When application programming interfaces (APIs) became available, virtually anyone could customize an online map. Dustin Cable

It seems like every week, computer programmers and digital cartographers come out with a slick, super-informative interactive map to synthesize Big Data. Perhaps that’s what we should come to expect, now that we’re experiencing a new Platinum Age of Maps. But to what do we credit this torrent?

Tanya Buckingham, assistant director of University of Wisconsin’s Cartography Lab, says the spark happened about seven years ago, when online mapping was "hacked," and anyone could start making "mash-ups" -- that is, combining data with an Internet-based map. When application programming interfaces (APIs) became available, virtually anyone could customize an online map. From there, the wave spread -- from mapping all the local coffee shops to evolving into the complex geographic visualizations we now see daily.

New Platinum Age of Maps

“This snowballed into new application developments and demands for open access to tools as well as calls for new data -- open data,” Buckingham told Discovery News. “Basemaps evolved, skills developed, and new technology was created. This evolution is still happening, and quite rapidly.”

Lest you get swept away by the deluge of data, here are a handful of interactive maps to put your feet back on solid ground. Beware, though, there are more to come.

This maps details all the tropical cyclones that have occurred in the Western Hemisphere since the NOAA started keeping record in 1842.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Speaking of deluges, what you see above is a chart of all the tropical cyclones that have occurred in the Western Hemisphere since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) started keeping record in 1842.

Created by the NOAA’s Environmental Visualization Lab, the full map includes the Eastern Hemisphere to chart 11,967 tropical cyclones over the last 171 years.

Can You Stop a Hurricane by Nuking It?

Before the era of satellites detection, hurricane tracks were mapped via ship reports that, although reliable, likely missed some storms.

“Geostationary satellites, such as NOAA’s GOES, revolutionized the ability of meteorologists to track cyclones,” the map creators explain. “Not a single storm is missed as these eyes in the sky provide consistent scans of the globe every few minutes.”

A new interactive map from the National Atlas of the United States charts streams, creeks and rivers.National Atlas of the United States

If Google Maps charted streams, creeks and rivers, rather than streets, then you’d get Streamer, a new interactive map from the National Atlas of the United States. Users can click on any stream and trace its flow upstream to discover its origin, or downstream to find where water eventually deposits. If you’ve ever dropped a stick into a river and wondered where it would end up if it floated all the way downstream, this is your map.

Taking the National Atlas team 20 years to complete the dataset, Streamer is fueled by digital hydrographic data for America at one million-scale, where an inch is approximately 15.8 miles on the land surface.

Amazon River Monsters

Travel the routes of famous explorers or explore fictional lands. GOOD, Wanderlust

Curious to see the route Ken Kessey and his LSD-fueled “Merry Pranksters” took upon their “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” trip? What about Marco Polo’s travels through Asia, or Magellan’s around-the-world expedition?

The Science and Fiction of 'Oblivion'

If you’re even remotely interested world travel, exploration and literature, then Good’s Wanderlust map might put you on the right path. User can also track the Pequod’s journey in “Moby Dick,” Jack Kerouac’s wine-besotted ramblings from “On The Road” or Henry Hudson’s Discovery Voyage, just to name a few of the routes.

Wanderlust may seem like it’s slim on data, but there’s more to the map than its clean design and quick-touch response. Once settled on a route, users can explore deeper as the map zooms in to provide further details on each selected voyage.

Wordmap shows places heavily identified with certain words, such as "hipster" or "romantic."Wordmap, Yelp

If you’d rather avoid Kerouac, Ginsberg and all their “angelheaded” hipster brethren at brunch, now you can, thanks to Yelp’s Wordmap (http://www.yelp.com/wordmap/nyc/hipster).

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As its name suggests, Wordmap shows all the places where reviews mentioned a selected word, such as “hipster.” After choosing among a list of major American cities, and three international cities (London, Paris and Toronto), users can select one of 17 words (or stereotypes) they’d like to single out. The list includes: bacon, cocktails, hangover, kosher, noodles, romantic, tourist and yuppie.

The above photo shows Wordmap’s hipster hangouts for Chicago’s northwest side. Here’s looking at you Logan Square and Wicker Park.

Hill Mapper San Francisco helps residents find (or avoid) the steepest climbs.Hillmapper, Sam Maurer

Now that you’ve had your fill of bacon cronuts and brunching hipsters, it’s time to go for a run -- a relatively easy-breathing endeavor among the flatlands of Chicago, but a wind-sucking calamity if you hang your hat among the hills of San Francisco.

For Bay Area residents looking to avoid all the up and down (mainly the up), thankfully there is Hill Mapper San Francisco. Different colors show which streets go uphill and downhill when users approach them with a stick-figure location marker.

Uphill streets are marked in red, downhill streets are marked in blue. Darker colors indicate a steeper grade, while unshaded streets are flat. That way, you can map a level route, can keep a nice, steady pace and hold down your brunch.

California High-Speed Rail to Begin Construction

Project Reason maps biblical contradictions.Project Reason

Up and down, back and forth -- it’s a topsy-turvy world we live in and we encounter a lot of contradictions, whether of the topographical kind or the more spiritual variety. No matter what your belief, it’s hard to argue that the time in which the Bible took place was fraught with contradictions.

Helping to make those inconsistencies a little easier to detect and swallow is Project Reason’s map of biblical contradictions.

3,000-Year-Old Text May Reveal Biblical History

“The bars that run along the bottom of the visualization represent the 1189 chapters in The Bible, with the length of each bar corresponding to the number of verses in each chapter,” the map makers state. “White bars represent the Old Testament and grey bars represent The New Testament. Each arc indicates a contradiction.”

Inspired by Chris Harrison’s Bible Visualizations, Project Reason’s map, in turn, inspired programmer Daniel Taylor, who created a similar map accompanied by a user-friendly website to navigate the data.

In his latest visualization project, the Pittsburgh-based artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm imagines what the net household income of each neighborhood in NYC would look like if it were reflected in building height. Nickolay Lamm

The Bible isn’t the only place rife with contradictions, so is New York City -- especially when it comes to the income levels of its residents. While WNYC’s interactive, color-coded Median Income Map gives a bird’s-eye view of wealth and poverty borders, Nickolay Lamm takes the concept to new heights.

NYC Installing Touchscreen Subway Maps

In his latest visualization project, the Pittsburgh-based artist and researcher imagines what the net household income of each neighborhood in NYC would look like if it were reflected in building height. The result: a towering cityscape of green, 3-D bars, where every $100,000 of net worth corresponds to one centimeter on Lamm’s map.

To shape his visualization, Lamm used figures from Esri’s map of median household net worth in New York City, which is based on 2010 U.S. Census data.

In this map that visualizes segregation of races in New York City, white people are represented by blue dots, African-Americans by green, Asians by red and Latinos by orange. Dustin Cable

Income divides aren’t the only measures of metropolitan segregation. As post-racial as we’d all like to believe we are, the fact of the matter is that many neighborhood borders are drawn along racial divides.

Dustin Cable, of the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, has created a colorful map that vividly illustrates this division. Using 2010 U.S. Census data, the map shows one dot per person, color-coded by race. In all, that’s 308,745,538 dots, or around 7 GB of visual data.

Sleep Habits Vary By Race

White people are represented by blue dots, African-Americans by green, Asians by red and Latinos by orange. All other race categories from the Census are represented by brown. The above photo is an image of the greater NYC metro area.

It’s not the first map to show every single person, nor is it the first to show ethnic dissemination. It is, however, the first map to do both, making it the most exhaustive map ever created on race in America.

For a truly startling glimpse of how sharp racial dividing lines in American cities can be, be sure to check out Detroit, which is nearly split in half by 8 Mile Road.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge used network analysis to plot the relationship between chemical flavor compounds. University of Cambridge

Variety is the spice of life, and that certainly holds true for the more than 5,000 ethnic groups in the world. But sometimes the spice of life takes on a more literal connotation, as is the case with the flavor network map.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge used network analysis to plot the relationship between chemical flavor compounds. They wanted to test the notion that foods with compatible flavors are chemically similar.

Flavor Chemist: Cool Jobs

This hypothesis held true in some regional cuisine, especially in North America, where the prevalence of milk, eggs, butter, cocoa and vanilla lent itself to a more timid palate. But in East Asia, cooks were more likely to use ingredients that were chemically dissimilar. However, if you’ve ever had a good Thai curry or some tom kha gai soup, you already knew that.

Researchers used 56,498 recipes to test their theories.

“Each node denotes an ingredient, the node color indicates food category, and node size reflects the ingredient prevalence in recipes,” the researchers explained. “Two ingredients are connected if they share a significant number of flavor compounds, link thickness representing the number of shared compounds between the two ingredients.”

This interactive map shows global traffic deaths.Pulitzer Center

To put global road fatalities into perspective, the Pulitzer Center created an interactive map of the planet’s traffic deaths.

There are two ways to navigate the Road Kill Map. The first guides users on a virtual, animated tour of various counties and is filled with revealing facts and figures that compose that particular nation’s safety record. The second way is to navigate the map like one might browse Google Maps, perusing infographic rollovers and interactive graphics that change according to the user’s global position.

Some interesting facts gleaned from the Road Kill Map: The risk of dying as a result of a road traffic injury is highest in Africa, Sweden has the lowest rate of fatality among industrialized nations and Russia’s road fatality rate is twice that of the U.S.

A Vibrating Steering Wheel For Blind Spots

By funneling data on climate, terrorist organizations, energy resources and local economics into their predictive analytics technology, DigitalGlobe aims to predict those geopolitical shifts.DigitalGlobe

DigitalGlobe -- the company best known from providing much of Google Earth’s satellite imagery -- has created a showcase of interactive maps of Africa. The company, also known for keeping global militaries and spy agencies in the loop, is hoping their predictive analytics, demographic and infrastructure overlays will be of interest to energy companies, utility providers, insurance agencies and other private companies that may want to do business in Africa.

“Data themes range from manmade features like transportation and communication, to natural features like land and water, to layers that describe population groups by specific attributes, such as religion, language, and cultural affiliation,” explains DigitalGlobal’s website.

Dollar Values of Hunted African Animals: Photos

Besides Somali piracy, issues such as the ongoing strife in Egypt, alleged human rights violations in Sudan and violence in Nigeria, African countries continue to be fault lines in an ever-shifting geopolitical landscape.

By funneling data on climate, terrorist organizations, energy resources and local economics into their predictive analytics technology, DigitalGlobe aims to predict those geopolitical shifts, a tempting benefit to intelligence agencies and non-governmental organizations alike.