These computer-generated maps show all roads leading, inexorably, to Rome

All roads lead to... you get the idea. Image: Moovel.

The phrase “All roads lead to Rome” isn't really meant to be taken literally. The largest roads in the Roman Empire did tend to take you, eventually, to the eternal city (a function of the fact they were mostly there to move stonking great armies to and from place). But the phrase itself is actually more of a metaphor, for the way that multiple paths can take you to the same ultimate goal.

Anyway, these guys in Stuttgart decided to take it literally.

The Moovel Lab is, apparently, an “anti-disciplinary creative space” (no idea), attached to the tech firm behind the German wayfinding app Moovel. As an experiment/game/marketing stunt, they've decided to “set out on 3,375,746 journeys to check if [the proverb] was really true”.

Here's the result.

Now obviously all roads don't lead to Rome. Most of them don't go anywhere near it: Rome is quite a long way from the A127 through Basildon.

So what Moovel did is to take work out the quickest route to Rome from, near enough, every single point on the continent of Europe:

We aligned starting points in a 26,503,452 km² grid covering all of Europe. Every cell of this grid contains the starting point to one of our journeys to Rome.

Now that we have our 486,713 starting points we need to find out how we could reach Rome as our destination. For this we created an algorithm that calculates one route for every trip.

All this took the computer programme GraphHopper 20 hours, incidentally.

The more often a single street segment is used, the stronger it is drawn on the map. The maps as outcome of this project is somewhere between information visualization and data art, unveiling mobility and a very large scale.

The result is rather like an endlessly branching river system, or the pattern of veins on a leaf: wherever you start, the circulatory system will lead you, inexorably, back to the Italian capital.

There's fully interactive version here, on which you can zoom in to see the details. Here, since we're enjoying The Bridge at the moment, is Denmark:

You can even zoom into the level of individual cities. Here's London, with all roads leading to the M20 and the continent:

You can buy the resulting map as a poster:

The company has used a similar process to map the routes from La France Profonde to Paris:

Or from every corner of Germany into Berlin:

You can see more of Moovel Lab's work here.

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Podcast: Beyond the wall, with John Lanchester

A sea wall in Japan. Image: Getty.

This week it’s another live episode, of sorts. In early April I was lucky enough to chair an event at the Cambridge Literary Festival with the journalist and novelist John Lanchester.

John was mostly there to promote his latest novel, The Wall, a “cli-fi” book about a Britain trundling on after catastrophic climate change has wiped out much of the planet. In the past he’s also written about other vaguely CityMetric-y topics like the housing crisis and the tube - so he’s a guest I’ve been hoping to get on for a while, and was kind enough to allow us to record our chat for posterity and podcasting purposes.

Incidentally, I didn’t find a way of turning the conversation to the tube. We do lose ten minutes to talking about Game of Thrones, though.

The episode itself is below. You can subscribe to the podcast on AcastiTunes, or RSS. Enjoy.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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