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Posts Tagged ‘cartography

“If the people of New Zealand want to be part of our world, I believe they should hop off their islands, and push ’em closer”*…

 

 

World Maps Without New Zealand is a stupid side project an attempt to raise the awareness of a very serious and troubling issue we are seeing taking place all around the world: the disrespectful cartographical neglect towards the country that gave you such amazing things as Lord of the Rings, Flight of the Conchords, Lorde, and ZORB. Here, we collect and share the real world examples of this atrocity.

The blog is curated by this guy, who is a humble Auckland based web developer by day, and an extra lazy one by night…

Many, many more at “World Maps Without New Zealand“–“It’s not a very important country most of the time…”

* Lewis Black

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As we get antipodeal, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954, at an athletics meeting in Gisborne (New Zealand), that Yvette Williams broke the long jump record held by Dutch athlete Francine Blankers-Koen.  Williams record of 20 feet 7½ inches (6.29 m) stood for another 18 months.

Williams had already achieved international recognition by winning Gold in the Long Jump event at the at the 1950 Commonwealth Games and at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.  She took Gold again at the Commonwealth Games later in 1954, but did not surpass her own record.  She was inducted into the New Zealand Hall of Fame in 1990.

Williams, mid-jump

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Written by LW

February 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Everybody wants to save the Earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes”*…

 

Adam Smith once famously observed…

How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.

Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759

He is a member of a stream of observers of the human condition, stretching back to the ancient Greeks, who believe that an innate goodness is at work in us all.  But is it so?

Behavioral economists have revolutionized the standard view of human nature. No longer are people presumed to be purely selfish, only acting in their own interest. Hundreds of experiments appear to show that most people are pro-social, preferring to sacrifice their own success in order to benefit others. That’s altruism.

If the interpretations of these experiments are true, then we have to rip up the textbooks for both economics and evolutionary biology! Economic and evolutionary models assume that individuals only act unselfishly when they stand to benefit some way. Yet humans appear to be unique in the animal kingdom as experiments suggest they willingly sacrifice their own success on behalf of strangers they will never meet. These results have led researchers to look for the evolutionary precursors of such exceptional altruism by also running these kinds of experiments with non-human primates.

But are these altruism experiments really evidence of humans being special? Our new study says probably not…

Read more– and draw your own conclusion– at “Does behavioral economics show people are altruistic or just confused?

[TotH to Mark Stahlman]

* P.J. O’Rourke

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As we calculate the angles, we might spare a thought for Johannes Schöner; this is both his birthday (1477) and the anniversary of his death (1547).  A priest, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, cosmographer, cartographer, mathematician, globe and scientific instrument maker, and editor and publisher of scientific texts, he is probably best remembered today (and was renowned in his own tine) as a pioneering maker of globes.  In 1515 he created one of the earliest surviving globes produced following the discovery of new lands by Christopher Columbus.  It was the first to show the name “America” that had been suggested by Waldseemüller– and tantalizingly, it depicts a passage around South America before it was recorded as having been discovered by Magellan.  In his roles as professor and academic publisher, he played a significant part in the events that led up to the publishing of Copernicus’ epoch-making “De revolutionibus” in Nürnberg in 1543.

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Written by LW

January 16, 2015 at 1:01 am

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination”*…

 

The 1603 Sphaera stellifera globe by Willem Janszoon Blaeu showcases cutting-edge seventeenth-century astronomy in three dimensions. Designed by printmaker Jan Saenredam, it is also stunningly beautiful. It features highly accurate observations of the Northern Hemisphere, and pictures the newly discovered constellations of the Southern sky, offering them as heavenly proof of the success of the Dutch colonial enterprise…

Read more– and find a version that you can zoom and turn online– at “Spin a 3-D Representation of a Beautiful 17th-Century Celestial Globe.”

* Henry David Thoreau

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As we locate ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1790 that the  Aztec Calendar Stone (or Sun Stone or Stone of the Five Eras), which had been buried by Spanish conquistadors at El Zocalo in Mexico City, was rediscovered during repairs to the Cathedral there.  Perhaps the most famous work of Aztec sculpture, it depicts the five eras (the Five Suns) of Aztec civilization; and, while it is called “calendar stone,” it appears to have been used as a ceremonial basin or ritual altar.

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Written by LW

December 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

“It is not down in any map; true places never are”*…

Still, maps hold us in thrall.  Consider, for example, this exquisite piece created around 1715 by Johann Baptist Homann, a German mapmaker working in Nuremberg. It measures 2 ¾ inches in diameter.

This particular pocket globe came in four pieces that nest inside each other like matryoshka dolls. The outside case, made of leather and featuring an S-shaped hook that secured the two pieces together, is lined with concave representations of a celestial map, showing constellations as seen from the earth. (Celestial globes were among the earliest globes produced, and were once commonly sold alongside their terrestrial cousins.)

Inside, the terrestrial globe (on which California is depicted as an island, a common misconception of the time) is hollow. Split into two parts, it reveals an armillary sphere: a type of skeleton celestial globe that represents the movement of heavenly bodies through circles. This armillary sphere has a band around it that’s illustrated with zodiacal symbols.

Katie Taylor, of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in the U.K., writes that pocket globes could have served as “status symbols for wealthy gentlemen,” or functioned as educational tools for children. Homann made no other globes, specializing instead in maps and atlases; he might have sold this pocket version as a trinket…

The globe is featured in Sylvia Sumira’s Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation, and Power.  Read more in “An Itsy-Bitsy Early 18th-Century Pocket Globe” at Rebecca Onion’s essential The Vault.

* Herman Melville

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As we plot our courses, we might spare a thought for Samuel Warren Carey; he died on this date in 2002.  As a geology graduate student in Australia, he read a translation of Alfred Wegener‘s  The Origin of Continents and Oceans, the book largely responsible for introducing the concept of continental drift to the English-speaking world; as a result, he became an early advocate of Wegener’s theory.  Carey’s plate tectonics reconstructions led him to develop the Expanding Earth hypothesis– a theory now largely rejected by the scientific community, but one that generated research and debate that helped advance the field of tectonics materially.

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Written by LW

March 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

No man’s land…

Lake Superior contains a phantom island. After the American Revolution, the Treaty of Paris established the boundary between the United States and Canada as running “through Lake Superior northward of the Isles Royal and Phelipeaux to the Long Lake,” following an inaccurate map created by John Mitchell. In the 1820s surveyors discovered that Phelipeaux does not exist, and the boundary had to be negotiated anew.

Around the same time, the dramatically named Mountains of Kong appeared on maps of West Africa, apparently placed there originally by English cartographer James Rennell. It wasn’t until the 1880s that French explorer Louis Gustave Binger discovered that they don’t exist either. They persisted in Goode’s World Atlas until 1995.

One of the wonders at The Futility Closet– “an idler’s miscellany of compendious amusements.”

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As we remember that the map is not the territory, we might recall that it was on this date in 1759 that the the first exhibition galleries and the reading room of the British Museum opened. The institution had been established in 1753 by King George II and Parliament– the first of a new kind of museum: belonging to neither church nor king, freely open to the public, and aiming to collect everything.  With the subsequent acquisition of of Montagu House in Bloomsbury, and the inclusion of several “foundation collections” (including the Lindisfarne Gospels, the sole surviving copy of Beowulf, and many others of the most treasured books now in the British Library), the museum moved toward reality.  (The Trustees had rejected Buckingham House, on the site now occupied by Buckingham Palace.)

Among the earliest treasures on display in 1759 were a starved cat, a rat, a tree trunk gnawed by a beaver, and a mummified thumb found beneath the St. James’s Coffee House.  This emphasis on books, manuscripts, and “natural history” (perhaps better said, “cabinet of curiosities”) began to shift when in 1772 the Museum acquired for £8,400 its first significant antiquities: Sir William Hamilton’s “first” collection of Greek vases.

Montagu House, Bloomsbury, London (later the British Museum) from the north by James Simon, c.1715

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Written by LW

January 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

“A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected”*…

Just one of the scores of maps available at the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab’s Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States.

And as a (more global) bonus: Edward Quin’s 1830 Historical Atlas in a Series of Maps of the World as Known at Different Periods, with an Historical Narrative, featuring 21 plates that visually depicted what Quin called “the world as known at different periods.”  Dramatic clouds cover the “unknown,” rolling back slowly as time moves on.

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Click the image above or here for an enlarged and animated version of the  GIF that runs through the plates in sequence, from 2348 B.C., “The Deluge” (Quin, not unusually for his time period, was a Biblical literalist) through A.D. 1828, “End of the General Peace.”

* Reif Larsen, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

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As we travel through time, we might recall that it was on this date in 1861 that New York City Mayor Fernando Wood, a “Copperhead” (sympathizer of the incipient Confederate cause), suggested to the New York City Council that New York secede and declare itself a free city, to continue its profitable cotton trade with the Confederacy.  Wood’s Democratic machine was concerned to maintain the revenues (which depended on Southern cotton) that maintained the patronage that provided its electoral margins.

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Written by LW

January 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

“I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future”*…

The region is defined by moderately high levels of Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, moderately low Neuroticism, and very low Openness. This configuration of traits portrays the sort of person who is sociable, considerate, dutiful, and traditional…

Jason Rentfrow and his team at the University of Cambridge analyzed a total of 1.5 million online surveys to create a psychographic survey of the U.S.  The results, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, cluster traits together, with the darker colored areas indicating higher correlation… and reveal three distinct regions: “Friendly & Conventional” (blue), which extends across the Midwest into the South; “Relaxed & Creative” (green), made up mostly of Western states; and “Temperamental & Uninhibited” (orange), which takes in the Northeast, plus Texas.

The psychological profile of this region is marked by low Extraversion and Agreeableness, very low Neuroticism, and very high Openness… In general, the qualities of this region depict a place where open-mindedness, tolerance, individualism, and happiness are valued.

The psychological profile of the region is defined by low Extraversion, very low Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, very high Neuroticism, and moderately high Openness. This particular configuration of traits depicts the type of person who is reserved, aloof, impulsive, irritable, and inquisitive.

Read more in the American Psychological Association’s announcement of the work and at CoExist.

* Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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As we self-diagnose, we might spare a thought for Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, Jr.; he died on this date in 1994.  Elected to the Massachusetts State House of Representatives in 1936 (at age 24), he rose to become that body’s first Democratic Speaker in 1949, a post he held until he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1952.  In 1977, at the same time that Jimmy Carter became President, O’Neill became Speaker of the House.  He retired in 1987, making him the only Speaker to serve for five complete consecutive Congresses, and the second longest-serving Speaker in U.S. history (after Sam Rayburn).

It was, of course, O’Neill who famously reminded us that “All politics is local.”

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Written by LW

January 5, 2014 at 1:01 am

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