.

Project to Map the Human Brain

For his “Locals and Tourists” series, Fischer used geotagged photos from Flickr and Picasa to illustrate where natives and tourists take pictures in 124 cities.

“His maps don't tend to be cutting edge in interactivity,” Woodruff said of Fischer, “but the way he works with huge, public datasets always leads to striking visuals and new ways of thinking about all the data that's swirling around us.”

New Yorkers can now look up the medium income of any block in the city.John Keefe, Steven Melendez and Louise Ma

Known for their predilection for monetary curiosity, New Yorkers can now look up the medium income of any block in the city with WNYC’s Median Income Map. The interactive, color-coded map uses data from the U.S Census American Community Survey, which questioned a sample of people in each tract from 2007 to 2011.

Google Maps North Korea

Each of the 454,064,098 dots on this map represent one person in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Brandon Martin-Anderson

Numbers begin to seem abstract when they stretch into the nine-digit range. Thankfully, Brandon Martin-Anderson’s Census Dotmap is there to restore some perspective. The MIT Media Lab student’s black and white map includes a 454,064,098 dots -- one for each person in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Created using recent census data, the interactive map appears to be full of black smudges. But Martin-Anderson suggests zooming in.

First Ever Topographic Map of Titan Produced

The Dogs of NYC Map explores dog names and breeds by area, right down to the zip code. John Keefe, Steven Melendez and Louise Ma

With the wealth of data, resources and tools that are readily available for seemingly limitless map-making, who says every map has to be a beautiful work of art or platform for keeping your house from burning down? Take WNYC’s Dogs of NYC Map, which explores New York City’s dog names and breeds by area, right down to the zip code. Chances are if you’re a dog owner in the Big Apple, you own a mutt named Max.

Ship-Riding Invasive Species Mapped

While WNYC used legit data from over almost 100,000 registered dogs listed with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Buckingham suggests that we be critical of other maps that lack substance and quickly go viral on the Internet.

“It may lack a point, solutions or storytelling. In the worse cases it is entirely misleading,” she stated. “These images are simply eye-candy. They may be beautiful and fun to look at, but they don't leave us with a better understanding about a particular phenomenon.”

When you order a soft drink, do you ask for a "pop," a "soda" or a "Coke?"Matthew Campbell

When you order a soft drink, what do you ask for: a pop, a soda or a Coke? Chances are if you ask for a “pop,” you live in the northern Midwest. If you order a “soda” or “Coke,” you likely reside in the Northeast or South, respectively.

Project to Map the Human Brain

If you want to see how the rest of the country answered, Matthew Campbell’s Generic Names For Soft Drinks map can slake your thirst, down to every country in each U.S. state. Campbell created the map while studying in the Department of Cartography and Geography at East Central University in Oklahoma, however the map is based on only 120,464 respondents.

“While it does seem that possibilities are endless, just because we can put something on a map, does not mean that doing so adds any value,” said Buckingham. “We must approach maps with a critical eye asking ourselves if we gain anything by including certain information, and carefully considering how that information will be represented.”