This animation by geographer James Cheshire shows something at once simple and profound: the founding and growth of the cities of the world since the dawn of civilization.
Dr Cheshire created the animation using R and the rworldmap package, using data from this Nature dataset. The complete R code is provided in the blog post linked below, and you can easily tweak the code to change the projection of the map. Check out the complete post below to see two other versions of the animation: one focusing on the birth of civilization in the Old World, and another depicting the pre-colonial civilizations and the subsequent colonization of the Americas.
Spatial.ly: Mapping 5,000 Years of City Growth